Multi-sensory brand engagement; Sampling; Fragrance activation;

In-store fragrance sampling 200 times more effective than TV ads!

Wow, quite a headline if you are a media buyer or a brand planner! Makes you think doesn’t it?

In truth we’re not comparing like with like here but in the context of choosing the right marketing mix, why don’t more brands – especially personal care, homecare and food & beverage – spend far more of their budget on fragrance activation in store? It’s a damn good question.

So let’s look at some numbers, starting with the cost of “impressions” or the “opportunity to see” per 1000 people: also known as CPM. Below is a comparison of various media.


You can see that a typical CPM for on-line or TV, varies from between about $5 to $25 dollars. Anything below $10 is considered a very efficient media.

But in this instance, efficiency is not a measure of effectiveness! More on this later.

So how efficient is In-store media?

Typical footfall in an average supermarket is about 30,000 people per week. 1 (Source UK business Forum online).

Let’s assume the cost of a typical piece of fragrance sampling POP is around £10. Then let’s assume that it’s only in-store for 2 weeks (a 4 week period is more common). Total opportunities to see the POP over the 2 week period in the store = 60,000

So the equivalent CPM = £10 / 60 = £0.166 or less than US $0.30

This is about 30 times more efficient than the best media examples above and over 200 times more efficient than Direct Mail!

But what about effectiveness? Isn’t this is what really counts, after all?

We know that visual media are largely processed by the part of the brain called the cortex. The cortex is largely responsible for our rational thought, and we humans have become extremely adept and filtering out and ignoring most of the visual information that overloads our busy lives. Most vision-based, mass media is therefore extremely ineffective at cutting though, connecting with us and influencing our purchase behaviour and brand loyalty.

On the other hand, brands which have a fragrance (or food aroma), are very lucky. The sense of smell (and through smell, taste) is directly connected to the part of the brain which effects our emotions and memories. In the context of brands, it affects our behaviour too. In-store research shows that if you have sampled the smell of a product you are up to six times more likely to purchase it than if you have just seen it. The sense of smell cut’s through the visual noise, draws us in, engages us and truly “activates” the brand.

So, if in-store sampling is 30 times more efficient and 6 times more effective at driving purchase than visual communication alone, suddenly that attention grabbing headline doesn’t seem so far off the mark, does it?

My other company, The Aroma Company, which I started 20 years ago is the world leader in the field of in-store sampling. Take a look at if you would like to find out more.

Next time we’ll look at data which shows how fragrance sampling drives brand loyalty as well as short term sales.


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About Simon Harrop
Simon is a sensory branding expert, such an expert in fact that you will often find him popping up on television and radio.

After building an internationally renowned agency focusing on communication through fragrance, he has now gone beyond just the smelly stuff and utilises his extensive sensory branding experience to guide and inspire brands and business owners.
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Simon Harrop
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