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The Scent Memory Connection: What Is It? And How Does It Incentivize Shoppers?

How does a scent memory have the power to transport us to another time and place? You know the feeling – when you smell a certain perfume, some fresh apple pie, or a very specific air freshener hanging from a rearview mirror – suddenly your mind is flooded with memories of a time long ago. Memories that you may have forgotten until the scent triggered it.

Research shows that this intense connection between scent and memory can even influence spending choices. Understanding how scents invoke emotion can help businesses entice customers to spend more time and money in their stores.

What is Fragrance Memory?

Our fragrance memory is housed in our olfactory gbulb, which is directly connected to the part of the brain that stores and recalls memories.  When it comes to memory recall, our sense of smell is more powerful than our other four senses – taste, touch, sight, and hearing – and can recall memories that we have from as young as 4-years old.

When scents float through the air and into our noses, our brains use extremely complex processes to categorize them. The process is so complicated that researchers Richard Axel and Linda Buck won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2004 for their work in decoding it!

The olfactory bulb runs from your nose to the base of the brain where it connects to the amygdala and hippocampus. As neuroscientists have researched to find why scent is the strongest tie to memory, they have determined that it’s because of this close physical connection between the amygdala, hippocampus, and olfactory bulb.

Smells That Bring Back Memories

You may have your first scent memory when you were very young because that was when you had your first introduction to smells. As we get older and our brains develop, we have an easier time recalling memories – even when certain memories are decades in the past.

Thinking about the cologne your high school boyfriend wore can give you flashbacks to walking the halls as a teenager. The way your first car smelled can trigger all the summer days you spent driving around with friends. A certain baby lotion can remind you of the first few weeks you spent with your first child.

As you’re reading this, you can probably conjure up those smells and memories even though you haven’t thought of them in years!

That being said, there are cases where scent memory can be weakened. For example, if you encounter a certain scent in many different situations, your brain will no longer tie it to a single, standout memory. Instead, your brain will become confused and possibly struggle with connecting the scent to any memory at all! In that case, it would just become a scent that’s familiar to you.

In yet another circumstance, our brains may create false memories and tie them to certain scents. Traumatic events have the power to rewire our brains. If a scent is linked to a traumatic event, your brain might try to protect you by linking that scent to a positive memory instead of the traumatic one. It’s also possible for your brain to forget that scent altogether. And the next time you smell it it will be like the first time all over again. Except this time you can choose to create a positive scent memory.

How Scent Memory and Retail Marketing Are Related

Scent marketing is a tactic that businesses use at specific touchpoints in the customer journey. It takes advantage of the fact that scent, emotion, and memory are all intertwined and, therefore, creates an immersive experience for customers that they will remember fondly.

As customers have positive experiences with your business, their pleasure centers will be activated by your signature scent. It doesn’t take much energy for the brain to process scent and connect it to memory, so customers will be strongly affected – in a positive way – without being too distracted.

They will be free to happily browse your store and increase the activity in their pleasure centers by spending money on things they enjoy.

Find Your Signature Scent with The Magic Scent

The Magic Scent specializes in creating custom signature scents that will remind everyone of you, your home, or your business as soon as they get a whiff of it. Have a steady stream of scent wafting through the air with an aroma diffuser or get a spray bottle to spritz as you see fit.

Check out our scent collections to start finding your signature scent today!