Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Friday, March 8, 2013


We have all been overwhelmed by a specific smell as we enter a store, demonstrating that senses can also be used to persuade people. This is usually to persuade people to buy certain products, evoke a sense of security or direct us to certain areas of the store. These can be used subliminally and we aren’t necessarily aware of the methods.

Examples of this include:

  • Victoria Secrets uses potpourri senses to create a sense of femininity in the shop to encourage the purchasing of nice underwear. 
  • Abercrombie & Fitch spray their stores with their signature aftershave/perfume to persuade customers to buy a bottle of it. 
  • Supermarkets have in store bakeries with fresh scents to attract customers to certain areas of the shop such where they can conveniently place products. 
  • Car dealerships spray a ‘new car smell’ into used cars to make it more appealing to buyers. 
  • M&M shop pumps the smell of chocolate around their stores to encourage buying (even though their products are prepackaged!). 
  • The smell of baking in a house up for sale makes it more attractive to the buyer. 

Smells can also create a pleasant environment to make customers feel relaxed and at home which will keep them in the store longer and thus be persuaded to buy more products and influenced to spend more money.

Hirsch (1995) placed different smells in different areas of a casino (1 area had no smell) and found that when odorised with a certain smell, more money was spent in the casino than when there was no smell (45% increase in change spent).

Similarly, Debono (1992) found that allowing participants to smell a perfume before seeing an advert for that perfume evoked a more attractive opinion towards that perfume than when participants were not given a scent of the perfume.

Previously, Hirsch (1993) put two identical pairs of Nike running shoes and put them in 2 separate rooms. The rooms were identical but 1 room was perfumed with a floral scent and the other had no additional scent. Participants inspected the running shoes. 84% of them reported that they were more likely to buy the shoes in the scented room. Participants also estimated value of the shoes and found that the shoes in the scented room were estimated £10 higher than those in the non-scented room (as cited in Vlahos, 2007).

DeBono, K. G. (1992). Pleasant Scents and Persuasion: An Information Processing Approach. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 22, 910-919.

Hirsch, Alan R. (1995), “Effects of Ambient Odours on Slot-Machine Usage in a Las Vegas Casino,” Psychology & Marketing, 12, 585-594.

Vlahos, J. (2007). Scent and Sensibility. New York Times.

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