Marketers next hit? Right at your nose
Gas stations have a problem: Consumers want to be able to pay quickly at the pump, but the items they sell at their convenience stores carry much higher margins. If consumers don't have to go inside to pay, they probably won't buy coffee either.
Carmine Santandrea thinks he has a solution. His company, ScentAndrea Multisensory Communications LLC, has developed small fans that emit the smell of freshly-brewed coffee. He said he's close to finalizing a deal to put them at gas pumps across Canada.
"If you're a coffee drinker, there's no passing up going in and getting a coffee," says Mr. Santandrea, chief executive officer of the California-based scent marketing company.
Faced with consumers who are bombarded by visual and aural advertising, marketers are using smell to sell. In 2006, marketers used scent to sell everything from milk to mobile phones to Play-Doh.
But Mr. Santandrea says scent marketing is still in its infancy. He is calling 2007 the "year of the scent." Advertising Age, the influential U.S. magazine, has named scent marketing a trend to watch in 2007.
The Scent Marketing Institute, based in Scarsdale, N.Y., estimates the industry will be worth $500-million ( U.S.) to $1-billion in 2016, up from $40-million to $60-million today. "It's the only avenue left for marketers to explore," says institute founder Harald Vogt.
"There's visuals up the wazoo. . . . People are walking around with their iPods trying to block out sound. Fragrance is the only thing left. You cannot turn off your nose. You have to breathe."
Mr. Santandrea says scent marketing works best for food, drinks and consumer products. He is about to roll out multimedia television screens in 40,000 grocery and convenience stores. The screens will run ads that combine visual, audio and odorous elements.
"Both visual and copy require the left side of the brain, which means it has to be interpreted," he says. "Scent is . . . purely emotional and all advertising tries to appeal to emotion."
Marketers who aren't selling food can also use scent, he says. For example, Verizon Communications Inc. used chocolate ScentAndrea machines to sell LG Chocolate cell phones in the United States.
Tony Chapman, CEO of Capital C, a Toronto-based promotional marketing firm, says that when scent marketing is done right, it creates an immediate appetite for a product. "You've got to be careful where you do it. Consumers are rebelling so much against advertising. . . . Scent's just another way where we've got to be careful not to cross the line," he says.
The California Milk Processor Board crossed the line in early December when they installed fragrant billboards at five bus shelters in San Francisco. The advertisements smelled like cookies -- an attempt to create an appetite for milk.
But the transit agency ordered the billboards down after it received complaints from people concerned that the scent might not be safe.
"What it means for the future of scent marketing is stay away from public places, because it's unpredictable what is going to happen," Mr. Vogt says. Confine smells to private places like retail stores, he says. Mr. Santandrea agrees: "Our attorneys have told us that as long as the consumer has the choice of moving away from fragrance, we are within the law. But if you do it in a confined space like an airplane or an elevator, you will make people mad."