A fragrance is forever. How does olfactory memory work?
The sense of smell is one of the most powerful and effective to bring back emotions and memories. Altought all the senses help us discover the world and interact with others, the smell has some peculiarities that deserve further consideration. Let's find out how olfactory memory works and why it's important to choose the best fragrance to make your business unforgettable.
Why the sense of smell is so special? First of all, it can not be intentionally "turned off". For example, we can avoid a visual stimulus simply by closing our eyes, but we can not do the same with a sudden and persistent smell. For this reason, smell is considered one of the most direct and effective senses in influencing our attitudes. But the most important feature if you want to learn more about the world of fragrance for your business is its ability to arouse emotions and bring back memories.
Some neuromarketing researches reveal that 75% of emotions are triggered by perfumes. In fact, olfactory perception is closely linked to the limbic system, which affects short-term memory, emotions and mood. The olfactory memory doesn't only evoke precise memories but also acts at an unconscious level, arousing intense emotions and moods. For this reason focusing on the sense of smell is the winning choice for an effective multi-sensorial marketing strategy.
A fragrance is forever
A study conducted at the Rockefeller University in New York has shown that people recall 35% of what they smell, compared to only 5% of what they see, 2% of what they hear and 1% of that they touch. According to this study, we can remember smells for one year with a precision of 65% and retain their memories over time.
The strength of an olfactory memory obviously depends on the importance of the situation in which we smell a scent. Therefore, the fragrances that accompany the most important moments of our life will be the most lasting and easy to remember even after a long time.
The first memories related to the smell, which are the first scents we remember, usually date back to our childhood. Awakening deep and positive emotions, these fragrances are the most powerful but also the simplest to recall. All the experiences throughout our life modify and add more and more new perfumes, building a complex "olfactory bank" linked to memories and emotions.
Memory is (mostly) a matter of nose
Several scientific studies have confirmed the possibility of creating a lasting association between a scent and a specific mood, in order to recall it even after a long time.
Marcel Proust in his novel In Search for Lost Time affirmed that what remains of our past are smells, which are immaterial and impalpable but not less intense, persistent and faithful. For this reason, fragrances would be the only ones to bear the immense structure of recollection and bring back past events.
However, a team of British researchers led by neurologist Jay Gottfried wondered if the same conditioning would work in the opposite direction, that is, if the memories were able to recall a smell.
By analyzing brain activity, they discovered that our brain distributes the memory of an event in different sensory areas including the piriform cortex and the hippocampus, which are involved in long-term olfactory memory. The article Cell remembrance of odors past published in Neuron magazine explains the experiment conducted by British researchers. Gottfried asked a group of volunteers to match different images with specific smells. Later, the same images already stored by the brain were shown a second time to the volunteers without the olfactory stimulus. Even without smells, their piriform olfactory cortex reactivated, confirming the expectations of the researchers.
By distributing the memories in different brain areas wich are connected to each other, the brain can awaken memory through one of the sensory channels, for example a scent through an image. The study also shows that scents are related to the most persistent memories and can also coordinate memories connected to other senses.
The importance of choosing the best fragrance for your business
By combining the evidence of these studies with our personal experience, it's easy to understand the importance of olfactory memory to best enhance your brand and make it recognizable and memorable for your target.
Therefore, choosing the fragrance that best reactivate memory becomes the starting point for developing an effective olfactory marketing strategy for your business.
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