Scent, memories, and avoiding the merchandising trap
April 27, 2015
Walking to the counter, arms loaded down with pump bottles, I turned and stopped in front of PiC. “We’re buying nearly $80 worth of hand soap. HAND SOAP.”
It was 50-70% off, but still. Hand soap.
A Bath and Body Works holiday sale nearly sucker-punched our wallets. After 30 minutes of sniffing and picking bottles we were walking over to the counter when reality sunk in. The soap smelled great, of course, that’s how they got us in the first place but thankfully my brain turned on. I can pay $5 for a gallon of soap that smells just fine! It’s a testament to the pull of the new scents that I was actually sad putting the bottles back on the shelf.
I’m a sucker for products that smell good, and I’m not the only one. There’s a whole science behind manipulating your senses between scent and organization to get you to stay longer and spend more.
Some scents transport me to very specific moments in time:
Softsoap: high school, childhood best friends, horseback riding, the red-brown dirt of the riding stables where I learned to “be a rider, not a passenger”, hand scrubbing my one pair of riding pants and line drying them every week.
Garnier Fructis: high school and college, couponing, youth
Incense: temple, death, grieving, parent loss, tradition, childhood Lunar New Year celebrations, grouchy old grandma, ancestors I only know through faded black and whites and stories passed down from generation to generation
Bath and Body Works brown vanilla sugar: college best friend during college, picking apples at the grocery store, Southern California sun, driving my new car to work/school/work
BBW plumeria (long discontinued but there are a few scents reminiscent of this): junior high school phys.ed., black shorts and white tees, an old friend I haven’t seen since New York, braces, REALLY terrible looking long hair, weighing less than 70 lbs and being mocked about it.
Pears/apples (artificially): being carefree, young, and silly. Life before kid, jobs, degrees, or college majors.
Coffee: five years old, learning responsibility, trusting my parents implicitly and completely, discovery
Gingerbread and fresh baked cookies: Christmas, family, holidays
“New car” smell: Age 19, negotiating my first major purchase, driving a new car in torrential rain, paying off a loan early
Scents are such a powerful trigger for memory, no wonder it’s a tool to manipulate our emotions and buying habits! I’m safer shopping online from home.