What’s your favourite part about the movie theatre experience? Some, no doubt, would argue it’s the popcorn. It’s not difficult to see why as it’s certainly hard to ignore. From the moment you step out of your car you can already smell it, its buttery popcorn-y goodness encircling your nostrils. Suddenly, even the fullest of stomachs can make room.
But did you know that what you really smell is payday for the theatre? The theatre industry is dependent on concession sales for its profits and uses every method at its disposal to persuade you to buy more food. To boot, that popcorn smell is really diacetyl, the artificial butter chemical favoured for its anti-spoilage properties, but perhaps more valuable for its potent smell. This chemically enhanced popcorn smells even better than the real thing. The result? People open their wallets and their mouths.
Sure, good smelling food leading to more sales is not a giant leap. But did you know even non-food retailers are using scents to sell everyday products? This marketing technique is known as environmental fragrancing; businesses use smells to elicit emotions that encourage shoppers to spend more dough.
In the cracked.com article “6 ways your sense of smell is secretly controlling your mind”, the science behind the strategy is explained. Smells are interpreted by the limbic system, one of the oldest portions of the brain. This system subconsciously associates smells with emotions, without the interference of higher brain functions like logic and reasoning. These associations are both powerful, and long-lasting. It’s why we experience sudden flashbacks when encountering a stranger wearing the same brand of perfume or cologne as an ex-lover.
This strategy not only places shoppers in “the right frame of mind”, it actually makes them spend more too. The cracked.com article recounts one study that showed “sales of men’s and women’s clothing nearly doubled when ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ scents were used nearby, an effect that disappeared when the smells were reversed”. It’s the same reason that car manufacturers infuse cars with “new car smell”. It’s why grocery stores place high-priced items around fresh bread and coffee, and flowers are placed right at the entrance. And it’s why home sellers will bake fresh bread and cookies before their open house. Scents make us impulsive, which invariably leads to more sales.
The next time you’re out shopping, take note of what you smell. It could really be the scent of cold hard cash.
Do you use scent-based marketing strategies? As a consumer, have you noticed this strategy while shopping?