Over the holidays I was prepping a few dishes for our family’s traditional 7 Fishes Christmas Eve and as my wife walked in and recoiled at the smell – it made me think of . . . . focus group facilities!

Admittedly, I spend a lot of time thinking about focus group facilities . . . but at this moment, the scent of boiling salt cod for the bacalao salad had me thinking about family memories from past Christmas Eve dinners.  Then my wife’s wrinkled nose reminded me the fish odor in the house isn’t reminiscent of joy for everyone, and as she lit 14 or 15 scented candles I began to wonder what the impact of scent is on focus group participant behavior?

Photo by Braydon Anderson on Unsplash

While I couldn’t locate any primary research on that specific topic, the effects of scent on consumer behavior has been studied both in experimental and real-life conditions.  In  The Cool Scent of Power: Effects of Ambient Scent on Consumer Preferences and Choice Behavior, Madzharov, Block and Morrin,present evidence that ambient scents that differ on perceived temperature (warm scents like cinnamon or vanilla vs. cool scents like peppermint or spearmint) can systematically affect customer preferences.

Are you wondering (like I was) what your focus suite smells like?  Or what about in the lobby? We don’t capture ‘smell’ as a category for the Impulse Score®, but there is a rating captured for ‘Facility’ overall . . .

As you hit Amazon to order more essential oils . . . consider that the authors also found that the warmer (vs cooler minty) scents lead to perceptions of higher social density, increased purchasing of premium products and increased multiple-item purchases and higher overall in-store spending.

Its not a far leap to think that ambient scents hanging around our focus suites may impact the participant experience and in some way influence the feedback they provide – and considering this research demonstrates how smell can influence vision (spatial perceptions) – there may be a multi-sensory effect from how your focus room smells.

So breakout the Febreze this year and keep your eyes and ears (and nose) open for more blogs and podcasts this year that delve deeper into the impact of the olfactory.