Smell something? Take a good sniff and you might just be subjected to a new marketing craze. Because marketers have their eye on your olfactory senses and the nose is becoming a new battleground in the fight for your conspicuous consumption.
If you've read Martin Lindstrom's book from a few years back, Brand Sense, you'll know what I'm talking about. Lindstrom reckons that brands are missing a marketing trick by assuming that our eyes are the best routes to our pockets. What about appealing to our noses, our taste buds, our touch?
Generally, most ads are about visuals – the power of the image, the power of the written word. But Lindstrom found that if brands can engage two of our senses, then brand impact increases by 30 per cent. So the best TV ads employ a soundtrack designed to sear through the commercial clutter. But if brands can find ways to touch three of our senses, impact goes up by a whopping 70 per cent.
So modern marketers are giving the sensory strategy a whirl, creating smells and sounds to evoke a mood and engage your emotions. It's the marketing equivalent of wafting round fresh coffee and baking bread when you're trying to sell your house.
It's not a new idea; you might already have succumbed to some carefully devised sensory marketing. Take the smell of a new car in the showroom. Powerfully seductive, the freshly minted aroma might just tip you over into spending thirty grand on a brand new motor. Except that there's really no such thing as "a new car smell". It's been developed in a lab.
A decade or so ago, Rolls-Royce buyers started complaining that the car had lost its edge – but researchers identified the new model's smell as the real issue. So, taking a 1965 Silver Cloud as their reference, scientists began deconstructing the smell, identifying 800 different aromas in it. Then they simply recreated the smell and started spraying it under the seats of new Rollers. Apparently, it works.
There are plenty more examples. Singapore Airlines, regularly voted best in the world, has developed a scent that is part of every female flight attendant's fragrance and is sprinkled on to the hot towels they serve before takeoff. The crunch of the Kellogg's cornflake, the tactility of a Bang & Olufsen remote control, the sound a Mercedes car-door makes when it closes – all have been painstakingly designed to underline what we think and feel about the brand.
Now, the cinema sales house Pearl & Dean wants to bring scented ad campaigns to British cinemas. You might think that British cinemas are smelly enough, thanks. But Lindstrom argues that if it's an emotional response brands are looking for, smell is a much more powerful trigger than vision. He's even managed to put a figure on it, saying that 75 per cent of the emotions we generate on a daily basis are affected by smell.
Hence the Pearl & Dean initiative. They have already tried it out in Germany, where the smell of Nivea was piped into cinemas via the air-conditioning vents. Apparently, the audience's awareness of the Nivea brand was up by 500 per cent after the ad, much higher than would be expected from a traditional audio-visual ad.
Of course, most brands don't have an associated scent. What does Orange smell like? (Oranges, maybe.) Or how about Virgin? Nike? And you could have some fun with those David Beckham ads for Armani pants.
With last week's news that cinema attendance was down by 19 per cent in May to 12.7 million, cinemas need all the advertising tricks they can muster. And if the new "scent-vertising" helps to counter the usual cinema stench of musty seats and stale popcorn, they might be on to something.
THE SUN might have disappeared but, as you can tell, the advertising industry is persisting with its traditional summer silly season. After smell-vertising comes tan-vertising and ads that give away free money.
There aren't many suntans around yet this season. Unless, that is, you count the new advertising campaign for UKTV Gold. The golden oldies TV channel has rounded up some glamorous lovelies to promote its most popular programmes. But the women aren't starring in an ad. They are the ad. The women have been sprayed with fake tan over a stencil of a UKTV Gold celebrity. So, while they're gorgeously golden from the (topless) front, their backs sport the faces of Del Boy, Victor Meldrew and Dawn French.
I make no comment on the decision to use almost naked women to peddle their commercial message, but let's be honest; as a new marketing tool, tan-vertising doesn't have much of a future, does it? Finding women happy to wear a picture of Victor Meldrew etched into their skin must be hard enough. Finding anyone out on the beach in this weather to see the damn thing is near enough impossible.
Also scoring high on the desperate PR stunt-ometer last week was Chevrolet, a brand that clearly thought the only way its ad would attract attention was to stick free money on to it.
So a 20ft billboard went up in New Oxford Street in London to promote the new Aveo model. The image on the poster was made up of 20,000 pennies – and it took less than 30 minutes for scavengers to pluck every last coin from the ad.
No surprise that the campaign was actually created by Chevrolet's PR company Mischief. Unfortunately, I suspect that anyone desperate enough to scramble up a billboard to fill their pockets with pennies isn't likely to be buying a new Chevrolet any time soon.
Silly season story No 4: the Revels eviction vote. Clearly, Mars thinks we haven't got anything better to do this summer than agonise over the fate of the flavours in a packet of Revels. Its new ad campaign urges consumers to vote out their least favourite Revel: the chocolate, toffee, coffee, orange, raisin or Malteser.
The Grand Revels Eviction is designed to make way for the introduction of a new mystery flavour, which will be added to packets as a limited edition this autumn. As well as voting for the flavour they want to eject, consumers can choose the method of eviction, including a cannon, a balloon and a rocket.
Of course, it is all a shameless PR stunt, and one that you might think chocolate fans are getting a little bored with by now after the bring-back-Wispas campaign last year. But, from the web debate already raging, I'd say coffee's days are numbered.
Claire Beale is editor of CampaignReuse content