Journal of Business and Psychology

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 87–98 | Cite as

Right under our noses: Ambient scent and consumer responses

  • Charles S. Gulas
  • Peter H. Bloch
Full Articles


Despite frequent mention, we know relatively little about the effect of ambient environmental factors on consumer behavior. This paper discusses one important aspect of the environment, ambient scent. Based on research from several disciplines, a model describing the effect of ambient scent on consumers is propossed. Ambient scent is portrayed as an environmental cue that is compared with scent preferences to influence affective responses and ultimately approach-avoidance reactions. Moderators of these presumed relationships are also described. Suggestions for empirical research are provided and implications for marketing management are presented.


Environmental Factor Marketing Social Psychology Empirical Research Social Issue 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Allen, C. T., & Madden, T. J. (1985). A closer look at classical conditioning.Journal of Consumer Research 12(December), 301–315.Google Scholar
  2. Baker, J. (1986). The Role of the Environment in Marketing Services: The Consumer Perspective. In J. A. Czepeil, C. Congram, & J. Shanahan (Ed.),The Services Challenge: Integrating for Competitive Advantage (pp. 79–84). Chicago: American Marketing Association.Google Scholar
  3. Baron, R. A. (1983). Sweet smell of success? The impact of pleasant artificial scents on evaluations of job applicants.Journal of Applied Psychology, 68 (4), 709–713.Google Scholar
  4. Belk, R. W. (1975). Situational variables and consumer behavior.Journal of Consumer Research, December, 157–164.Google Scholar
  5. Benderly, B. L. (1988). Aroma driven: On the trail of our most emotional sense.Health, 20(December), 62–65.Google Scholar
  6. Berry, L. L. (1969). The components of department store image: A theoretical and empirical analysis.Journal of Retailing 45(1), 3–20.Google Scholar
  7. Bitner, Mary Jo (1992). Servicescapes: The impact of physical surroundings on customers and employees.Journal of Marketing, 56, 57–71.Google Scholar
  8. Bone, P. F., & Jantrania, S. (1992). Olfaction as a cue for product quality.Marketing Letters 3(3), 289–296.Google Scholar
  9. Bruner, G. C. (1990). Music, mood, and marketing.Journal of Marketing, 54, 94–104.Google Scholar
  10. Buck, L., & Axel, R. (1991). A novel multigene family may encode odorant receptors: A molecular basis for odor recognition.Cell, 65(April 5), 175–187.Google Scholar
  11. Dawson, S., Bloch, P. H., & Ridgway, N. M. (1990). Shopping motives, emotional states, and retail outcomes.Journal of Retailing, 66(4), 409–427.Google Scholar
  12. Donovan, R. J., & Rossiter, J. R. (1982). Store atmosphere: An environmental psychology approach.Journal of Retailing, 58(1), 34–57.Google Scholar
  13. Doty, R. L. (1981). Olfactory communication in humans.Chemical Senses, 6(4), 351–376.Google Scholar
  14. Doty, R. L. (1991). Olfactory function in neonates. In D. G. Laing, R. L. Doty, & W. Breipohl (Eds.),The human sense (pp. 155–165). Berlin: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  15. Doty, R. L., Applebaum, S., Zusho, H., & Settle, R. G. (1985). Sex differences in odor identification ability: A cross-cultural analysis.Neuropsychologia, 23(5), 667–672.Google Scholar
  16. Doty, R. L., Frye, R. E., & Agrawal, U. (1989). Internal consistency reliability of the fractionated and whole University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test.Perception & Psychophysics, 45(4), 381–384.Google Scholar
  17. Dube-Rioux, L. (1990). The power of affect reports in predicting satisfaction judgments. In R. H. Holman & M. Solomon (Eds.),Advances in consumer research, Vol. 18 (pp. 571–576). Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research.Google Scholar
  18. Ehrlichman, H., & Halpern, J. N. (1988). Affect and memory: Effects of pleasant and unpleasant odors on retrieval of happy and unhappy memories.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 55(5), 769–779.Google Scholar
  19. Engen, T. (1982).The perception of odors. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  20. Eroglu, S. A., & Machleit, K. A. (1990). An empirical study of retail crowding: Antecedents and consequences.Journal of Retailing, 66(2), 201–221.Google Scholar
  21. Fost, D. (1991). Different smells for different shoppers.American Demographics, (January), 10–12.Google Scholar
  22. Freedman, D. H. (1993). In the realm of the chemical.Discover, (June), 68–76.Google Scholar
  23. Gardner, M. P. (1985). Mood states and consumer behavior: A critical review.Journal of Consumer Research, 12(December), 281–300.Google Scholar
  24. Gibbons, B. (1986). The intimate sense of smell.National Geographic, 170, 324–361.Google Scholar
  25. Gorn, G. J. (1982). The effects of music in advertising on choice behavior: A classical conditioning approach.Journal of Marketing, 46(Winter), 94–101.Google Scholar
  26. Grossbart, S., Hampton, R., Rammohan, B., & Lapidus, R. S. (1990). Environmental dispositions and customer response to store atmospherics.Journal of Business Research, 21, 225–241.Google Scholar
  27. Hall, E. T. (1966).The hidden dimension. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  28. Hill, R. P., & Gardner, M. P. (1987). The buying process: Effects of and on consumer mood states. In M. Houston (Ed.),Advances in consumer research, Vol 15, (pp. 408–410). Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research.Google Scholar
  29. Hinds, M. D. (1988).Finding new ways to make smell sell. New York: 52 col. 6.Google Scholar
  30. Hirsch, A. R. (1992a).Effect of an ambient odor on slot-machine usage in a Las Vegas casino. Unpublished report: Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, Ltd.Google Scholar
  31. Hirsch, A. R. (1992b). Nostalgia: A neuropsychiatric understanding.Advances in Consumer Research (pp. 390–395). Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research.Google Scholar
  32. Kellaris, J. J., & Cox, A. D. (1989). The effects of background music in advertising: A reassessment.Journal of Consumer Research 16(June), 113–118.Google Scholar
  33. Kirk-Smith, M. D., & Booth, D. A. (1987). Chemoreception in human behavior: Experimental analysis of the social effects of fragrances.Chemical Senses, 12(1), 159–166.Google Scholar
  34. Kirk-Smith, M. D., Toller, C. V., & Dodd, G. H. (1983). Unconscious odour conditioning in human subjects.Biological Psychology, 17, 221–231.Google Scholar
  35. Knasko, S. C., Gilbert, A. N., & Sabini, J. (1990). Emotional state, physical well-being, and performance in the presence of feigned ambient odor.Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 20(16), 1345–1357.Google Scholar
  36. Kotler, P. (1973). Atmospherics as a marketing tool.Journal of Retailing, 49(4), 48–64.Google Scholar
  37. Laird, D. A. (1932). How the consumer estimates quality by subconscious sensory impressions: With special reference to the role of smell.Journal of Applied Psychology, 16(2), 241–246.Google Scholar
  38. Laird, D. A. (1935). What can you do with your nose?The Scientific Monthly, 41, 126–130.Google Scholar
  39. Laurent, G. & Kapferer, J. (1985). Measuring consumer involvement profiles.Journal of Marketing Research, 22, 41–53.Google Scholar
  40. Lawless, H. (1991). Effects of odors on mood and behavior: Aromatherapy and related effects. In D.G. Laing, R. L. Doty and W. Breipohl (Eds.),The Human Sense of Smell (pp. 362–386). Berlin: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  41. Lipman, J. (1990). Scents that encourage buying couldn't smell sweeter to stores.The Wall Street Journal January 9, b 5.Google Scholar
  42. Lorig, T. S., & Roberts, M. (1990). Odor and cognitive alteration of the contingent negative variation.Chemical Senses, 15(5), 537–545.Google Scholar
  43. Lorig, T. S., & Schwartz, G. E. (1988). Brain and odor: I. Alteration of human EEG by odor administration.Psychobiology, 16(3), 281–284.Google Scholar
  44. Lutz, R. J., & Kakkar, P. (1975). The psychological situation as a determinant of consumer behavior. In R. Bagozzi and A. Tybout (ed.),Advances in consumer research, Vol. 10. (pp. 532–539) Ann Arbor, MI: Association for Consumer Research.Google Scholar
  45. Mano, H. (1989). Emotional states and decision making. In M. Goldberg, G. Gorn & R. Pollay, (eds.),Advances in consumer research, Vol 17. (pp. 577–584) Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research.Google Scholar
  46. McCartney, W. (1968).Olfaction and odours. New York Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  47. Mehrabian, A. (1976).Public places and private spaces. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  48. Mehrabian, A., & Russell, J. A. (1974).An Approach to Environmental Psychology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  49. Milliman, R. E. (1982). Using background music to affect the behavior of supermarket shoppers.Journal of Marketing, 46(Summer), 86–91.Google Scholar
  50. Milliman, R. E. (1986). The influence of background music on the behavior of restaurant patrons.Journal of Consumer Research, 13(September), 286–289.Google Scholar
  51. Moncrief, R. W. (1970).Odours, London: William Heinemann Medical Books.Google Scholar
  52. Obermiller, C., & Bitner, M. J. (1984). Store atmosphere: Peripheral cue for product evaluation. In David Stewart (Ed.)Proceedings of the American Psychological Association, (pp. 52–3) APA Division 23.Google Scholar
  53. Petty, R. E., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1986).Communication and persuasion: Central and peripheral routes to attitude change. New York: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  54. Rapoport, A. (1982).The meaning of the built environment. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  55. Richardson, J. T. E., & Zucco, G. M. (1989). Cognition and olfaction: A review.Psychological Bulletin 105(3), 352–360.Google Scholar
  56. Schab, F. R. (1991). Odor Memory: Taking Stock.Psychological Bulletin, 109(2), 242–251.Google Scholar
  57. Stoddart, D. M. (1988). Human odour culture: A zoological perspective. In S. V. Toller, & G. H. Dodd (Ed.),Perfumery: The psychology and biology of fragrance (pp. 3–16). London: Chapman and Hall.Google Scholar
  58. Van Toller, C., Dodd, G. H., & Billing, A. (1985).Aging and the sense of smell. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.Google Scholar
  59. Zajonc, R. B., & Markus, H. (1982). Affective and cognitive factors in preferences.Journal of Consumer Research, 9 (September), 123–131.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles S. Gulas
    • 1
  • Peter H. Bloch
    • 2
  1. 1.Dept. of MarketingWright State UniversityDayton
  2. 2.University of MissouriUSA

Personalised recommendations