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Revolutionizing Marketing with Scent: McDonald's Netherlands Innovates with Aromatic Billboards


Lauren Miller

April 8, 2024 - 07:23 am


An Ingenious Aromatic Campaign: McDonald's Netherlands Taps Into the Power of Scent

In a world dominated by sight and sound, McDonald's Netherlands has embarked on an innovative marketing strategy that appeals to one of the most powerful yet often overlooked senses: the sense of smell. Their most recent campaign utilizes the famous aroma of McDonald's as its centerpiece, proving yet again why the company remains a step ahead in the fast-food game.

The Unforgettable Essence of an Iconic Brand

It's a common occurrence in everyday locations—the wafting scent of McDonald's familiar offerings. Whether you find yourself in the confines of an elevator, the packed space of a subway, or the formal ambiance of a conference room, the aroma is instantly recognizable. This lingering scent is as iconic as McDonald's golden arches or its well-known jingle. Seizing this notion, McDonald's Netherlands has decided to capitalize on this sensory identification in a brilliant new campaign.

The Campaign that Made Scents

In metropolitan areas, such as Utrecht and Leiden, McDonald's introduced a series of billboards which, at first glimpse, present a clean slate of McDonald's traditional red and yellow colors without any visual content. These billboards held an intriguing surprise; as pedestrians came within a five-meter radius, they encountered the unmistakable scent of McDonald's French Fries, emanating from within the signs themselves. This monumental campaign is the first of its kind; a billboard using scent, rather than sight, to attract and engage its audience.

The concept behind the scented billboards is simple yet profound. Incorporating the psychological insight that aroma can trigger detailed and visceral memories, the billboards aim to evoke the happy moments customers have experienced at McDonald's. Stijn Mentrop-Huliselan, the CMO of McDonald's Netherlands, shared his perspective, "McDonald's is all about Good Times. We are renowned for our notable brand assets, which are mostly visual. However, it's been established that smell is a far more effective trigger for vivid and emotional memories than images. By bringing this additional sense into our advertising, we've discovered a new method to evoke the feeling of Good Times at McDonald's."

Located within 200 meters of McDonald's outlets, the strategically placed billboards aren't just a gimmick—they serve as an invitation. They target not only the eyes but the noses of potential customers, drawing them in with the powerful urge of a triggered craving. As the billboards guide the senses, they also pave an easy path for consumers to reach the nearest McDonald's and indulge in their favorite meal. This approach, which contrasts the typical visual advertising tactics, emphasizes a more holistic engagement with the public.

Innovative Advertising: The Sensory Edge

The use of scent in advertising is scarcely employed, which positions McDonald's at the vanguard of a sensory revolution in marketing. While visuals can often be forgotten, the distinct smells associated with food can linger in one's memory for years, acting as a potent catalyst for nostalgia and appetite. McDonald's Netherlands's decision to harness this underutilized sense proves their commitment to innovation and creating a memorable customer experience.

Bringing the Campaign to Life

McDonald's has complemented this unique scent-based advertising with supplementary digital content. Curious consumers can immerse themselves in the campaign's concept through a specially presented video, demonstrating the billboard's function and its effects on passers-by. The video has been shared on various digital platforms, providing a glimpse into the future of advertisement, where all senses are engaged for a full-bodied brand experience.

Embeded within the article are direct links to this compelling video content, which illustrates the ingenuity behind the aromatic billboards:

Additionally, online audiences can view the eye-catching “Smells Like McDonald’s” billboard in Leiden, appreciating the simplicity of its design that delivers a powerful olfactory punch:

A Sensory Phenomenon and Consumer Behavior

This campaign is more than just an advertisement; it's a testament to the connection between our senses and our behaviors. Extensive research suggests that scents have the unique ability to transport us back in time, conjure up forgotten moments, and, most powerfully, influence our decisions and actions. By tapping into this phenomenon, McDonald's is not only promoting its products but also leaving an indelible mark on the consumer psyche—a strategic move that other brands may soon follow.

Aroma as a Brand Asset

The effectiveness of the McDonald's scented billboards marks a shift in how brands value their assets. While logos, slogans, and color schemes have traditionally been at the forefront of brand recognition efforts, there's a growing awareness of the impact that smells can have. McDonald's has recognized that its distinctive scent is just as valuable an asset as its visual identifiers. Unlike other sensory inputs, aromas bypass the thalamus and go directly to the brain's smell center, which has a close link to the memory and emotion regions—the hippocampus and amygdala. Thus, by utilizing their unique smell as a brand asset, McDonald's has unlocked a deeper level of consumer connection.

Smell-O-Vision: The Future of Marketing

The ambitious campaign by McDonald's Netherlands could herald the beginning of a new era in marketing, where "Smell-O-Vision" becomes a widely utilized tool. The idea of incorporating scent into visual media and advertising campaigns is not entirely new; it has been toyed with in various forms over the years, such as in cinema experiences. However, the practical application in outdoor advertising represents an exciting development. As technology advances, the potential for creating immersive, multisensory experiences for consumers becomes more and more viable.