Scents & Sensibility

Seeing isn't always believing. Get your prospects' attention by engaging their other senses.
Magazine Contributor
7 min read

This story appears in the April 1999 issue of Business Start-Ups magazine. Subscribe »

I can think of a number of marketing innovators whose ideas I admire, but the genius who brought us "scratch `n' sniff " print ads is the only one whose water bucket I'd actually carry. Why? Because he or she was able to add a totally unexpected new sensory dimension to the most rudimentary forms of . During its heyday as an advertising novelty (today it's used primarily for perfume-strip ads), no one could pass by a scratch `n' sniff ad without giving it the ol' nasal appraisal. Sure, it was gimmicky. But it worked.

Since scratch `n' sniff, nothing has emerged from the gurgling beakers and foaming test tubes of advertising experimentation to give print advertising an added sensory dimension. One day, perhaps we'll flip open our e-publications and watch ads with dancing six-packs, smell ads for chicken soup and hear the whir of blenders making iced mochas in coffee shop ads, all on a little hand-held screen--complete with the digitized sound of pages turning. But until we bid farewell to printing on pulverized wood pulp, we need to use language and one-dimensional images in a way that reaches readers.

Evaluate your advertising by asking: Am I using language that really evokes a decision to buy? Am I reaching people at their emotional core? What can I say or show that will inspire prospects to want my product or service? What can substitute for actually being there to help people experience the product or service first hand, as the scratch `n' sniff approach attempted to do? It's a tall order, but it's well worth the labor to create successful advertising.

That's my message to Dana Crawford of Caldwell, , who wrote recently. Crawford is a Registered Therapist who runs a facility called Water Therapy Centre that specializes in relaxation and rehabilitation therapies using water and massage. She plans to add facilities for the disabled, too, so she can offer a full-service therapy center in a region where such services are not readily available. The ad she's created doesn't point out the benefit of having such an enterprise nearby; it merely lists the types of services offered. So what can she do in a small-space ad to reach her prospects at a sensory level--short of having spa bubbles spontaneously rise up from the page?


This ad merely lists, it doesn't sell. I like its looks, but fabulous fonts won't sell on their own.

1. We know what kind of service it is, what it includes, what it's called and how to get more information-but where's the benefit?


This ad implies the benefit right from the start and the undulating graphic supports the relaxation theme.

1. The headline grabs attention with an unexpected exhalation.

2. The wavy graphic works with the headline to transmit one clear message: relaxation.

Jerry Fisher is an advertising copywriter, consultant and author of Creating Successful Small Business Advertising ($39.95), available by calling (800) 247-6553. If you'd like Jerry to consider your materials for a makeover in this column, send them to "Ad Workshop," Entrepreneur, 2392 Morse Ave., Irvine, CA 92614, or e-mail him at

Capture the Sensation

I often recommend imagining what it feels like to a typical customer to have a positive sensory experience with your product or service. For example, imagine them taking the first bite out of one of the fresh-baked bagels you sell; listening to their stereo for the first time through two of your new super-clear speakers; or lying on an especially comfortable mattress you've sold them. If you can capture that feeling in a word or two, you've got yourself the makings of a strong headline.

I have a hot tub in my backyard, so I tried to think of what my first reaction is when I submerge my body into the warm swirling water. The first verbalization that naturally came to mind was "Ahhhh." Why not capture that sensation in a headline to relate the experience Crawford's trying to sell? It's a headline that, because of its uniqueness and conciseness, will be a visual speed bump that scanning readers notice--and pause at--as they browse a publication.

Following the headline should be an explanation of what that term is supposed to mean in this context: "Discover the ultra-relaxation and healing properties of all the water therapies available to you at the Water Therapy Centre." This is followed by a reference to the therapy and other services available.

If Crawford chose to emphasize the massage part of her business instead of the water therapy, the "AH-H-H-H" headline would still apply. The body copy would simply lead off as follows: "Discover the extraordinarily deep relaxation and stress reduction possible through therapeutic massage. At WTC, we use techniques that many rely on for relief from anxiety, muscle tension and pain." Even though Crawford must make her sales pitch from within the confines of a small box and in the shadow of other towering ads, a headline that reaches people at a more sensory level will help her get the attention she wants.

Q: I'm a painting contractor looking for some way to promote my services during slow periods. I was thinking of having a "Spring Sale," but everybody promotes sales--so they cancel out each other's effectiveness. Is there any way to pitch a sale that others don't use?

A: You're right about "On Sale" being the most ubiquitous two words in advertising. And, yes, they can become weakened from overuse. But one way I've recommended before to get attention for a sale is to use flattery. That is, refer to the prospect's good timing in having waited for the right price to come along. Trumpet the fact that their decision to hold out for the best time and the best deal has been rewarded. You can do this easily by opening your ad or sales letter with a statement like: "You'll be glad you waited until now to consider painting your home's exterior. Now you can take advantage of One Coat Painting's exciting Spring Spruce-Up Sale, which enables you to save up to 30% on the most professional residential painting services in Gainesville."

The opening phrase--"You'll be glad you waited until now"--works for any number of enterprises. For example, "You'll be glad you waited until now to . . . have your furnace ducts cleaned . . . learn to play golf . . . replace your old lawn mower . . . upgrade your computer . . . get your dog groomed." No one minds the implication that they made a deliberate and shrewd choice to wait until the absolute best moment to buy. So any way you can infuse in your prospects the idea that responding to your advertising is the result of their own intuition, their own golden gut for good timing, strengthens your chances of making the sale.

By the way, this approach also sparks the prospect's anticipation about just how good a deal they were smart enough to wait for. So you're virtually guaranteed that the reader is going to stick with your ad long enough to find out what kind of deal you're offering. And that's a luxury few advertisers enjoy.


This ad implies the benefit right from the start, and the undulating graphic supports the relaxation theme.

1. The headline grabs attention with an unexpected exhalation.

2. The wavy graphic works with the headline to transmit one clear message: relaxation.

Contact Source

Water Therapy Centre, (877) 4-HERE4U,


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