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10 Weird Sensory Marketing Tricks Companies Use On Us

by Sabine Bevers
fact checked by Jamie Frater

It is a well known fact that your memory and smells are tied closely together (this is called the Proust phenomenon). More than pictures or sounds, a scent can really bring back memories and invoke emotions. Companies know this all too well and make use of scents and sounds to jolt your brain into liking or enjoying something. The true secret of successfully marketing a product is to pair a store or a product with a specific scent. If you feel at home in a store, you are more likely to buy.

The first time you notice a new type of scent you will subconsciously connect this scent to an item or a person. After that the scent will trigger the response that you experienced to that person or item and a happy response. Let’s see how we are all affected by this…


Real Sent of Plastic


Buyers of Apple computers, iPhones and other products know it all too well, the smell of a new device. This very specific smell is rumored to come from inside the devices, but some have suggested that the packaging is responsible. The plastic iPhone has the same smell as the aluminum MacBook, so the scent is probably not added to the plastic. Apple has never owned up to these tactics, but an Apple Mac scent has been produced by the Air Aroma company, combining the smells of cardboard, ink and other ingredients. If you can’t afford a Mac, you can at least make your old PC smell like one.


Holiday Bleach


The Holiday Inn hotels chain has been using scents combined with the right kind of music to invite you to stay longer in their rooms, lobbies and bars. The company uses a rose scent for weddings and a leather-based scent for business meetings and similar functions. Even the chlorine pool smell comes from a bucket of powder that is added to the air system in the mornings! Should you have something to celebrate, the Holiday Inn will make your party smell fruity! This type of sensory marketing is used by many hotel chains.


Fries: Music To Your Ears

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MacDonald’s use aggressive tactics to sell you their fries and other products. Focusing on ‘hot’ times in the day (lunch time for example) the company throws adverts out that are specifically aimed at those driving a car. Examples of one of these ads: one advert for fries features a sound that you could describe as something in between a deep fat fryer and a car heating system. The voice over even announces that the smell of fries being cooked will be transferred to your car, after which you are prompted to go and buy some. This type of advertising can hardly be called subliminal. Apparently the company thinks that subtlety should not be wasted on its customers. That’s why their restaurants feature so much red. Pay, eat fast and go away quickly. Before you can even ask for the wireless password and stay.


Shoes and Flowers

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Nike stores use a mixed flower scent to direct you towards the more expensive shoe designs inside, but after an incident in which their shoes started smelling of cat urine after wearing them once, maybe they should have added it to the insoles of their designs instead. Apparently you want to spend up to $10 more on their shoes if they are diffusing flowery scents. The shops are light and often have white walls with black decorations or images in neutral colors. This makes you relaxed enough to pay up for their shoes.


M&M’s Don’t Smell


The famous M&M World Store in London has a surprisingly strong chocolate scent when you walk in. You would expect that wouldn’t you? You want to feel like you are entering Willy Wonka’s chocolate lab when you go there. But then you look around and realize that all their wares are prepackaged. And you realize that the strong smell of chocolate is being sprayed at you with a vengeance. And your happy chocolate bubble bursts.


Gland Sac Makes You Spend

Musk Ambrette

Scents mess with our rational thoughts and connect with our emotions. And what can be more irrational than blowing your monthly pay check on a slot machine or casino game? The scent masters at Aromasys have been involved in choosing the right scents for the right resort. The Mirage hotel and casino uses a scent that is based on Polynesian tones and the well known Bellagio may subtly remind you of Italy. The venetian uses a strong Aromasys scent called Seduction, with strong notes of musk. The scents are aimed at the type of surroundings, the theme of the venue and the type of clientele visiting the venue. Musk is often referred to as the strong manly scent of success. Unfortunately this slightly primitive notion is not supported by the Moschus deer, who would like to hold on to their musk gland sac, if you please.


Smell of Weight Loss


If you think that you are overweight because you ingest more calories that you burn off, or because your digestion is slow, think again! You’re just not sniffing up the right scent. Apparently tests have shown that surrounding yourself with the right weight loss promoting scent can help you shed those pounds in a heartbeat. There is a huge marketing machine behind this notion and companies like Slimscents, Aromapatch and Prends-Moi really want you to drop your money on that new scent that makes you lose weight. Just make sure to stop driving around in your car to avoid hearing MacDonald’s adverts. Here’s a tip, surround yourself with the smells of peeling fresh fruit and cooking vegetables around dinner time.


Smells Like Bread


Net Cost is pretty big on using scents to make you put some more stuff in your shopping trolley. The scents of chocolate and of fresh bread are used in the shops air system. The Net Cost grocery store in Brooklyn New York was one of the first supermarkets to use this to influence their customers senses, and apparently it really works to make people slow down and check out the products displayed in the shop areas where the goods can be found.


Cinnamon on a Corpse


Most morgue and funeral home workers know the smell of a slowly decomposing body all too well. The favorite scent to use in a funeral home is a type of industrial strength cinnamon spray. This spray is a great deal as cinnamon creates a trusting and homely warm feel for visitors to the home, and does a great job in disguising the smells of human decay. If a body is not embalmed before a funeral service or cremation, you can be sure to notice a slight hint of cinnamon during your relative’s service. The icing on the commercial cake is the fact that this scent will make you want to come back and book your own service there too.


Your Plane Stinks

Suite Landing

Imagine a long haul flight whilst breathing in perfumed air. It seems weird to imagine that even airlines use scented air on their jets. Singapore Airlines has used its scent called Stefan Florida Waters, on its hot towels and on its flight attendants. This way the plane smells fresh when you board, and the scent is spread every time an attendant walks past. According to the airline this enhances the travelers experience of a relaxed flight. After your holiday you will want to book with them again.

fact checked by Jamie Frater