coffee beans

The Coffee Bean Myth: A Fragrance Retail Experience Manifesto

Have you ever taken a stroll through the fragrance section in an upscale department store?

You may have noticed dishes of coffee beans strategically placed around the department. If you asked, the clerk would tell you the coffee beans are there to “cleanse your palate” between smelling fragrances. And the coffee bean myth is propagated again.

The idea that your nose can become confused by too many fragrances is one that concerns many fragrance retailers. And fragrance retailers who have just discovered scent marketing wonder what value it can offer their business. But can our senses really become muddled by too many fragrances?

So, let’s clear the air. We’re going to dispel the coffee bean myth and explore how scent marketing is actually a fragrance retailer’s secret weapon.

The rise in use of coffee beans as a nasal palate cleanser prompted a study conducted by Dr. Alexis Grosofsky of Beloit College’s Department of Psychology. She tested the effects of coffee beans, lemon slices, and plain air as a method to reduce the effects of olfactory adaption.

And guess what? The results showed that coffee beans performed no better than lemon slices or even plain air in reducing olfactory adaption.

But the idea of smelling something different to help avoid olfactory fatigue isn’t necessarily entirely off base.

Our brains are wired to adapt. In our busy world, there’s just too many stimuli to constantly have attention on everything we encounter. So, our brains help us navigate the world by filtering out what isn’t needed. When we smell a fragrance for long enough, our brain sends the signal that the fragrance is safe and allows us to begin ignoring the fragrance. This is why everyone’s home (except our own) has a unique smell!

Switching up the kinds of fragrances you’re smelling is a good way to prevent olfactory fatigue. You could use coffee beans to mix it up. But simply switching between different types of fragrances like fruity, floral, or musk can also do the trick.

So, when using one fragrance in a space that you frequent, olfactory fatigue will present itself. But when it comes to keeping customers’ nasal palate clear as they sample scents, the science tells us that their brains mostly take care of that for us.

But this still begs the question: can fragrance retailers benefit from a scent marketing system? 


At ScentAir, we’ve had the pleasure of working with some recognizable fragrance brands, popular throughout the United States and across the globe. Over the years, we’ve kept the lines of communication open with these brands. We’ve helped them home in on a scent marketing strategy to get them the most impact for their investment. And they’ve shared some fascinating insights!

Fragrance retailers can use scent marketing in a unique way. In fact, scent marketing and fragrance retailing might just be the perfect pair! It can be hugely impactful for their business by driving sales and helping customers experience their products.

Scent marketing allows fragrance retailers to showcase their product offerings on a larger scale. Without a scent marketing system in place, it would be near impossible to consistently diffuse a fragrance into a larger open space.

Now, you’re probably wondering how this doesn’t turn a fragrance retail space into scent soup. The surprising truth is a scent marketing system actually gives fragrance retailers more control.

The system provides a dominant, grounding fragrance that unifies a space. But it gets better than that.

Working with our technical services team, retailers can strategically zone fragrances throughout the retail space, creating unique experiences along the customer’s journey through the store. So not only are you able to increase linger time but you can tie the effect to specific products.

Some of our most recognizable clients elevate scent marketing to its highest potential. These brands use scent marketing in conjunction with their seasonal promotions.

To drive fragrance sales, you must create opportunities for customers to experience the fragrance. Each season when these brands are promoting a specific fragrance, they use scent marketing to put the fragrance front and center.

Implementing a promoted fragrance zoned at the entrance generates customer excitement for the product and guides them directly to the promoted scent. This drives sales on the products that retailers choose by keeping customers focused on the products of their choosing.

The best part is, this leads to real ROI for our fragrance retail clients. They report that customer interest in promoted fragrances increases when their scent marketing systems are in use. More interest is generated in the promoted product and customers inquire about the promoted fragrance more.

Scent marketing really is a fragrance retailer’s secret weapon. It offers fragrance retailers an opportunity to fully develop their customer experience. Customers get the chance to become excited about products they otherwise may not have known about—or even would have been willing to try. Plus, the ability to zone fragrances and create a unique brand experience gives each fragrance retailer the ability to differentiate itself from the competition.

So, have you tried scent marketing in your fragrance-based business?

If you haven’t, now might be the perfect time to give it a try. Click here for a free scent consultation and find out if scent marketing is the right fit for your business.

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Works cited

Grosofsky, A., Haupert, M. L., & Versteeg, S. W. (2011). An Exploratory Investigation of Coffee and Lemon Scents and Odor Identification. Perceptual and Motor Skills,112(2), 536-538. doi:10.2466/24.pms.112.2.536-538