The human nose can distinguish between one trillion smells, according to a publication today in Science. This unfathomable fact is perhaps even more overwhelming considering that previous estimates placed the number of discriminate odorous stimuli around 10,000 odors. In context, most humans can only differentiate 200 colors. While the article provides disruption suggesting how little we know about the nose, it also suggests the important role the sense of smell can play in a marketing context. In the scope of sensory marketing, olfactory techniques are increasingly vital to product promotion and, ultimately, competitive positioning.
Consider that 75% of emotions are triggered by smell, and that odors can be recalled with 65% accuracy after a year (versus 50% accuracy for visual stimuli after only three months). The sensory marketing consultancy Brandessence overviews the science behind smell: "When inhaled, these odor molecules travel into the nose and interact with odor receptors. The odor receptors then transmit the information to the olfactory bulb, which is located in the brain’s limbic system. The limbic system also controls memory and emotions, and is connected to the pituitary gland and hypothalamus area that controls the release of hormones that affect our appetite, nervous system, body temperature, stress levels, and concentration. Since the olfactory system is located in the brain, the sense of smell is closely tied to memory, mood, stress, and concentration." Comparing olfaction to the other senses, the marketing agency Eventige refers to a Rockefeller University study that concluded short-term memory is limited to 1% of what we touch (haptics), 2% of what we hear (audition), 5% of what we see (optics), 15% of what we taste (gustation), and 35% of what we smell (olfaction). The significance of scent should be obvious from these facts.