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The Sweet Smell of Success

Distinctive smell

What is your favourite smell? Fresh bread? Fresh cut grass? Bacon? Coffee? Your pet? Roses? A luxurious moisturizer? An aftershave which takes you back to a special person? There are so many to choose from…

Smells hold a special power within our brain. Their impact can be highly influential, yet sadly often overlooked.

When our senses receive information, they each have to send messages to the thalamus within the brain, before going on to the higher areas of perceptual processing. All that is, except the sense of smell. Smell has a fast-track route which means it not only registers faster, but it registers within an area which is connected to our emotions. Therefore, smells directly stimulate our emotions.

To me, the minty smell of Polos is one which is comforting, reassuring and safe. Why? Simple. Throughout my childhood (and to this day in fact as I occasionally test him!) my Father ALWAYS had a packet of Polos in his pocket. If I ever fell over, or got lost, or hurt myself…or basically anything which resulted in either tears or blood…my father would produce a handkerchief from his pocket. You guessed it, that handkerchief would smell of the Polos it was next to. Therefore, the feelings I experienced when being comforted and reassured in my moments of need, became forever associated with the smell of Polos.

The connection between smells and memories is so strong that it can take you back many many years in one sniff – if you are in any doubt, just try smelling a wax crayon and see what happens! Our sense of smell is the first of our senses to be developed – in fact it is working fully before we are even born.

More than that, the sense of smell and its associated emotions, have a direct path the to decision-making part of your brain. So, their power and indeed potential should not be underestimated.

However, I am afraid it is one of our senses which gets bored fastest too. If you think about it, we breathe between 17,000 and 30,000 times per day, and each one of those will have smells to be registered as we breathe in. Which is why we soon fail to notice the smell which ‘hit’ us only a few moments ago.

Brands which understand the power of smell can build tremendous capital upon their formulae. So much so that last year, Hasbro tried to trademark the smell of their Play Doh product. And why increasing numbers of businesses like hotels and car manufacturers have a distinctive odour they spray (in the lobby or in newly purchased cars) in order to reinforce the brand message and differentiation.

So, the next time you smell the coffee…wake up, and see what they are doing to you!