The Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York tested how five fragrances affected patients undergoing a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan and found that a vanilla-like aroma, ‘heliotropin’, was rated the most relaxing. Some 63% of the 85 patients tested reported feeling less anxiety and claustrophobia during the procedure than those not exposed to the fragrance. As a result of the study, not only does Sloan-Kettering include the use of vanilla fragrance as part of its MRI scans, but so do many other hospitals and doctor’s offices.
Germany’s Tubingen University conducted a study proving that vanilla fragrance reduces the ‘startle’ reflex in humans and animals. This study was important because it’s often assumed that vanilla scent’s universal effect on humans is due to positive childhood association. However, when introduced to animals, it shows to have a calming effect as well, indicating that there may be a more essential property of the scent that induces feelings of calm.
The scent of vanilla is not only identified with warmth, softness and caring but also evokes feelings of purity and simplicity. For example, the term ‘plain vanilla’ is often used to describe anything that is simple, unembellished or pure.
This is good news for boutiques cluttered with racks of merchandise or retailers with an overwhelming number of shopping choices. These stores can employ a retail scenting strategy using the scent of vanilla to induce a feeling of simplicity among shoppers, helping them to focus.
In another published study, researchers found that the scent of a vanilla bean elevated participants’ feelings of joy and relaxation. Attorneys, dentists and other professionals whose clients are often stressed, can help alleviate anxiety by dispersing the scent of vanilla in their lobbies and waiting rooms.
Another study focusing on retail scent for business found that shoppers spend more when in a space with ‘warm scents’ such as vanilla or cinnamon as opposed to cold scents such as peppermint.
“The Cool Scent of Power: Effects of Ambient Scent on Consumer Preferences and Choice Behavior” study was published by the American Marketing Association’s Journal of Marketing, and involved three laboratory and two store-based experiments.
The researchers determined that a warm ambient scent causes shoppers to perceive their environment as smaller and more crowded, which makes them feel less powerful. The theory is that shoppers then compensate for the perceived loss of power by spending more on luxury products to gain their status and power back.
In today’s culture of sophisticated noses and complicated fragrances, vanilla may be dismissed as ‘plain’ and ‘boring’. But research has proven that a scent doesn’t have to be exotic to work wonders.
It’s a proven fact that the familiar scent of vanilla can spice up your business by reducing stress and anxiety, producing calm, evoking simplicity, elevating mood and encouraging shoppers to spend.