Imaginary smells effective in seducing consumers

Imaginary smells drive sales - Newsreel
Products that induce imaginary scents have been found to be particularly appealing to consumers. | Photo: PixelsEffect (iStock)

Imaginary smells have been revealed as a major driver of product appeal.

The study by the Bayes Business School found that scented products with relevant images on their packaging achieved much better consumer scores from consumers.

This was particularly the case if the image evoked the idea of smell – such as showing a cut lemon rather than a whole fruit.

The research, published this week in the International Journal of Research in Marketing, also found that using negative images to depict the odours the product was trying to disguise (bad smells etc) had a negative impact on the consumer appeal of the product.

“Only 27 percent of the 957 scented laundry detergents and all-purpose cleaners on sale in America included in the study carried a picture of the object whose scent was recreated in the product,” the study paper said.

“Products branded with a relevant image of the source of the scent scored significantly better, with an average rating of 4.66 out of 5 stars, compared to 4.46 stars for products without a picture of scent on the package.”

In the study, 200 participants were asked to choose between two fruit-scented handwash products with and without pictures of the relevant fruit on packaging and advertising.

The researchers said the findings suggests that “as well as seducing our eyes, the images are stimulating our sense of smell”.

When considering products described as having a floral scent, images of yellow roses scored better with participants than sunflowers, “almost certainly because the latter does not have a strong smell.”

The researchers said that, while there was strong evidence that appealing scents could boost sales in shops, for individual products this was costly and not always practical.

More detail on the Bayes Business School website.