Using Smell to Sell – Manipulating the Olfactory


You are in a rush to get holiday shopping done when all of the sudden a smell hits your nose. It’s CHOCOLATTTTEEE! That undeniable smell you won’t be able to ignore. You know what needs to be done, you must stop what you are doing and go find the source of the chocolate smell… NOW. 

You go up the street and around the corner and ahhhhh there it is, the chocolatier. Insert your chocolatier here, it’s either in a shop in your town like Nectar Candy Land where I grew up, or the one I have near me now, Dahlonega Fudge Factory or it’s Godiva in the mall. Doesn’t matter, you know the smell, you go in and you get some. Simple as that.

If chocolate is something you sell, you already know the secret of wafting the smells to your customers while they are shopping. If it’s not, you may be wondering how smell could help sell your products. Let me ask you this, did you know smell is used to help sell everything from clothes, books, real estate,  grocery stores, pets and county fairs?

But let me  back up for a minute, let me give you some information on the olfactory sense. I could go into the details about the olfactory sense, its relation to axons, the olfactory bulb, dendrites, the piriform cortex, the amygdala and mitral cells but here’s what you need to know, it’s the ability to perceive and distinguish odors and it has a long memory. Meaning, you rarely forget a smell. It’s why you can still remember the smell of your grandma’s perfume, a tooth being drilled, or a new car. I bet as you read these you were able to mentally smell them.

Think about the thoughts you have associated with these smells and see if you can apply them, or any other, to your products. You are trying to think of a scent that your customers will recognize as you, when they smell it.  Here are some examples from the companies I do business with that do a great job of infusing smell into their products. They do it so well, every time I pick up their products or get a whiff of a certain scent, I think of them.


1. Clothing Store – a distinctive fresh smell in the stores and on the clothes. Dress Up Boutique

2. Book Store – think of incense, sandalwood and  patchouli. The mix is in the store and on the books. Phoenix and Dragon Bookstore

3. Real Estate – cookies baking in a home for sale or rental property. Creates homey feelings in potential buyers and renters

4. Car Showroom – new or used car showrooms use the new car smell scent

5. Auto Repair – my local auto repair company keeps their shop so clean and the smell of Orange Gojo is so evident, I think of them when I smell oranges. Their shop is spotless, my car runs great and the repair price is fair.

6. Specialty Antique Store – Sells antiques for women, make up tables, mirrors, brushes and perfume bottles. Smells like rose water when you walk in the store.

Is using the olfactory sense to help sell your products an option for you? It’s something to consider. Doing so could create an unforgettable memory in your customers and increase your sales. Not paying attention to it, however,  can ruin your business. We’ve all gone into a restaurant that smelled dirty and walked out because of it. Smell is a powerful marketing tactic, when used effectively it will increase your sales.

About Shelly Miller

Entrepreneur, marketer and social psychologist - I help you make the most of your business with marketing, online and offline.

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