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Aroma and Persuasion “I love the smell of napalm in the morning…” Lt. Colonel Bill Kilgore, Apocalypse Now.

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Presentation on theme: "Aroma and Persuasion “I love the smell of napalm in the morning…” Lt. Colonel Bill Kilgore, Apocalypse Now."— Presentation transcript:

1 Aroma and Persuasion “I love the smell of napalm in the morning…” Lt. Colonel Bill Kilgore, Apocalypse Now

2 Smell is multifaceted n Odor “means” many things. It functions as: n a boundary-marker, distance maintainer n a status symbol n a method of identity management n a cultural marker

3 Aroma: the neglected child in the persuasion family n Smell is the one sense you can’t turn off n Smell, fragrance, and aroma are neglected in communication research –few scholarly articles on the role of fragrance –smells not viewed as symbol usage n Smell and “real world” persuasion –perfumes, fragrance inserts –air fresheners –cleaners, deodorizers – ambient aromas (Baron, 1997)

4 The Olfactory System n Smell is our most primitive sense –part of the limbic system (emotional center of the brain) –nasal passage is “hard-wired” to the brain n Average persons’ sense of smell is poor –only able to identify scents by name –women are better at distinguishing smells than men –30-50 scents can be identified with practice. n People have poor smell vocabularies –Scents are often defined in terms of other senses (e.g., sweet, smoky, nutty, fruity)

5 The role of smell in human relationships n By 4-6 weeks, infants can discriminate between their mother’s scent and a stranger (Russell, 1976; Schleidt & Genzel, 1990) n Almost everyone has experienced a situation in which a smell evoked a nostalgic memory n Importance of smell in daily relationships (Olfactory Research Fund, 1999): –opposite sex: 76% very important –spouse: 74% very important –family: 35% very important –friends: 36% very important –co-workers: 39% very important

6 More on the role of smell in human relationships n Preferences for smells are highly idiosyncratic, or individualized. n There is probably no universal agreement on what smells good or bad –Americans’ disdain for body odor, breath odor –cow dung as a hair care product in Africa n Culture and social conditioning teach individuals what smells to like or dislike. –Liver and onions, meat cooking, ethnic foods –Gender and smell: a double standard?

7 The Fragrance Industry n Fragrance industry nets $20 billion annually n colognes and after-shaves alone net $4.4 billion per year (Ortega & McCartney, 1994) n naming or labeling a smell affects how the smell is perceived, hence the sensual, exotic names given to perfumes. n The attractiveness of the container affects the perceived pleasantness of the smell n The fragrance industry is selling romance –marketing themes associated with fragrances revolve around images of romance, intrigue, sensuality, sexiness

8 Branding with Fragrance n Samsung Electronics introduced the fragrance, Intimate Blue, to its flagship store in New York City. n The Park Hyatt Washington, D.C., pumps a scent into the lobby using atomizers n The new official fragrance of Omni Hotels is a blend of lemongrass and green tea.

9 Fragrances and persuasion n No clear consensus on whether fragrances increase attraction or arousal –at best, scent is only part of the attraction equation n Fragrance as a peripheral cue--may reinforce, alter, enhance affective responses –positive or negative mood states –recall of memories, experiences

10 Scents and persuasion n Ambient aromas and consumer behavior –(Crow, 1993) Nike shoe study n Helping behavior –Baron (1997) effect of ambient aromas on helping behavior at a shopping mall –Shoppers at a mall were more than twice as likely to help a stranger in the presence of pleasant odors like roasting coffee or baking cookies. n Driving behavior –Baron & Kalsher (1998) examined the impact of a pleasant fragrance on driving behavior. Performance was significantly improved in the fragrance condition. n Medical applications of aroma –(Jellinek, 1994) pleasant aromas can reduce anxiety and stress associated with medical tests MRIs, CAT scans, etc.)

11 Fragrance limitations n Smells are subjective: People don’t always agree on what smells good (liver & onions?) n People may become desensitized to, or oversensitized, to smells. n Fragrances can backfire: Job applicants whose resumes were fragranced were less likely to be called for an interview (Sczesny & Stahlberg, 2002). Masculine fragrance were superior to feminine fragrances for male and female applicants, but the “no fragrance” condition was best of all.


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