Scent and Perception: Can We Believe Our Noses?

Cleanliness, beauty, attraction, success…these are things most of want. For some, this occurs naturally. But, for the rest of us it takes a little bit of work. Could scent be the key to enhanced perception?

Science shows that facial symmetry is perceived as being attractive. What if you weren’t blessed with natural symmetry? They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but a growing body of research has proven that beauty could actually be in the nose of the beholder.

Let’s say you have a great business, a pretty nice building, but face TONS of competition. You need the competitive advantage, but how? This is where scent comes in.

People, products, and spaces that smell good are largely perceived in a positive light. Let’s explore this link between scent how perception!

The Scent of Attraction

The evolutionary purpose of smell, says chemist Sissel Tolaas, is to help you find sex partners and food. As humans, we’re widely accepting “generalists” in these matters. Surprisingly (or not), the only other species as indiscriminate are cockroaches and rats. Tolaas claims that as generalists, humans are not hardwired to dislike the smell of perspiration or excrement. She believes that our dislike for these types of odors is cultural. Either way, pleasant smells translate into attractiveness and desirability.

The positive emotional effects of pleasant fragrances shape how you perceive people. In experiments, subjects exposed to pleasant fragrances tend to assign higher ‘attractiveness ratings’ to people in photographs. This is especially true for people of just ‘average’ attractiveness. For most of us, a little bit of nice perfume or cologne could be the determining factor in how we’re seen. We’ve always heard beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Studies show beauty is in the nose of the beholder.

Bad Smells Kill the Vibe: Consequences of Unpleasant Scents

Unpleasant smells lower our perceptions and evaluations. One study showed the presence of an unpleasant odor led subjects to give lower ratings to photographed individuals AND to judge paintings as less professional. This is why you should never overlook scent in your interior design planning. It’s crucial to making lasting, positive impressions on your customers.

Customer Responses to Pleasant Fragrances

The mood-improving effects of pleasant smells may not always work to our advantage: by enhancing our positive perceptions and emotions, pleasant scents can cloud our judgement. In an experiment in a Las Vegas casino, the amount of money gambled in a slot machine increased by over 45% when the site was odorised with a pleasant aroma! – The Smell Report

Are Products As Good As They Smell?

Research shows that when the scent of a fragrant product is pleasant and familiar,  it’s more likely to be a hit. These results show that a product’s scent often evokes deep emotional memories and increases its appeals to your customers.

Participants in a consumer test of shampoos were asked to rank the performance of the shampoos. The shampoo that ranked last on performance in the initial test ranked first in a second test. The only different between these tests was that the fragrance had been altered. In the second test, participants said that the shampoo was easier to rinse out, foamed better and left the hair more glossy. And this is only one example!

In a study of scented lotions, the lotion whose scent is both pleasant and familiar outperformed the same exact lotion in a pleasant but less memorable scent.  The stronger the memory that the fragrance triggered, the better the chances are that the lotion will be held in high regard.

Using Scent to Our Advantage

scent and perception infographic

The use of pleasant ambient scents to connect to consumers is proven to work. Scent positively influences consumer responses. A pleasant ambient scent may not turn a very poor in-store experience into a great one, but it’s definitely an enhancement that may win you the customer & the competitive advantage. In the presence of scent:

  • Customer spend more money (up to 23% more)
  • Customers have a more positive overall experience
  • Products & surrounding were seen as being of higher quality
  • Customers lingered in stores longer
  • Your brand becomes more memorable
  • Businesses with large female clientele showed greater responses to scent

Learn how you can use scent to increase your productivity.

Find out which fragrances are trending for 2020. If you’d like your own signature scent, we can help!

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