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  • Selling by Smell
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    “MM-MM- MM, doesn’t that smell good! Let’s buy some.”

    How often have you reacted in that way when confronted with a pleasing aroma? This illustrates the powerful effect odor has on people.

    The nose is a marvelous gift of God to mankind. Regarding it, the magazine

    Scientific American states: “To a chemist the ability of the nose to sort out and characterize substances is almost beyond belief. It deals with complex compounds that might take a chemist months to analyze in the laboratory; the nose identifies them instantly, even in an amount so small (as little as a ten-millionth of a gram) that the most sensitive modern laboratory instruments often cannot detect the substance, let alone analyze and label it.”

    But watch out! While your nose is designed to benefit and protect you, today it may fool you. Your sense of smell may coax you into purchasing certain items in preference to others that may be of equal value, and possibly less expensive. How so?

    Because in recent years researchers have carefully developed the technique of

    selling by smell.

    Selling by Smell Widespread

    A glance at the shelves of supermarkets will make it evident that selling by smell has become very popular in recent years. In The National Observer, writer Daniel Henninger noted:

    “Splashing and sprouting in the aisles of any large supermarket one may find a shampoo ‘with the essences of 11 herbs,’ a fabric softener that ‘adds the fresh smell of April to clothes,’ bath-oil beads fragranced with ‘twilight mist, garden moonlight, dawn mist, and summer nocturne,’ . . . a bathroom ammonia with a ‘new springtime scent,’ and other scented products.”

    Among products sold by smell are laundry detergents, dishwashing liquid, cleaning compounds, hair sprays, shaving cream, disposable diapers and used cars. In the 1950’s scents were added even to newspaper ads to induce people to buy certain products.

    But why so much interest in selling by smell?

    They Want an “Experience”

    “People are looking for products that do something to them, that give them a strong experience,” says chemist and perfumer Dr. J. Stephan Jellinek. Odors have considerable psychological effect. Some researchers believe that smells may influence the moods of people as colors do.

    Have you ever noticed that advertisers often highlight the smell of a product as the principal reason to buy it? Consider, for example, an advertisement for a certain shampoo: “It all begins as soon as you open the bottle and breathe in the breathtaking, close-to-the-earth essence of forest herbs and mountain flowers . . . The whole experience does beautiful things inside of your head, too. And it is an experience. The most beautiful shampoo experience on earth.”

    Another “experience” that customers crave is that of cleanness and freshness. How do merchants provide it? Once again, by smell. With regard to selling disposable diapers, Dr. Jellinek points out: “A customer can see and touch gentle texture, but can neither see nor feel sterilization; this attribute has to be communicated with package design and odor. The odor, in turn, must be just right​—strong enough to reinforce the product’s image, but not harsh enough to be offensive.”

    Selling by smell often centers around odors that people associate with nature. Dr. Jellinek noted, for instance, that teenage girls preferred “‘natural’ tastes and odors​—things they associate with Mother Nature, like lemon, peach, orange, apple blossom, and so on. And you’ll notice, some very successful lines of cosmetics . . . have been built around these ‘natural’ odors and tastes.”

    Have you recently purchased disposable diapers or other products because ‘they smell so clean and natural’? Did you know that the smell was added chemically to induce you to buy?

    “The Secret Salesman”

    Selling by smell has been so effective that “cosmetics, hair sprays, and household products comprise the bulk of the perfuming business,” writes Daniel Henninger. Perfumers refer to fragrance as “the secret salesman.” For example, one store set out two displays of identical women’s stockings, but with a single difference: One display was lightly scented. What happened? Most women chose the scented stockings. “The results of such tests are sometimes quite astounding,” reports Dr. Jellinek. “Women preferring one product over another by 50% or more, just on the basis of odor, are not uncommon.”

    The publication Printer’s Ink illustrated the effect of selling by smell with regard to food items: “A White Tower restaurant in Wheeling, W.Va., wanted to increase its sales of chocolate cake. It had been

    selling only three slices a day.” A machine was installed that emitted a chocolate scent. The result? “Sales increased to 32 slices a day.”

    Are You Being Deceived?

    Recognizing the effectiveness of selling by smell, perfumers can duplicate just about any scent. One company developed

    some 100 aromas, including those of roses, pine trees, orange juice, bananas, dill pickles and bourbon.

    Dr. Jellinek made an interesting comment about reproducing these fragrances: “The irony is that most of the ‘natural’ odors and tastes are really chemical simulations of the real thing.” The publication

    Advertising Age explains: “A concentrate made from real lemons, for instance, doesn’t necessarily smell the way people think a fresh lemon should smell. But it is easy to make an artificial concentrate that smells exactly the way people think a lemon should smell.” And simulated smells are less expensive to produce.

    Are you, perhaps, being deceived into buying items with “natural” smells that are really not natural at all? Can you think of a recent occasion when you purchased food items or other goods because of enticing aromas wafted throughout a supermarket? While there may be nothing wrong with the items themselves, do you realize how often “the secret salesman” of smell has motivated you to purchase things?

    Your realizing the popularity of selling by smell can benefit you in these days of rising prices. When you come upon an item with a pleasing smell, be it food or something else, keep in mind that the fragrance may have been produced in a laboratory just to secure your purchase. Might savings result from buying unscented items?

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