One of Cinnabon's many cinnamon buns. Cinnabon is one of many retailers known to pump synthetic smells into its immediate environment to entice customers.
One of Cinnabon's many cinnamon buns. Cinnabon is one of many retailers known to pump synthetic smells into its immediate environment to entice customers. - 
Listen To The Story


Lisa Napoli: On this day dedicated to food, you're probably grateful for your sense of taste. What about your sense of smell? Rachel Herz has just written a book called "The Scent of Desire." She says smell is the retailer's dream.

Rachel Herz: Cinnabon is a classic example, which uses the scent of its fabulous cinnamon buns to lure passersby to want to have a cinnamon bun. Actually, KFC is another one who's recently gotten on this bandwagon, and Exxon On The Run, they have been adding a coffee scent to their brewing kiosks, and apparently sales have increased 55 percent for coffee. So this is the example or literal scent marketing -- where you've the scent that's obviously connected to what you're selling in order to augment sales.

Napoli: Back to the Cinnabon/KFC example, those places, they, they're enhancing the smell of their already existing smells that are coming out of the stores with the food they're making?

Herz: That's right. So they're either using their own real smells or they're actually using synthetics that are being pumped out into the environment where they're being sold. So you can kind of tell, depending upon if they're actually really cooking in the establishment or if it's in a place like a sterile mall, where they couldn't possibly doing any baking, and yet you're still getting this overwhelming aroma of Cinnabon, let's just say.

Napoli: Wild. Why don't you tell me a little bit about this bus shelter incident?

Herz: What happened there is it was the "Got Milk?" very successful advertising campaign that decided what it should do is add the scent of chocolate chip cookies. And what they did was this sort of blitz of scenting bus shelters in and around San Francisco. And the San Francisco commuting board basically pulled it instantly from their bus shelters. People were worried about what was the smell, you know, they didn't know what it was. And that's one of the issues with smelling -- if you don't know what it is, people are very suspicious about it.

Napoli: Let me ask you about Iowa state and the pajamas . . .

Herz: In this particular case, they used two scents as a comparison. Both were rated as equally pleasant, but only one of them was able to augment the perceived value and desire to buy what in this case was a mock retail environment of women's pajamas and nightgowns and so forth, satin sleepware. And what's interesting is that so it's not just a pleasant scent, but a scent that is perceived as conceptually congruent with the items being sold that will yield the positive outcome.

Napoli: Mmmm, what does the bedroom smell like? You also talk a little bit about olfactorily-digitized cell phones?

Herz: Yeah, so this is an odd new invention that's come out of Japan, and you'll be able to digitize a scent that's in your environment and send it through your cell phone so that your friends can smell what you're smelling. So you're on the beach in Hawaii drinking a pina colada, and you pick that scent up and you send it to your jealous friends who're sitting in the snow at home in Wisconsin. Doesn't exist yet, but the idea is that it could possibly be something of the future.

Napoli: Rachel Herz's new book is called "Scent of Desire." In Los Angeles, I'm waking up and I'm Lisa Napoli. Happy Thanksgiving.