The Use of Scents to Influence Consumers: The Sense of Using Scents to Make Cents

Kevin D Bradford, Debra Desrochers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Citations (SciVal)


Since the sense of smell cannot be turned off and it prompts immediate, emotional responses, marketers are becoming aware of its usefulness in communicating with consumers. Consequently, over the last few years consumers have been increasingly influenced by ambient scents, which are defined as general odors that do not emanate from a product but are present as part of the retail environment. The goal of this article is to create awareness of the ethical issues in the scent marketing industry. In particular, we illuminate areas of concern regarding the use of scents to persuade, and its potential to make consumers vulnerable to marketing communications. Since this is a new frontier for marketers, we begin with an explanation of what makes the sense of smell different from other senses. We then provide a description of how scents are used in marketing, past research on the power of scents, and the theoretical basis for, and uses of scents to influence consumers. This brings us to the discussion of the ethical considerations regarding the use of this sense. We close with several future research ideas that would provide more evidence of how the sense of smell can, and should be used by marketers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-153
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue numberSupplement 2
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2009


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