Friday, Jan 28, 2022

Unmasking Scents – Your Nose Knows more than you Think

Market researchers regularly work with the senses. For our purposes today, let us consider the important but underappreciated sense of smell. Scent..

Person smelling cherry blossoms

Market researchers regularly work with the senses. For our purposes today, let us consider the important but underappreciated sense of smell. Scent is certainly nothing new: Scents have no doubt been known to mankind since humanity’s first breath, and today scent plays a specific role in marketing. But are we, as researchers, doing everything we can to squeeze the most out of our knowledge of research of scents, odors, and the sense of smell?

As beautifully described by Krusemark, Novak, Gitelman, and Li (2013), the olfactory sense operates with a unique and intimate connection to emotion. Certainly, we appreciate the power of scent when we recall memories from crucial moments of our lives. We then realise that distinct memories retain an association with distinct aromas.

When used alongside our other four senses and in relation to products, the olfactory sense can be the key to the hearts of consumers. If the color of a mug can change the taste of a coffee (Van Doorn, Wuillemin, Spence, 2014), then imagine the potential that using the sense of smell brings to marketing. Fortunately, the relation between scent and product is researchable.

Some companies know how to deal with scents. For example, the concept of ambient scents in shops is already widely known (and widely employed). However, in our contemporary pandemic era, where wearing masks has become near-universal and disinfectant products see widespread use, choosing the right words to describe what consumers might expect from a product becomes increasingly crucial. The description of a product may be crucial. In turn, marketing departments that rely on the role of scent in their product advertising must hit the sweet spot with their messaging. The product will then be congruent with the actual experience consumers go through after buying their product. It’s safe to say that we are playing with the trust of our clients!

The trend is that the marketers dealing with scents increasingly reach for non-conscious measures. It’s not that consumers’ feedback about scents is wrong or invalid, it’s what makes it hard to describe: Words. With the growth of technology, marketers are aware that there are some ways to give themselves a chance to find out what truly lies underneath consumers’ words and what attributes can be assigned to a scent. Non-conscious measures are one of these approaches that work on smell-attribute relations and increase the opportunity of acquiring more insights.

Case study

A dog's nose poking through a fence

Image: Crazy Cake, Unsplash

Non-conscious measures help us to capture true attitudes that may be hidden explicitly. At NEUROHM, with the usage of iCodeTM, we tried to understand which fragrance (out of all five tested) best fit the following characteristics: Relaxing, Cosiness, and Freshness. The results below describe the two most interesting fragrances. As these above-mentioned features could be successfully used in advertising campaigns, it was crucial to investigate the fragrance associations with the usage of non-direct measures. Reaction Time helped us discover what lied underneath the explicit answers. This extra layer of confidence gives us a wider and more accurate understanding of consumers’ perception of the fragrances. By looking only at respondents’ explicit declarations, we would not only come up with inaccurate conclusions but, on top of that, our business decisions might mismatch with the actual impression of the fragrances.

By using iCodeTM, which checks respondents’ speed of answer and, based on that, establishes their level of confidence, we were able to capture their more implicit and in-depth opinions. The faster the reaction, the more grounded the opinion. The slower, the more hesitation creeps in. Based on Reaction Time, we know that fragrance A, which smelled like a cinnamon cookie, was associated with a sense of relaxation (the fragrance is likely named to invoke Christmas season memories). That’s why the value relaxing could be successfully added to the fragrance package. This outcome resonates with the fact that respondents also admitted that, on an emotional level, they connected fragrance A with cosiness, further confirming an association with emotional warmth. Last but not least, people explicitly agreed that the same fragrance is also connected to freshness, but the level of confidence showed that there were no major differences (people hesitated in both cases). This confirms that we should “smell” emotionally, as it changes perspective and perception. All these insights might be easily translated into real business actions, as we now know how to reach consumers’ emotionality.


Lead By The Nose: It’s Time to Embrace Scent Advertising

In their GreenBook Blog article, Hannibal and Malcolm Brooks say that consumers are willing to sniff what you’re selling. However, in the situation when it’s not possible to sniff it, you want to know how it will make you feel. A description that truly matches the science acts as a guideline for consumers and penetrates their senses. Fragrance is a subtle topic to research, and so we must approach it with the great care. We encourage you to try non-conscious measures to sharpen and amplify your understanding of consumers’ senses in this delicate field.

Header Image: Eugene Zhyvchik, Unsplash

The post Unmasking Scents – Your Nose Knows More than You Think first appeared on GreenBook.


By: Dawid Adamczyk & Agnieszka Kuźmicz
Title: Unmasking Scents – Your Nose Knows More than You Think
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Published Date: Fri, 03 Dec 2021 12:00:00 +0000

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