Marketing Dollars and Scents

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Does the aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies make you want to reach for a cold glass of milk? The California Milk Processor Board (CMPB) certainly hopes so. Its new "Got Milk?" campaign was launched this past December in San Francisco with the installation at five bus shelters of ads for milk that actually emit the aroma of chocolate chip cookies. The board was ordered to remove the ads shortly after the installation, but the campaign generated a loud PR buzz, leaving marketers wondering, How sensible is scent marketing? "I believe that scent marketing has a tremendous potential to work," says Robert Lauterborn, professor of advertising at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "We experience life through five senses. Why do we only market through two or three?" In the past, few companies have used scent to connect consumers to their brands. A few examples exist, such as perfume ads, some candy stores (like the new M&M store in Times Square), and hotel chains that build brand recognition by spraying a unique scent in their lobbies and rooms. Besides the practical advantages with perfume or candy of communicating your product to your customer, according to Lauterborn, scent has also been found to breed emotional and cognitive connections. There are notable roadblocks to a scent marketing campaign. Harald Vogt, founder of Scent Marketing, a marketing agency devoted to brand building through scent, says, "People are afraid of exposing a random number of human beings to a scent." San Francisco city officials ordered the cookie scent strips taken down after much public protest, but not before the campaign made headlines across the United States. Lauterborn believes that not only means successful PR for the CMPB, but could spark a trend in marketing of scent campaigns. "It's given a lot of people the idea. I think there will be a surge of them."
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