Aroma is an essential part of every consumption experience. It is the first part of our consumption journey as the smell of coffee or baking fills the room, or as the subtle botanicals waft into our nostrils as we lift the glass. It is also a vital part of our sense of taste – try tasting anything while pinching your nose.
But most of all, aroma is one of the fastest and most direct routes to prompt an emotional response in humans. Maybe it is because aromas go straight to the brain’s olfactory bulb which is directly connected to the hippocampus – the main engine of our brain’s memory function. But we all know that the slightest hint of certain aromas will take us straight to a treasured memory, a favourite place, or a much loved – or may be a feared – relation.
It is this immediate emotional, often unconscious, response that is our brand’s first impression on our consumer – and first impressions last.
When we get the aroma right, the consumer has an immediately positive response to our brand. They – often unconsciously – associate it with positive memories and experiences, they are keen to continue along this journey and enjoy the product. However, it is so easy to get it ever so slightly wrong, to prompt some difficult or challenging memories, or to smell so good that the actual consumption is disappointing.
It is a delicate balance and traditional research only goes so far in helping us get it right. Because aroma is such an emotional experience and because most consumers are not very good at understanding, let alone talking about, their emotions, preference testing and product analysis techniques struggle to really show what is happening.
But when you start with understanding your consumers’ emotional journey and how, and why, that is prompted by their consumption journey. How, and why, the aroma sets up the consumers’ expectations and then how, and why, their consumption experience delivers – or fails to deliver – to that expectation, it becomes much clearer what you need to achieve with your aroma and how you do it.
Getting aroma, taste and texture right is always challenging, but when you start by understanding the consumers’ emotional journey with your product, and you see aroma, taste and texture as tools to deliver that journey, everything becomes a lot clearer.
The Marketing Clinic are global experts in the psychology of Consumer Experience. Understanding and explaining consumers instinctive – emotional – responses is our speciality. This means that we can help you to understand not only how your consumers respond to your brands but why they behave in the way that they do. With this knowledge we go on to make very clear and actionable recommendations for what you need to do next to improve products and communications to create great brands that your consumers love and keep coming back to.
Chris Lukehurst is a Consumer Psychologist and a Director at The Marketing Clinic:
Providing Clarity on the Psychological relationships between consumers and brands