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What’s in a name? Scent brand names, olfactory imagery, and purchase intention

Hua (Meg) Meng (Department of Marketing, College of Business and Economics, Longwood University, Farmville, Virginia, USA)
César Zamudio (Department of Marketing, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, USA)
Robert D. Jewell (Department of Marketing and Entrepreneurship, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio, USA)

Journal of Product & Brand Management

ISSN: 1061-0421

Article publication date: 14 April 2020

Issue publication date: 24 February 2021

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to examine how olfactory imagery, triggered by scent brand names prior to smelling, influences scented-product purchase intention.

Design/methodology/approach

Five studies were conducted. Logistic regression analysis was used to predict likelihood of olfactory imagery formation. ANOVA and t-test analyses were used for scent brand name group comparisons, and serial mediation analysis was used to test how scent brand names impact purchase intention through olfactory imagery vividness and the (dis)confirmation between imagined (i.e. expected) and experienced scents.

Findings

Scent name familiarity stimulates olfactory imagery formation. Scent brand name specificity (e.g. “Lavender Bouquet” vs. “Floral Bouquet”) influences purchase intention, with specific names leading to lower purchase intention, because they generate vivid olfactory imagery and induce a disconfirmation between imagined and experienced scents.

Practical implications

Branding scents on products should be a strategic product design decision. Surprisingly, although specific scent brand names trigger vivid olfactory imagery and precise scent expectations, they mitigate purchase intention and thus are riskier. General scent brand names are safer.

Originality/value

This research contributes by extending the literature on the effect of verbal cues on scent perception by considering the role of scent brand name specificity on purchase intent. It also adds to work on how olfactory imagery influences purchase intention by incorporating olfactory imagery vividness. Finally, it proposes and tests an underlying cognitive mechanism to explain the relationship between scent brand names and purchase intention.

Keywords

Citation

Meng, H.(M)., Zamudio, C. and Jewell, R.D. (2021), "What’s in a name? Scent brand names, olfactory imagery, and purchase intention", Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 30 No. 2, pp. 281-292. https://doi.org/10.1108/JPBM-06-2019-2418

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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