It turns out, your brand is about more than logos and slogans.

The French fry has been around for a long time. McDonald’s first served them in 1949, replacing potato chips on its menu. Since then, the McDonald’s French fry has gone through a few changes–they are no longer cut fresh, and they aren’t cooked in beef fat, but over the past 75 years, they’ve become the most widely sold fast-food item in the world.

They are also synonymous with the McDonald’s brand. If you walk into a McDonald’s restaurant, the first thing you experience is the smell, and it’s something you’d recognize anywhere. That smell is the smell of French fries.

If you’re McDonald’s, there is a lot behind that smell. There are 75 years of people coming to your restaurant with friends or for birthday parties. That’s 75 years of memories people have made and associated with, well, a smell. At least, that’s the bet the company is making in a campaign in the Netherlands called “Smells Like McDonald’s.”

The company built billboards with nothing on them and placed them in public places near a number of its restaurants. Seriously, McDonald’s put up large yellow or red billboards with no logo, pictures, or words at all. The trick is that as people approach the billboards, they are greeted with the smell of French fries, which is wild, if you think about it.

First, there’s the technical side of building a scratch-and-sniff billboard, without the scratch, of course. McDonald’s used vents in the face of the billboards to emit the scent as people approach.

Then, there’s the idea that the smell of McDonald’s French fries would be so powerful that the company didn’t need to put anything else on the signs. I imagine a giant red box in the middle of a plaza would attract some degree of attention, but it’s the smell that would really capture people.

“Smell has been proved to be more effective at sparking clear and emotional memories than images,” McDonald’s Netherlands chief marketing officer Stijn Mentrop-Huliselan told Adweek. “With the inclusion of this next sense in our advertising, we found a new way to remind people of good times at McDonald’s.”

There’s a lot in that statement, but the thing I think is so smart is that the company is leaning into the idea that the most powerful form of marketing is to remind people of “good times.” Smell, it turns out, does that better than almost anything.

Sure, you can look through a photo album on your phone or computer, and remember the various moments you captured. Photos of your favourite pet or a place you love to visit can certainly elicit an emotional reaction, but there is something different about smells. It’s just science, really.

Our sense of smell is handled by the olfactory bulb, which is directly connected to your limbic system, the part of your nervous system that handles mood and emotions. As a result, a familiar smell takes you back to a place and moment in time as though you are suddenly there again. It can generate the strongest of memories and emotional reactions.

Look, we can debate whether the smell of french fries is a good or bad smell. If you’re not a fan of McDonald’s, this whole thing probably seems pretty silly. But there is something incredibly smart about the idea that McDonald’s built an entire ad campaign not around a slogan or a familiar image but around a smell.

“The smell of McDonald’s is an iconic asset for the McDonald’s brand, as recognizable as its products, golden arches, or jingle,” TBWA/Neboko chief creative officer Darre van Dijk said in a statement to Adweek. “That made us wonder: Can we make an outdoor where the McDonald’s smell is the ad? So we wanted to test that a red or yellow billboard with nothing on it but the iconic smell could make people think of McDonald’s.”

There’s a lesson here, which is that your brand isn’t about slogans or logos. Your brand is about the way people feel about your business. One of the most powerful and effective things you can do is to remind people of the positive connection they have with your brand. That part isn’t surprising at all. No, the surprising part is that–for McDonald’s–the most effective way to do that was to simply let its most iconic smell be the entire marketing campaign.

Feature Image Credit: Matthias Balk/Picture Alliance via Getty Images



Sourced from Inc.

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