Does It Make Sense to Use Scents to Enhance Brand Memory?

Maureen Morrin, University of Pittsburgh
S. Ratneshwar, University of Connecticut
ABSTRACT - Two studies are reported which investigate the impact of ambient scent on consumer memory for brand information. Both studies demonstrate that ambient scent can improve the recall and recognition of brand-related information. The results suggest that cognitive, rather than affective, mechanisms are responsible for the observed effects. In the first study, subjects were exposed to full color package shots of familiar and unfamiliar brands of toiletry/household cleaning products on a computer screen. Subjects evaluated these products in a congruently scented, incongruently scented, or unscented environment. Twenty-four hours later, in the same scented condition, their memory for brand-related information was tested. In this study, the presence of either a congruent or incongruent ambient scent increased the amount of attention paid to brand stimuli, but only the presence of a congruent ambient scent significantly improved brand recognition and recall. Thus, semantic matching appears to play a role in scent’s impact on memory performance. The second study used a 2 x 2 design to manipulate the presence or absence of scent at both the time of encoding and time of retrieval. Analyses indicate that the presence of ambient scent at the time of retrieval had no discernable impact on memory performance. Thus, contextual reinstatement does not appear to play a role in scent’s impact on memory. Instead, ambient scents that semantically match the items to be remembered enhance memory performance by increasing the amount of attention paid to stimuli at the time of encoding. Implications, limitations, and areas for future research are dicussed.
[ to cite ]:
Maureen Morrin and S. Ratneshwar (2001) ,"Does It Make Sense to Use Scents to Enhance Brand Memory?", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 28, eds. Mary C. Gilly and Joan Meyers-Levy, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 122.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 28, 2001     Page 122

DOES IT MAKE SENSE TO USE SCENTS TO ENHANCE BRAND MEMORY?

Maureen Morrin, University of Pittsburgh

S. Ratneshwar, University of Connecticut

ABSTRACT -

Two studies are reported which investigate the impact of ambient scent on consumer memory for brand information. Both studies demonstrate that ambient scent can improve the recall and recognition of brand-related information. The results suggest that cognitive, rather than affective, mechanisms are responsible for the observed effects. In the first study, subjects were exposed to full color package shots of familiar and unfamiliar brands of toiletry/household cleaning products on a computer screen. Subjects evaluated these products in a congruently scented, incongruently scented, or unscented environment. Twenty-four hours later, in the same scented condition, their memory for brand-related information was tested. In this study, the presence of either a congruent or incongruent ambient scent increased the amount of attention paid to brand stimuli, but only the presence of a congruent ambient scent significantly improved brand recognition and recall. Thus, semantic matching appears to play a role in scent’s impact on memory performance. The second study used a 2 x 2 design to manipulate the presence or absence of scent at both the time of encoding and time of retrieval. Analyses indicate that the presence of ambient scent at the time of retrieval had no discernable impact on memory performance. Thus, contextual reinstatement does not appear to play a role in scent’s impact on memory. Instead, ambient scents that semantically match the items to be remembered enhance memory performance by increasing the amount of attention paid to stimuli at the time of encoding. Implications, limitations, and areas for future research are dicussed.

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