The Smell of the Past

A Bronx nursing home is employing “reminiscence therapy programs” to help residents who suffer from age-related memory loss.

To coincide with the start of the baseball season, it is currently using six familiar scents from baseball stadiums – hot dogs, popcorn, beer, grass, cola, and the leather of a baseball mitt -- to evoke memories from these residents. This kind of sensory stimulation not only helps residents re-experience the joy they felt in the past, but also is believed to help with cognition and behavior.

This has indirect relevance in market research. Sensory cues in packaging and product experience can have just as much relevance as functional outcomes, if not more. The taste of a new snack can be closely linked to what you were experiencing in life when you first experienced a similar taste. The smell of a hotel room or new car takes you back to a certain place and time. Package designs are not just functional -- they often remind you of things. And all of this can have a significant influence on purchase behavior.