Carefully camouflaged tubes strategically placed amongst the tinsel and glitz were piping in the sumptuous smells of Christmas: a perfect mix of cinnamon and pine.
Although it seemed I’d gotten to the nub of the issue, I was still perplexed. I mean, can a tube dispensing cinnamon and pine really compel me to embrace the Christmas spirit way ahead of time? Surprisingly, yes. Dr. Gemma Calvert, who is an expert in modern brain imaging based in Oxford, England, discovered the remarkable ability smells have to reactivate childhood memories. She exposed a group of volunteers to cinnamon and then viewed their reactions, using an fMRI scanner. As they breathed in the sweet spicy scent, their brains fired up — including the region responsible for authentic emotional engagement. It seems cinnamon is one of the main ingredients associated, over time, with baking and cider-making rituals and can kick-start an emotional journey whenever it wafts our way.
So while it might seem as though retailers are concentrating on everything that delights your eyes and ears, they also might be surreptitiously enticing you to buy more through your nose.
Martin Lindstrom is the author of Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy.