Do we Subconsciously perceive subliminal messages in smell?

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A subliminal message is a message or a trigger that is aimed at the subconscious , therefore our conscious minds will be unaware of it. They come in various forms and affect the human sensory system. This may include smell, sound, or something visual. Their could be a positive or negative effect, and some say they can have an impact on your thoughts, behaviors, and attitude.
The following information will be focusing on how scents can manipulate consumer behavior. This type of advertising is called scent marketing. Its ability to calm an atmosphere and recall powerful memories can be useful in many businesses hoping to get your money and making a lasting impression of their products in your subconscious (Dowdey, 2010).
The olfactory system allows a subliminal communication between human begins and their environment (Emsenhuber, 2009).



First lets explain how sense of smell workssmell.jpg
Odour molecules in the air enter the nose and attach to olfactory receptors located on the dendrites of specialized neurons which extend to the mucous membrane (lining of the nose). Once the molecules bond, depolarization sends an impulse down the dendrite to the axon. As little as one molecule can activate a signal but humans usually need around 50 molecules to consciously detect an odour. The olfactory system contains over a thousand different types of receptors. These odour molecules can be combined to create specific odour sensations leading to the recognition of tens of thousands of different smells. Once these odour molecules activate the olfactory receptors and depolarization occurs, the signal is sent down an axon toward the brain where it is received at the olfactory bulb. From there the signal is sent to other areas of the brain for processing including the hippocampus and amygdala of the limbic system which are involved in emotional experiences, mood, and behavior. This is one of the reasons why smell is strongly linked to memory (Berstein et al, 2008).

Marcel Proust

The term Proustian Effect is used to describe the connection and the effects of smell and memory named after the french author Marcel Proust.Marcel was the first person to explicitly link smell and memory. His book entitled "Remembrance of Things Past" discusses the power of smell in bringing back childhood memories using the example of Madeleine Cakes from his youth (Dowdey, 2010)
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So what does this all mean when speaking about advertising?
It means that our behavior and mood can be influenced by subtle odours that we may or may not perceive consciously when shopping or enjoying a night out on the town. Its no secret that smells can recall good feelings and memories. Just think about how you feel when you pull a fresh pie or sheet of cookies out of the oven. This is exactly what real estate agents do to make their open house tour more enjoyable and welcoming (Dowdey, 2010). While real estate tricks may not be considered subliminal, other companies do use sent on an unconscious level. Some companies will use small amounts of vaporized liquid scent that is pumped through the ventilation system which is gently dispersed through the building (Dowdey,2010).

Another example of this is how KFC uses their ventilation system to produce an aroma of there foods so that it travels outside during certain times during the day, specifically around lunch and dinner times.


Types of Scent Marketing
The company ScentAir consists of four types of scents. The aroma Billboard smell attaches a smell to a billboard such as a chocolate smell to a milk advertisement. The Thematic smell uses scents to tie in sensory elements of a visual program to communicate ideas to enhance the mood of a themed atmosphere such as lavender in a french restaurant with a provincial style decor. Ambient scenting to freshen an odor or enhance a stores environment and Signature smells which are used by specific companies to help identify their products. This last type of scent marketing is a custom smell created for and used solely by one company. (Dowdey, 2010)..
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Ambient ScentingDepartment stores always smell good, especially during special occasions such as Christmas, and valentines day.Sometimes scents are so overpowering it could really bother an individual. But what you might not know is that department stores are pumping fragrances into the air on purpose, in hopes that you'll end up buying the perfume, or fragrance.And more often then not, you do.
Statisticsshow that when scents are misted into the air around their displays, it causes a more inviting atmosphere and makes for bigger profit in sales. So, is ambient scenting an underhanded subliminal approach to selling, or is it simply smart marketing?

Signature Scenting


Some cruise ships have signature smells. Cruise ships try to infuse aromas such as bunker oil and suntan lotions to enhance a passenger’s sense of well-being as well as giving a feeling of luxury. These fragrances can be subtly dispersed in areas of the ship, such as, air conditioning systems, bedding's, and cabin toiletries.Some cruise ships have signature smells. Cruise ships try to infuse aromas such as bunker oil and suntan lotions to enhance a passenger’s sense of well-being as well as giving a feeling of luxury. These fragrances can be subtly dispersed in areas of the ship, such as, air conditioning systems, bedding's, and cabin toiletries (Sloan, 2010)

Billboard Scenting


Retail stores such as Bloomingdales have used baby powder aroma billboards in their infant departments, and used overtones such as coconut in its swimsuit display.