A new technology, installed on buses in Seoul, would release the aroma of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee into the atmosphere for riders to inhale.
The spray, known as “Flavor Radio,” was set off by the sound of the company’s advertisement when it played on the buses speakers.
The compartments, which looked similar to conventional in-home sprayers that send a scent into the air, were only triggered by the Dunkin’ Donuts radio jingle.
According to the campaign, when the devices were installed, the aromatizers were spritzing the fumes of coffee into the faces of more than 350,000 commuters while on their daily ride to work.
The testing ran for several months and ended in April, according to a spokesperson from Dunkin’ Donuts.
Because of the launch, however, the coffee company said they saw a 16 percent spike in visitors at shops located by bus stops where vehicles were equipped with the smell-technology.
Dunkin’ Donuts also reported that their coffee sales went up by 29 percent during the campaign.
In a video explaining how the advertisement works, a narrator says “those who noticed the aroma while listening to the ad exhibited some surprised responses.”
Sandeep Datta, M.D., Ph.D. and Assistant Professor at the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School said there is an “incredibly direct connection” from the neurons that detect smells and the part of the brain that processes information and associates it with memory.
“It’s almost like your [nose] mainlines information about scents to the centers of your brain that involve emotion and memory,” he said.
According to Datta, smells can be emotionally evocative and can cause robust recollections of remembered events.
“It doesn’t surprise me that someone would try and use smell in the context of the advertising campaign because of the intimate association between smell and emotions and experience,” he said.
Datta likened that experience to walking by a Mrs. Fields cookie stand at the mall.
“It sends us mentally back to when we were children,” he said.
Similarly, “most people have positive associations with the smell of coffee,” said Datta, and the contextual experiences with that smell in the past.
Recently, the T has talked about selling the naming rights of its stations to major advertisers and is even considering slapping logos and sponsor’s monikers on the fronts of CharlieCards in order to bring in additional non-fare revenue—so how about some coffee smells sprayed in your nostrils on the MBTA, too?
It’s not likely, according to officials.
Joshua Robin, Director of Innovation for the T, said the transit agency considered having advertisements play through the speakers when buses passed certain stores along a route, but they have since stalled the concept.
“It is something we were considering but due to negative customer reaction it is on hold for now,” he said.
Dunkin’ Donuts has no immediate plans to introduce smell technology on Boston’s public transit, either.
Jessica Gioglio, public relations and social media manager for Dunkin’ brands said:
“[The campaign] was designed to raise awareness of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee in a fun and engaging way. In Seoul and South Korea, there is a lot of passion for Dunkin’ Donuts, so this offered an opportunity to try something unique and different.”
But if the T and Dunkin’ Donuts took the advice of Boston copywriter Mark Slater, they would take advantage of as many advertising opportunities as possible.
The following video shows how Dunkin’ Donuts came up with the idea, and how they made it work. Sorry, smell is not included in the YouTube video.