Smelly Advertising


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Good experience designers recognise the importance of engaging all the senses when designing experiences. One of those sense is smell.

The Neuromarketing blog reports on recent attempts to actively incorporate smell in their experiences.

The first, a chain of California gas stations, tried infusing the smell of fresh coffee at the pump, to get customers to refill their coffee mugs as well as their gas tanks. The post didn’t say what the results were, but it sounds like a bad idea to me.

The second, milk marketing, tried infusing the smell of chocolate chip cookies alongside milk ads at San Francisco bus shelters. Unfortunately, the smelly ads only lasted one day before the local council received complaints from ‘environmentalists’ and stopped them. Sounds like a good idea to me. Milk and chocolate chip cookies. Mmmhh.

Take a look Martin Lindstrom’s Brand Sense book if you want to find out more about sensory branding.

What do you think? Are smelly ads a good idea? Or are they just more advertising pollution?

Post a comment and get the conversation going.

Graham Hill

Graham Hill (Dr G)
Business Troubleshooter | Questioning | Thoughtful | Industrious | Opinions my own | Connect with me on LinkedIn


  1. Graham,
    It definitely makes “scents”. Take for example Yankee Candle’s catalog that utilizes this technology to bring several of the candle photos to life in each catalog. Their sales increased 18% in the forth quarter, mostly due to the scented catalog pages.

    In addition, read any fashion magazine and instantly you will be overwhelmed with an abundance of perfume samples, these companies have been taking advantage of this phenomenon for decades now. Obviously it’s effective.

    Furthermore, I believe for the right products in the right environments (such as catalogs and packaging) this is certainly the direction a large amount of companies (for example shampoo, tea, and candles) need to take.


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