Should Mary Smell Like Biscuit? Investigating Scents in Product Design
Geke D. S. Ludden, Hendrik N. J. Schifferstein


In attempt to influence how a product is experienced, designers can manipulate all aspects of a product, including odor. The effect odor has on a consumer’s experience of the product is still not yet understood. Two experiments were conducted in order to shed more light on the influence odor has on consumers. In Experiment 1, differences in people’s reactions to congruent and incongruent odors for products that normally have an odor (e.g., lemons) and for products that normally do not have an odor (e.g., kitchen paper holder) were investigated. All scented products were found to be surprising, and were evaluated moderately positively. In Experiment 2, the effects of the degree of inappropriateness of odors on the evaluations of products that normally do not have an odor were investigated. Although ratings for degree of fit obtained in a pre-study showed that our manipulations were successful, no significant effects were found for the degree of inappropriateness on overall product evaluations in the main study. This may stem from the fact that because scent is a relatively unimportant attribute for the products used in our experiment, its contribution to the overall evaluation is difficult to measure on rating scales. However, participants’ comments suggest that odors do play a role in their evaluations. Therefore, this investigation sets forth that product designers should not ignore the potential effects of odors.

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