Staff Reporters
May 20, 2014

‘Scratch and sniff’ enters a new phase

MEDIA TALK: Scent marketing is still in the experimental stage, but could it add a new dimension to campaigns?

L-R: Serjeant, Lochan
L-R: Serjeant, Lochan


  • Dwayne Serjeant: Practice leader, UX, Isobar APAC
  • Tripti Lochan: CEO, VML Qais

Was Oscar Mayer’s bacon alarm app just a gimmick or a way forward?

Serjeant: Both. Given the volume of the adapters they are giving away, it’s not part of any long-term plan. Having said that, the interest around new technology and wearables is increasing daily, so perhaps there’s something in it.

Lochan: Combining digital technology with one of the most primal senses makes perfect sense. Right now, it’s a limited experience because it’s one-way, requires topping-up, and is expensive. But what if people could create and share scents?

Did Oscar Mayer and Pop Secret optimise the technology?

Serjeant: It generated a significant amount of geek PR, but I can’t help thinking it would have been more compelling on a larger scale, in more physical places where it ties into purchase.

Lochan: Absolutely. They dazzled the world using a technology that, though inelegant, is still new to users.

How else could this scent dongle be applied?

Serjeant: There’s the opportunity to do more ambient work, taking some of the place of product placement in films and TV shows. But the limit of this particular device (one scent) makes it more of a gimmick than something useful.

Lochan: It’s interesting to think of cross-product marketing, for example a sanitary napkin manufacturer plus a perfume brand, packaged together to make you feel better during your period.

What potential do you see for the addition of smell to sight and sound in advertising?

Serjeant: There’s lots of opportunity for brands where scent is an expected part of the brand experience. But also for unexpected associations, like The North Face giving you the scent of fresh rain while running a commercial.

Lochan: The possibilities are infinite as the digital and analogue worlds converge. Especially for a generation that is used to being entertained, to being exposed to unexpected things.

What will hold it back?

Serjeant: The challenge of finding a real consumer need. Mobiles are popular because they actually perform functions that we need; the fun element of the device is sometimes quite secondary.

Lochan: The technology is still nascent, and a bit clunky. It works for short campaign bursts, but perhaps for longer duration campaigns it would be an issue. The refill is a challenge as well, especially as the newness of the experience goes away.

Do you see smartphone makers incorporating this function?

Serjeant: As an inflection point in mobile purchase decisions, I don’t think it has enough gravitas. My son, however, desperately wants the fart module, so who knows?

Lochan: Smartphone makers will monitor this carefully, and leverage their users to validate, pivot and finally decide which route to take, be it native or add-on... or nothing.


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