Three Steps to Your Smell of Success

There was a very valid reason why Starbucks took their breakfast sandwiches off the menu for more than six months. Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz felt that the smell of the cooked food conflicted with the scent of the coffee for which Starbucks is so well known.

Starbucks’ aroma task force—yep, there is an actual department for this—took the clash of aromas very seriously. And they are not the only ones. Using scent as a marketing tool, Cinnabon negotiates the leases for their stores based on the best reach of their cinnamon-roll smell, which we have to admit lures us in. Abercrombie & Fitch and many other retailers are very cautious about their locations so as to not have their own scents conflict with any others.

The Wall Street Journal recently dedicated a whole article to this tactic, and you bet that as a smart marketing service provider, you can add your own aroma to your client’s success as well. As a matter of fact, print is uniquely qualified for this.

1. Choose a scent
Bread, cinnamon, sun tan lotion, chocolate—these are the easy ones, but there are literally thousands of stock fragrances available to entice potential customers. You may apply as many fragrances as you like to your printed piece, but keep the aroma task force in mind and be mindful not to have any clashing smells.

2. Put the scent on paper
Getting the scent onto the paper can be as easy as adding a fifth color to the print job. Or you can embed the scent directly into your ink, apply a scented varnish, scented coatings, scratch and sniff, Rub’nSmell, Lift’nsmell…The options are plentiful and the uses range from scented direct mail pieces to catalogs to labels…

3. Enjoy the smell of success

Scented pieces can be clearly identified—dare I say sniffed—among the rest of the recipient’s mail. They can be rubbed many times with scent released each time; the actual number of rubbings is determined by the size of the printed area and the intensity of the rubbing.

Sabine Lenz is the founder of, the first online paper database and community specifically designed for paper specifiers.

Growing up in Germany, Sabine started her design career in Frankfurt, before moving to Australia and then the United States. She has worked on design projects ranging from corporate identities to major road shows and product launches. From start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, her list of clients included Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Deutsche Bank, IBM and KPMG.

Seeing designers struggle worldwide to stay current with new papers and paper trends inspired Sabine to create PaperSpecs, an independent and comprehensive Web-based paper database and weekly e-newsletter. She is also a speaker on paper issues and the paper industry. Some refer to her lovingly as the "paper queen" who combines her passion for this wonderful substrate called paper with a hands-on approach to sharing her knowledge. 

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  • Shelley Sweeney

    Great tips, Sabine! It’s true – getting your message noticed in today’s oversaturated media world is an ongoing challenge, but when you have the help of a little creativity it’s easier to cut through the clutter and reach the end user. Sight, touch, taste, hearing and smell – experiential marketing campaigns are utilizing a range of senses these days to capture the attention of consumers. Increasingly, we’ve seen that it’s imperative for printed pieces to be interactive, cutting-edge and personalized, in order to increase the connection between the brand and the consumer. Print makes emotional connections and memorable impressions in this fast-paced, always-on world. Partner print with the sense of smell and you’ve created one of the strongest and most powerful triggers for emotional memory. In fact, a well-designed, creative, innovative piece can drive a connection between a brand and a consumer, sparking their interest, increasing their loyalty and possibly gaining new ambassadors. So, I highly recommend – take advantage of the power of print and have a little fun with it, too! – Shelley Sweeney, VP/GM Service Bureau/Direct Mail Sectors, Xerox