I created a budget a few years ago. Although I hated it at first, I couldn’t believe how much money I saved just from controlling my spending – little things like meeting friends for coffee instead of dinner, creating ‘no spend days’ (days when I don’t spend a penny), timing my trips to the grocery store.

It was during one of these timed grocery shopping trips that I gave in to temptation and bought freshly baked cinnamon buns – the last thing I needed since I’m trying to be gluten-free these days. I was overwhelmed by the smell and just couldn’t resist.

A friend of mine and I were stuffing our faces with said cinnamon buns as I told her how they ended up in my grocery cart.  She wasn’t fazed by this. As a Real Estate Agent, she swears by throwing a casserole dish of water, vanilla and cinnamon into a warm oven before an open house. The idea is that the smell of fresh baked cookies will give prospective buyers the feeling that they’re at home and eventually make it their home.

Not something I considered before, but I’d definitely prefer fresh baked cookies over the smell of paint any day!

Retailers have been using scents to entice you to buy for years, you just didn’t notice

And it even has a name – scent marketing.

The next time you go into a store, pay attention to the scents. I’m not just talking about supermarkets and fragrance stations either, scent marketing is everywhere – clothing stores, spas, hotels and tanning salons. You may not even be able to pick it up, but it’s working… which is the trick.


There are consulting companies that specialize in helping stores with scents. Jimmy Choo contracts with a scent marketing company to increase sales.

If done correctly, scent marketing is supposed to be subtle enough to get you to buy, but not to so obvious that you’ll recognize it. You process it at unconscious levels, but it works… as long as it’s relative. The scent of fresh baked bread isn’t going to work when you’re buying perfume.

A study done by Nike showed that scent marketing had ‘increased intent to purchase by 80%’. And a convenience store which introduced the scent of fresh coffee into the air system boosted sales by as much as 300%.

That’s HUGE!

“Stuff like that would never work on me” or so you think…

When my friend told me about her “fresh baked cookies” open house routine, my first reaction was to laugh, roll my eyes and announce that “stuff like that that wouldn’t work on me”. Of course I said this as I stuffed my face with the very thing that proved scent marketing worked on me that very day… and quite well.

The irony was lost on me at that moment.

But the secret is that we don’t even know that it’s working on us. If the cinnamon buns weren’t proof enough that I’m, by no means, not above scent marketing, this was my proof.

The secret – simplicity

citrus-scentsScents like lemon, coffee, tea and other citrus fruits work best. The reason? Simple scents require less mental processing.

“Research from Washington State University found that customers spent 20 percent more in the presence of a simple scent (citrus or pine) than in the presence of a more complicated scent (such as orange-basil with green tea) or no scent at all. Popular choices for small retailers include tea, grass, fig, lemon and citrus.”

It could easily work in the opposite direction as well.

For instance, I literally hold my breath every time I walk by the handmade cosmetics store Lush. I’ve heard fantastic things about their products, but I find the combined scents of all their products literally repulsive. I can’t bear to walk by the store much less go inside and shop.

 Interesting facts about scents and buying habits

  • A Las Vegas study showed that gambling revenues increased by 54% when an area of slot machines was scented.
  • Singapore Airlines uses the scent of lotus flowers and bamboo forests that is worn by flight attendants and put on hot towels handed to passengers before takeoff.
  • Rolls Royce reproduced the scent of its great seller, the 1965 Silver Cloud, and sprays it under the seats to recreate the scent of this classic “Roller”.

There are more scent facts here.

Yeah, so what?

When I write about careers, relationships or starting a business, I like to give solutions. I call it the “so what” factor. Honestly, I don’t know how you can get around this one. There isn’t much you can do except to stay alert and stick to whatever you had originally planned on buying. Be aware and stick to stick to your budget!

Have you noticed the effect scent marketing as on you?

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