Branding 15: Smell

branding through smell

We are moving our way through the five senses and discussing the branding opportunities within each. We have talked at some length about the visual aspect of branding and have covered sound and taste. We now move onto smell.


Smell is an often under-utilised sense when it comes to branding and one of my favourite examples of its buying power can be found in the Walt Disney amusement parks. It’s quite common knowledge but when you walk down Mainstreet, USA there are several shops on either side of you. Each of these has a device which pumps out the smell from within the shop and so standing in the street and walking past the bakery you get that lovely smell of apple pie etc It is an ingenious ploy that works in the same way that fresh cookie smell helps sell houses or that ‘new car smell’ is somehow distinguishable from a second hand one. Where you have any aspect of your business with a strong smell associated with it (hopefully a pleasant one) then make sure it’s apparent.

If God Gives You Lemons…

Even if your business has nothing to do with food/other obvious smell association you can still benefit from its power. Here’s an interesting example; in an experiment at a Montreal Shopping Centre a combination of lemon, orange, grapefruit and tangerine fragrances were pumped into the mall for a week. Although the dose was very small purchases “went up from $55 to $90 per customer” this experiment was done at a slow time of the year for business and is at the very least testament to how easily a pleasant smell can set a pleasant mind frame.

Smelly Goods

Sometimes though shops who specialise in selling things with pleasant smells (mostly cosmetics and soaps) have the reverse problem. You go into one of those places and it can be quite overwhelming to the senses and not necessarily pleasant. I honestly can’t go into a Bodyshop without having my eyes water. For these businesses a different challenge awaits where they need to find a way to stop those smells from overpowering each other.


Smell is one of the strongest senses that can invoke memories. Whenever I smell wet grass on a hot day, I am instantly transported back to Florida. Don’t underestimate the power in having a particular smell associated with your brand experience.