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Pepsi's Scent-tastic Campaign
By: Amanda Markell
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Scientists say that 70–75% of what we perceive as taste actually comes from our sense of smell. Even more important, smell is closely connected to our mood, behavior, and memory. Pepsi is capitalizing on this science by making their packaging appeal to more than just our taste buds. In March 2013, Pepsi applied for a U.S. Patent for “Releasably Encapsulated Aroma.” This invention, created by Naijie Zhang and Peter Given, releases an aroma into the air when a Pepsi container is opened. To do so it uses tiny gelatin capsules that sit underneath beverage caps. The capsules, which are half the width of a human hair, rupture when the drink is opened, releasing the smell and reminding customers how much they want the refreshing taste of a Pepsi. Aromas include essential oils, fruit essences, fruit aromas, perfumes, and combinations.  
 
As the patent describes, research shows the memory-evoking aroma of the expected flavor of the product improves the overall product performance. Now when someone beside you cracks a bottle of Pepsi, you will: hear the tempting fizz, smell the familiar scent, see the famous label, and go buy one for yourself.
 
Smell is one of the strongest and most intimate senses of humans. So how else have marketers succeeded (and failed) to connect with prospects through smell?
  
In 2012, Dunkin Donuts launched the “Flavor Radio” in South Korea. The device was installed in city busses; when the Dunkin Donuts commercial played, the system released an aroma of fresh brewed coffee into the air. This smelly campaign was said to reach the noses of 350,000 commuters and lift sales 16% in local stores.
 
Marketing agency Nova Direct frequents the practice of using a type of “scratch and sniff” in their direct mailers using the scent of chocolate, fresh cut grass, bread, pine forest, rainforest, or eucalyptus to instill a brand in the customer’s mind. Nova Direct calls this “smellymail.”
 
In 2007, as part of the California Milk Processor Board’s “Got Milk?” campaign, the city posted adhesive strips smelling like chocolate chip cookies on their bus shelters. This attempt to go outside of the box failed and the transit ads were only live for one day. San Franciscans’ complaints ranged from “I do not like the smell” to health concerns to “it’s unfair for the homeless people who cannot afford cookies and milk.”
 
When customers have blocked their auditory and visual senses, is it smell that marketers need to turn to? Have you experienced a smelly marketing campaign firsthand? Tell us @beneaththebrand.


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About the Author
Amanda Markell is a marketer in the Greater Boston Area with a passion for branding, new media, and customer insights. 
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