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Scent Marketing Connects to Hispanics on a Deep Cultural Level

Posted by Elena del Valle on September 13, 2011

By Jennifer Dublino, chief operating officer, Scent Marketing Institute

Jennifer Dublino, chief operating officer, Scent Marketing Institute

Jennifer Dublino, chief operating officer, Scent Marketing Institute

Photo: Scent Marketing Institute

Go to any Latin American country or Latino community in the U.S. and you will find that you are immersed in a multi-sensory experience. Colors seem more vibrant, music more dramatic, tastes more distinctive and the smells more heady.

I was born in Miami, and while not a Latina myself, grew up immersed in a delicious mix of various South and Central American and Caribbean cultures, with Cuban being predominant. Along with their close family ties and warmth, one of the things I love about Latinos is their passion for fully experiencing the world through the senses.

While each of the senses, to one extent or another, influences our behavior and mood, scent is the most powerful of our five senses after sight. Yet, when it comes to marketing, scent is often neglected in favor of solely visual and audio messages. When brands want to appeal to the large and growing Hispanic market in the US, this narrow use of the senses can be a big mistake.

Of our five senses, scent is the only one that goes directly to the limbic system, which connects to the memory and emotional centers of the brain. Scent has a unique ability to trigger memories and to connect us emotionally to a product or experience, making it extremely powerful when used for marketing and branding. Unlike visual and audio stimuli, scent is harder to tune out, and interestingly, even works when the scent is barely noticeable.

There is no question that scent marketing works. Consider these facts, each of which is backed up by one or more scientific studies:

Consumers evaluate scented products as being of higher quality. A study of ladies’ stockings discovered that when presented with two versions of the same product where one was lightly scented with an orange fragrance, women said that the scented stockings were clearly of superior quality.

Consumers are more eager to buy and willing to pay more in a scented environment. A study was done using identical Nike sneakers in a scented room and a non-scented room. In the scented room, there was an 80% increase in intent to buy and the respondents were willing to pay up to 10% more money than in the non-scented room.

Consumers spend more time and money in a scented environment. A research study in a department store found that shoppers spent almost double on days when the store was scented. Another study discovered that when exposed to a pleasant smell, shoppers underestimated the amount of time they spent in the store by 26%.

Scent is particularly important to Latinos, even more so than to other cultural groups. Perhaps it is because the tropical and subtropical Latin American and Caribbean countries are filled with strong and distinctive fragrances such as jasmine, frangipani, mango, coffee, pineapple and ocean breezes. Research shows that people prefer smells that are familiar to them and that remind them of home.

Personal fragrances, like perfume, body spray and cologne are an important part of a Hispanic woman’s feeling of femininity; and Latinas use these products is much more frequently than for non-Hispanics (see Hispanic Agency Persuades P&G to Film Dirtier Ad, by Laurel Wentz, Advertising Age, September 7, 2009).

For many, a good smell is an integral part of cleanliness. For example, Hispanics are one of the only cultural groups that use cologne for infants. Cleaning products marketed specifically to Latinos, such as Fabuloso (their tag line is “Fabuloso Makes Your Nose Happy”) and Festival (on their website, their main selling point is “scintillating aromas that stimulate your senses and fires up Latin emotions in you”) distinguish themselves by highlighting the strength and lasting quality of their fragrance, rather than how effective they are at cleaning or any other quality (price, eco-friendliness, etc.).

Scent also has the power to influence our moods and emotions, something Latinos are very tuned in to. A study found that when a pleasant scent was introduced, people were much more likely to go out of their way to help a stranger and when asked about their mood, they reported being more positive and happier. Researchers also showed that the introduction of a vanilla-like scent reduced anxiety by 63% in patients about to undergo an MRI diagnostic procedure. Tuberose and hyacinth have been shown to increase happiness and decrease negative emotions and stress.

So the next time you are putting together a marketing strategy or campaign for the Latino market in particular, consider using scent as part of your marketing message.

Jennifer runs the day to day operations of the Scent Marketing Institute, a leading authority on scent and sensory marketing in the world. In addition to disseminating educational information and research to members of the industry, brand owners and the public, the Scent Marketing Institute throws ScentWorld Expo, the largest scent and sensory marketing conference in the world, which will take place this year December 7-9th at the Gansevoort Hotel in Miami Beach.