While stores have been increasingly using ambient scenting to create a "pleasant" smelling shopper experience, a few stores are looking to signature scents as a differential.
A recent article in the Chicago Tribune explored the increasing use of scent branding across stores and elsewhere. The article noted that while casinos and hotels are best known for using scent branding, car showrooms, gyms, banks, sports stadiums, airports and apartment buildings as well as retailers are increasingly employing special scents to upgrade the environment and/or stimulate moods.
For retailers, several recent studies have shown certain appeasing smells — received on a subconscious level versus overt signage — can more subliminally lift moods, encourage shoppers to linger longer and spend more money. The odors, often pumped through heating and air conditioning systems, also promise to distinguish a store amid cluttered messages.
"Smell is our most primal sense," wrote Richard Weening, CEO, Prolitec, a scent-marketing and ambient-scenting firm, in a column for Retail Customer Experience. "It is processed in the same part of the brain that handles our emotions, memory and creativity — the limbic system."
Less than 10 percent of the clients of ScentAir, a leading scent-marketing company, use signature scents but some brands are looking at it to "create or maintain an iconic brand," according to the Trib article.
Among retailers, Abercrombie and Fitch is best known for its signature Fierce fragrance that has led to protests over potential health hazards a few years ago. Hollister, Giorgio Armani, Benetton, H&M, Victoria's Secret, Hugo Boss and Calvin Klein are also reported to be dabbling in signature smells.
The risks: some scents irritate people, including asthmatics. To environmentalists, scent marketing involuntarily exposes people to questionable chemicals.
But with humans showing they're able to distinguish over 10,000 different scents, smell is said to bring back memories with a strong emotional resonance, according to the Trib article.
Should retailers use signature scents in stores as a differentiator?