What You Smell Affects What You Like: How Incidental Scents Can Affect Product Preference By Eliciting Emotion

Elise Riker, Arizona State University, USA
Andrea Morales, Arizona State University, USA
Stephen Nowlis, Washington University in St. Louis, USA
The sense of smell is commonly overlooked amid the five senses, but recently the human nose has been getting popular press on its unexpected emotional power and connection with memories. How might this power be harnessed in the marketplace? We propose that the scent-evoked emotions and memories affect consumers’ choices, making a particular subset of products and services more attractive in subsequent decisions. Past research has shown that scents associated with emotional experiences can evoke the same emotion by its mere presence. Here we investigate the ability of a marketer-created scent associated with infant care to affect subsequent product choices based on their emotional match (nurturant love) with the scent. We find evidence for our theory in three studies, and rule out alternative explanations of liking, familiarity, other related emotions, semantic associations, and scent identification. We conclude that scents created as part of a branding identity become entangled with the emotional memories that consumers create as they use the brand, and thus the scent activates that powerful emotional connection.
[ to cite ]:
Elise Riker, Andrea Morales, and Stephen Nowlis (2011) ,"What You Smell Affects What You Like: How Incidental Scents Can Affect Product Preference By Eliciting Emotion ", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 39, eds. Rohini Ahluwalia, Tanya L. Chartrand, and Rebecca K. Ratner, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 819-820.