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Motivational differences in need for smell

Usha L. Pappu (UQ Business School, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)
Peter T.L. Popkowski Leszczyc (UQ Business School, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)
Ravi Pappu (UQ Business School, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)
Neal M. Ashkanasy (UQ Business School, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 19 December 2022

Issue publication date: 17 January 2023

650

Abstract

Purpose

This research aims to examine the conditions under which individuals’ olfaction is actively engaged in purchase decisions. Consequently, it introduces the concept of need for smell (NFS) to measure differential motivation for the extraction and use of odor information in buying contexts. A ten-item NFS scale was developed that consists of hedonic and utilitarian dimensions.

Design/methodology/approach

The scale’s dimensionality and construct validity were examined in five studies. The moderating role of NFS and the mediating role of emotions in the relationship between odor perception and consumer responses were examined. The data were analyzed using confirmatory factor analyses and customized PROCESS models.

Findings

The results show that NFS is a two-dimensional construct. The results further support the scale’s internal structure as well as its reliability, convergent, discriminant and nomological validity. NFS moderates the relationship between odor perception and consumer responses, and emotions mediate this relationship. While hedonic NFS strengthens the impact of odor perception on consumer responses, utilitarian NFS weakens this effect.

Research limitations/implications

The present research extends Krishna’s sensory marketing framework, De Luca and Botelho’s scent research framework and Herz et al.’s scent benefits framework, by introducing the concept of NFS into these frameworks. The study demonstrates the relevance and functionality of NFS construct and NFS scale. The study extends the consumer scent research by introducing NFS and illustrating the interplay of odor perception and NFS on consumer responses to scent stimuli.

Practical implications

The NFS scale used in this study adds to the genre of individual difference scales such as need for cognition and need for touch. Given its smell-specific focus, it has applications in a range of consumption contexts. Using NFS, marketers could effectively identify low and high hedonic and utilitarian NFS consumers and position product or ambient scents to serve these segments better. The NFS scale also has implications for the areas of product and service design and development, consumer information search, brand judgments and choice preferences in both scented and non-scented environments.

Originality/value

This work is one of the first attempts, to the best of the authors’ knowledge, to explain motivational differences in active engagement of olfaction, especially in purchase decisions. As a critical step in exploring olfactory information processing, the study demonstrates the relevance and functionality of NFS construct and NFS scale. The study extends the consumer scent research by introducing NFS and illustrating the interplay of odor perception and NFS on consumer responses to scent stimuli.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge funding support from The University of Queensland. The authors thank Maureen Morrin and Joann Peck for suggestions on an earlier version of the manuscript.

Addendum to Pappu, Popkowski Leszczyc, Pappu, and Ashkanasy (2023)

Since the publication of our article “Motivational differences in need for smell” (Pappu et al., 2023), the editors of this journal have drawn our attention to conference papers by Koller and colleagues (Koller et al., 2012a, 2012b, 2015, 2016, 2019; Salzberger et al., 2016), where the authors presented a different Need for Smell (hereinafter NFS) scale to ours that may appear similar to our work at first glance.

The conceptualization and development of the scale we presented in Pappu et al. (2023) was, like Koller et al.’s work, inspired by Peck and Childers’ (2003) Need for Touch scale. We nonetheless note distinct differences in both conceptualization and measurement between the two scales (based on the information drawn from Koller et al., 2012a).

Differences in NFS conceptualization

  1. We define NFS as “the motivational difference in the extraction and utilization of olfactory information.” This is in contrast to Koller et al.’s (2012a) definition of NFS as “an individual’s propensity to gain and utilize information obtained through the olfactory system during the assessment of a product in a purchase decision” (p. 1039).

  2. As such, our work differentiates from the work of Koller and collaborators by reinforcing prior motivational theories (Holbrook and Hirschman, 1982; Patrick and Park, 2006; Zuckerman, 1979) based on consumers’ hedonic (implicit) and utilitarian (self-attributed) motives, especially in consumption and/or buying contexts, but not on approach and avoidance behaviors (as Koller and colleagues’ work highlights).

  3. Koller et al. (2012a) theorize NFS as a personality variable following the conceptualization of Need for Touch by Peck and Childers (2003). We conceptualize NFS as a two-dimensional motivational construct, following McClelland et al. (1989) and Peck and Childers (2003).

  4. Finally, we note that the Koller et al.’s (2012a) is a three-dimensional scale, where the instrumental dimension captures the use of smell as an informational cue to facilitate choice, the evaluative dimension captures the use of olfaction to prevent negative or even harmful consequences, and the autotelic dimension covers the idea that taking a smell at products can be an enjoyable end in itself.

In our two-dimensional scale, the hedonic NFS dimension captures an information acquisition response (automatic) which could manifest a chronic behavior (characterized by implicit motives; McClelland et al., 1989), whereas the utilitarian NFS dimension captures an information utilization response (a chronic form of evaluation) involving objects and environments, which can be triggered by the context (or condition) (characterized by self-attributed motive; McClelland et al., 1989).

Differences in NFS measurement

  1. Koller and colleagues developed a 21-item scale which consists of an instrumental dimension (eight items), an evaluative dimension (seven items) and an autotelic dimension (six items) (Koller et al., 2012a). In contrast, our NFS is a two-dimensional 10-item scale with hedonic NFS (five items) and utilitarian NFS dimensions (five items).

  2. Koller and team based their scale on the approach (smelling products can be enjoyable) and avoidance (avoiding certain smells) behavior. In contrast, the basis for our NFS scale is motivation, comprising hedonic NFS (sensory-emotive stimulation seeking, an implicit motive), and utilitarian NFS (cognitive information seeking, a self-attributed motive). Our NFS conceptualization and scale items do not measure approach and avoidance behaviors as Koller and colleagues’ work does; they simply encapsulate hedonic (implicit), and utilitarian (self-attributed) motives in buying contexts.

  3. Another important difference is that we demonstrated convergent, discriminant and nomological validity of our NFS scale using laboratory studies where participants were exposed to actual scents.

Overall, in our article (Pappu et al., 2023), we provide robust empirical evidence that individual motivations to acquire and to use odor information vary in terms of hedonic and utilitarian NFS. This in turn highlights our unique contribution to the sensory marketing domain based on differences in motivational orientations, and a distinct positioning, different from the conceptualization and positioning of the work presented in earlier conference papers (Koller et al., 2012a, 2012b, 2015, 2016, 2019; Salzberger et al., 2016).

References

Holbrook, M.B. and Hirschman, E.C. (1982), “The experiential aspects of consumption: consumer fantasies, feelings, and fun”, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 9 No. 2, pp. 132-140.

Koller, M., Salzberger, T., Floh, A., Zauner, A., Sääksjärvi, M. and Schifferstein, H. (2015), “Olfaction in consumption: measurement and applications”, European Marketing Academy 2015 Conference, Leuven, Belgium.

Koller, M., Salzberger, T., Floh, A., Zauner, A., Sääksjärvi, M., and Schifferstein, H. (2016), “Applications of the need for smell-scale”, in Moreau, P. and Puntoni, S. (Eds), NA - Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 44, Association for Consumer Research, Duluth, MN, p. 744.

Koller, M., Salzberger, T., Floh, A., Zauner, A., Schifferstein, H., and Sääksjärvi, M. (2019), “Validation of the need for smell scale”, Proceedings of the 48th European Marketing Academy Annual Conference.

Koller, M., Salzberger, T., Zauner, A., Floh, A., Sääksjärvi, M., and Schifferstein, H. (2012a), “The individual propensity to take a smell at products”, in Gürhan-Canli, Z., Otnes, C. and Zhu, R.(J.) (Eds), NA - Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 40, Association for Consumer Research, Duluth, MN, pp. 1039-1040.

Koller, M., Zauner, A., Salzberger, T. and Floh, A. (2012b), “Need for smell-conceptualization and measurement”, 41st EMAC Conference, Lisbon, Portugal, May 22-25, 2012.

McClelland, D.C., Koestner, R. and Weinberger, J. (1989), “How do self-attributed and implicit motives differ?”, Psychological Review, Vol. 96 No. 4, pp. 690-702.

Pappu, U.L., Popkowski Leszczyc, P.T.L., Pappu, R. and Ashkanasy, N.M. (2023), “Motivational differences in need for smell”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 57 No. 2, pp. 505-532.

Patrick, V.M. and Park, C.W. (2006), “Paying before consuming: examining the robustness of consumers’ preference for prepayment”, Journal of Retailing, Vol. 82 No. 3, pp. 165-175.

Peck, J. and Childers, T.L. (2003), “Individual differences in haptic information processing: the ‘need for touch’ scale”, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. Vol. 30 No. 3, pp. 430-442.

Salzberger, T., Koller, M., Floh, A., Zauner, A., Sääksjärvi, M., and Schifferstein, H. (2016), “The need for smell instrument: development and cross-national validation”, in Fortin, D. and Ozanne, L.K. (Eds), Proceedings of the 2016 ANZMAC Conference, p. 174.

Zuckerman, M. (1979), Sensation Seeking: Beyond the Optimal Level of Arousal, Lawrence Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ.

Citation

Pappu, U.L., Popkowski Leszczyc, P.T.L., Pappu, R. and Ashkanasy, N.M. (2023), "Motivational differences in need for smell", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 57 No. 2, pp. 505-534. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJM-07-2020-0503

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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