A new billboard in North Carolina sporting a nice juicy steak is the first to use a new scent-based marketing strategy. The Bloom grocery store chain’s billboard uses a high-powered fan to pump savory aromas of pepper and smoke through the air at hungry motorists.
ScentAir, the company behind the billboard, says it uses “scents (to) enhance environments, identify brands and create memorable experiences.” The company says the strategy is designed to appeal to customers on an emotional level, rather than relying on traditional advertising tricks.
Smell has always had a strong association with memory. Recent research shows that the first time a scent is encountered it etches itself into the minds of people due to an intricate brain pathway unique to smell. The New York Times reported on an experiment where people remembered aspects of scented pencils, as opposed to unscented pencils, two weeks after studying the objects.
The next time you give a speech, take a test or have to remember something important, try studying or practicing wearing the perfume or cologne you’ll put on for the event. You just might find yourself feeing sharper and more focused.
Though research on scent and memory is in its infancy, here are a few interesting ways scents affect us.
To Choose Mates
Smell may play a big role in how women choose their mates (men, no surprise, focus more on outward sex appeal). “Women are first attracted to a man visually and then by how agreeable he is. But when they become more intimate, smell becomes a factor,” says Rachel Herz, PhD, a Brown University researcher who studies smell and behavior.
To Detect an Illness
Sometimes, a problem with smell is the first sign of serious illness. “A good predictor of Alzheimer’s disease is loss of olfactory function,” says Richard Doty, director of the Smell and Taste Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Multiple sclerosis can also show up first as a loss of smell, and a strange odor may be a sign of epilepsy.
To Lose Weight
Alan R. Hirsch, a Chicago neurologist and “olfaction expert,” published a study showing that overweight people ate less and lost weight by sniffing the scent of green apples, peppermint or bananas whenever they were faced with food or tempted to eat. The odors were contained in devices that look like scented lipstick tubes.