The Sniffing Effect: Olfactory Sensitivity and Olfactory Imagery in Advertising

Meng-Hsien (Jenny) Lin, Samantha N.N. Cross, Russell N. Laczniak, Terry L. Childers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The authors examine the influence of olfactory sensitivity on the effectiveness of olfactory imagery in advertising. Findings reveal that the use of olfactory imagery can negatively impact ratings for ads, the product advertised, and likelihood to buy, especially for individuals sensitive to smell. The authors demonstrate that the act of sniffing can reverse the negative effects of olfactory imagery in olfactory sensitive individuals. An event-related potential (ERP) study provides evidence of emotions triggered during sniffing and forming olfactory imagery, explaining the underlying mechanism behind the observed behavioral and perceptual effects. Results show that olfactory imagery has an impact on the evaluation of ads, with a possible negative impact for sensitive individuals. Furthermore, the article demonstrates that these effects can be reversed by introducing sniffing cues in the ad. Thus, the use of a multimethod approach, combining behavioral and neuroscience experiments, provides insight into the effectiveness of advertising strategies in consideration of individual differences in consumer olfactory sensitivity. This article provides support for advertisers to consider incorporating sniffing cues (to trigger positive scent- associated emotions) in the construction of scent-relevant ads to enhance positive ratings of ads.
Original languageAmerican English
JournalJournal of Advertising
StatePublished - Apr 2018


  • Psychology
  • Public Relations and Advertising

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