Issue #168: The Smell Issue

We can all attest to the fact that a freshly baked chicken pot pie is bound to stir up our appetites, or that a whiff of your mom’s favorite perfume might bring up feelings of comfort and nostalgia. Smell, as it happens, is one of the strongest senses when it comes to affecting mood, emotions, and behavior, largely because it is the likeliest of your five senses to be associated with memory or to help you connect things through association. Which is no wonder, then, that scents – and more particularly, scent marketing – may have a role in how often you’re hitting up the gym.

Before diving into that, here’s a more familiar example to paint the picture: think about a realtor utilizing the old trick of baking cookies before bringing potential home buyers into an open house. The purpose of this is to create a sense of warmth and homeliness that can make a house that’s for sale feel more like a home that those visiting it would want to live in. And that, friends, is scent marketing – a form of marketing where the sense of smell is tapped into as a powerful force in the decision-making process.

Cool, so how exactly does that tie into you going to the gym as opposed to becoming a homeowner? Simple: as more and more gyms begin to tap into the powers of scent marketing, the entire gym experience (and the chances of you heading back) will change as a result.

Take Model Fit, for example, a (model-riddled, as can be expected by the name) fitness studio where group classes and personal training sessions take place with the scents of Diptyque Baise and Figur candles in the air. “The biggest problem with exercise is not coming back,” Model Fit’s co-founder, Vanessa Packer, said in an interview with Self. “Our idea is that a great smell can equal a positive mood state.” This is an idea that’s also been utilized by the likes of such brands as Equinox, where you can snag eucalyptus-scented towels; Row House, where you can enjoy the scent of Demeter’s Salt Air fragrance; and Soul Cycle, where grapefruit-scented candles set the scene for spin classes.

By infusing workout spaces with signature scents, gyms are essentially tapping into the power of scent marketing to create an experience that feels relaxing and familiar when you’re there, while simultaneously making it a little crave-worthy when you’re not.  “Scents such as eucalyptus and grapefruit are soothing and help to calm us in the stressful atmosphere so we respond positively to them,” says Robert Herbst, gym owner, trainer, and wellness coach. “They give us a feeling of wellbeing which makes people want to return to the gym. The scents hit our brains’ pleasure centers and add to the feeling of the endorphins which people’s brains produce during the exercise.” These scents also trigger feelings of alertness, which can help pave the way to a better workout.

Okay, so what if you’re curious about this power of scent marketing and how it could encourage you to go to the gym, but you’re in the habit of frequenting a CrossFit studio that smells more like sweat (and maybe tears?) than it does eucalyptus? Then what? Well, you can always consider spritzing your workout clothes with a citrus- or eucalyptus-scented fragrance to reap similar sensory benefits.