Which stores have trademark smells?
September 14, 2012 12:56 PM   Subscribe

Which chains have trademark smells?

A Subway always smells like a Subway, a Canadian friend tells me Shoppers Drug Mart has a unique smell in all their stores. Cinnabon's smell is a big part of their branding. I'm wondering what other chains exploit this as part of their marketing.

I'm probably not looking for examples of the generic thrift store or old bookstore smells that come about accidentally, but if there's a chain that, for example, sells new books and tries to make their stores smell like a comforting used bookstore, that's more what I'm getting at.

Maybe certain recognizable scents by season? Instead of generic Christmas smells, maybe Macy's has their own Macy's Christmas smell that's different from the Nordstrom Christmas smell (just an example)?
posted by mikesch to Shopping (56 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Lush.
posted by taff at 12:59 PM on September 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


Abercrombie is pretty consistently smelly.
posted by smirkyfodder at 1:00 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Places like Abercrombie & Fitch are definitely known for their super smelly stores!
posted by yellowbinder at 1:00 PM on September 14, 2012


Pier 1 imports
posted by kimdog at 1:01 PM on September 14, 2012


Sephora - they spray Aquolina Pink Sugar perfume into the vents or something. The whole store smells like it.
posted by bedhead at 1:01 PM on September 14, 2012


Bath & Bodyworks always smells like their fakey chemical nasty scents. Then again, they sell that stuff, so maybe it's not what you were looking for.
posted by Sara C. at 1:03 PM on September 14, 2012


Barnes & Noble. Their coffee smell is different from other coffee smells. When I worked there customers constantly complained that we were "burning" the coffee.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 1:04 PM on September 14, 2012


CVS definitely has a smell, more so than Walgreens and other chain drug stores.
posted by charmcityblues at 1:06 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Stinking Rose a garlic restaurant. Perhaps not a chain, though. Two locations: San Francisco and Beverly Hills.
posted by zippy at 1:13 PM on September 14, 2012


They're not necessarily chains, but BBQ places are very deliberate in letting the smell of their smoke drift all over the place outside. But I'm not sure what else they're supposed to do with it, now that I think about it.
posted by jquinby at 1:13 PM on September 14, 2012


IKEA -- Once you walk in you are practically overpowered by the smell of cinnamon buns. You might have only been planning to go in for some cheap furniture but after inhaling cinnamon for an hour, it's a strong show of willpower to simply walk past the snack bistro at the end.
posted by ctab at 1:14 PM on September 14, 2012


I've always felt that Burger King has a distinct smell that they intentionally pump out into the parking lot.
posted by sacrifix at 1:15 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not a store, but many higher-end hotels have a "lobby scent" that they pump in via vaporizers.
posted by MLR0608 at 1:18 PM on September 14, 2012


Target smells like Target, I think because they usually have the food court area in the front and the smells of the food mix together. Hot Topic (and everything purchased from Hot Topic) smells like Hot Topic, and I think the smell might be because they sell incense there. Or at least they did in 2004, which was probably the last time I shopped at one.
posted by capricorn at 1:18 PM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


The IKEA thing might vary from location to location. I've never smelled it strongly at the entrance to IKEA and it's pretty obvious to me that it's not deliberately piped through the store (I've been to all the IKEAs in the NY area).

I have smelled the cinnamon buns at the checkout and snack bistro, but only when I was actually near the dessert items in question. It seems like an odd item for them to attempt to drive people towards.

I also find the snack bistro vaguely ick and clearly inferior to the cafeteria where they keep my precious the meatballs.

Unless someone did a study that showed the scent of cinnamon buns makes people think of domesticity and thus buy more housewares?
posted by Sara C. at 1:20 PM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I long for the smell of Pier One circa 1999. It's certainly not the same smell now.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 1:20 PM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I hadn't realized that this was true of Michael's craft store until I encountered a friend's garden that included a giant yarrow plant.
me: "What is this?"
friend: "I dunno, it's the plant that smells like Michael's."
me: [sniff sniff] "Holy crap!"

I have no idea how that factors into their store design. There aren't so many differences between the scrapbooking aisle at Michael's and AC-Moore and HobbyLobby, so maybe leveraging scent to subtly remind people where they are might actually be valid/useful.
posted by aimedwander at 1:22 PM on September 14, 2012


NYT says that the first trademarked aroma was in 1990 (link), so there's 22 years of trademarks to search. You could search the patent office for trademark aromas.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 1:27 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Panera Bread/St Louis Bread Co. It has a very distinctive smell that's like no other similar bakery-type place. It comes from some ingredient in the food, I never found out which one. (Though I worked in their corporate HQ for months once.) I think it's foul, but other people must like it. And it takes forever to fade. I had a boss who always had me get their sandwiches for meetings, and I thought the trunk of my car would smell like it forever.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 1:30 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have never noticed a Shoppers Drug Mart smell, but Canadian Tire sure has a stink all its own. (It smells like tires.)
posted by Sys Rq at 1:36 PM on September 14, 2012


I have no idea what the Wawa smell is, but it's consistent. They just opened some stores in Florida and I have been wondering if it is consistent there as well.
posted by cacophony at 1:38 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I used to work at Ben & Jerry's once upon a time, and it definitely had an instantly recognizeable scent of freshly made waffle cones... a smell that lingers, even when the cones aren't actually being made when you're in the shop.
posted by ohmy at 1:41 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Target has a smell, but I don't think it's the food. I usually go when those places are already closed. Target smells that way the whole way through.
posted by eq21 at 1:52 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I work with blind students and we frequently identify stores based on smell. Here are some that they usually get by scent:

Dunkin' Donuts
McDonalds
Yankee Candle
Chipotle
Border Cafe
Victoria's Secret
Bath and Body
Home Depot
posted by Sal and Richard at 1:59 PM on September 14, 2012 [9 favorites]


Target smells like Target
I think thats the smell of "China" meaning, that they are all plastic do dads wrapped up in plastic.
posted by brinkzilla at 2:02 PM on September 14, 2012


Pinterest rumor says that the Williams-Sonoma store scent can be replicated by simmering lemon, rosemary and vanilla all day, adding water when needed. But I have no idea if that is a real thing.
posted by cessair at 2:09 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sanrio stores -- Japanese fruit gum + scented erasers pretty much nails it.
posted by hmo at 2:13 PM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


KFC will stink up the entire block it's on
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:31 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


For a while Starbucks wasn't selling some of their hot sandwiches because someone high up didn't like how they changed the expected smell of their stores, so they do pay attention to how their stores smell.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:33 PM on September 14, 2012


I can always tell without looking when I'm walking near a Crabtree and Evelyn.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:34 PM on September 14, 2012


Only a handful of olfactory trademarks have been registered in the US. It is very hard to do so as a practical matter because of the difficulties with written/graphical representations of the scent.

Also, the scent has to be non-functional, such as the scented yarn that received the first olfactory mark. It is not possible to trademark, for example, the scent of a perfume because the scent is the function of the perfume.
posted by Tanizaki at 2:35 PM on September 14, 2012


A seven year old girl once described the smell of Target to me as "shoe and popcorn."
posted by Ideal Impulse at 2:36 PM on September 14, 2012 [9 favorites]


7-Eleven always smells like month old fried and decaying hotdogs.

Cost Plus World Market smells like sisal and seagrass rugs.

Bed Bath & Beyond smells like about 14 different kinds of room sprays all mixed together.
posted by raztaj at 2:49 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Last winter, the Disney Store piped a scent in near the door. It was a sort of pine-and-frankincense aroma, I guess, with a little hint of woodsmoke in it. Supposed to be Christmasy or something. At any rate, it gave me a wicked bad headache and the sneezes.

We mentioned it to an employee, and she agreed it was horrible, made her break out in hives all over her body, and she had to dose up with vast quantities of Benadryl before every shift.

If scenting like that became commonplace, I would never be able to go to a mall again.
posted by Andrhia at 2:54 PM on September 14, 2012


The Body Shop smells like American Smarties.
Hollister smells like boys.
IKEA smells like cinnamon and sawdust.
posted by that's how you get ants at 3:24 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Costco pipes the smells from the bakery out to the parking lot.
posted by annsunny at 3:36 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's been at least 20 years since I last stepped foot in a Hickory Farms store, but the scent memory of sausage and cheese samples is forever burned into my olfactory system.
posted by prinado at 3:36 PM on September 14, 2012


Can't believe no one's mentioned Auntie Anne's yet! That cinnamon sugar pretzel/pretzel dog smell is unmistakable.
posted by peacheater at 3:47 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Target smells like Diet Pepsi. I would love to know why.
posted by mimi at 4:02 PM on September 14, 2012


Not a chain, but Disneyland is the king of "trademark" smells (i.e. not trademarked, but unique and identifiable to that one source). Star Tours smells like Star Tours, Pirates of the Caribbean smells like Pirates of the Caribbean (and the Blue Bayou restaurant shares that smell), the Haunted Mansion smells unique, Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, all of Frontierland (mostly the wood), Adventureland (mostly from the swampish smells around Jungle Cruise), and so on.

A lot of restaurant chains reliably smell like their food, or some element of their popular food. I don't trust a coffee shop that doesn't smell like freshly ground coffee, or a sandwich shop that doesn't smell like mustard and cold cuts. Subway used to smell like mustard and cold cuts, until they started "finish baking" the bread in-house. Now it smells like synthetic bread.

Whole Foods has a distinct smell to me, but I can't quite identify it - some combination of bread, produce, and the various food bars, maybe.
posted by WasabiFlux at 4:29 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]



A seven year old girl once described the smell of Target to me as "shoe and popcorn."


Reading this, I was instantly transported back to K-Mart in the mid-70s.
posted by jgirl at 4:30 PM on September 14, 2012 [7 favorites]


Cheba Hut smells as you'd expect it to smell.
posted by Iris Gambol at 4:31 PM on September 14, 2012


Bed Bath & Beyond. I refuse to buy anything there anymore. I come out reeking of that spray or whatever it is and then whatever I've bought reeks of it too. Are you listening, BB&B? I buy a lot of housewares! Just not from you!
posted by HotToddy at 5:22 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cheba Hut smells as you'd expect it to smell.

Weed?
posted by Sara C. at 6:07 PM on September 14, 2012


In my late teens and 20's, I could find a head shop anywhere by following my nose. Sandalwood, weed, patchouli, and nag champa.
posted by Elly Vortex at 6:23 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I worked part-time at a Fazoli's when I was a senior in high school (2000-01). At the time, they were testing out a custard creamery area, which they seem to have ditched shortly after I quit (too bad, it was tasty). All of my Fazoli's work clothes smelled like a mix of garlic, old custard, and cleaning fluid, no matter how much I washed them.

I ate so much Fazoli's food during that time frame that it completely put me off of them for a while, but if I go back now, even going through the drive-thru, as soon as that window opens IT'S THE FAZOLI'S SMELL. It's not a terrible smell (although it may just be that I'm used to it), but definitely a very, very familiar one for me.
posted by agress at 6:45 PM on September 14, 2012


Cheba Hut smells as you'd expect it to smell.

Weed?


Yes - as part of the chain's schtick, the entryway is perfumed with the scent of cannabis.
posted by Iris Gambol at 7:52 PM on September 14, 2012


Nordstrom's smells like Jo Malone Blackberry and Bay which I think was made to smell like Nordy's and not theother way around .
posted by fiercekitten at 7:55 PM on September 14, 2012


The Crocs outlet store smells extremely Croc-y. Like rubber bouncy balls, the kind with which you use to play jacks.
posted by mcbeth at 10:19 PM on September 14, 2012


Chiming in for the Subway smell (the sub shop, not the underground train).

I don't mind some of their sandwiches, but I abhor that smell of their bread proofing/warming. Almost makes me gag.
posted by kuanes at 3:28 AM on September 15, 2012


A Hollister store opened in the shopping centre in my town, and it stinks!
posted by ellieBOA at 4:28 AM on September 15, 2012


Oh, Aveda places smell like the tea they sell, probably because they're always brewing it.
posted by jquinby at 8:06 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anybody walking into a branch of the Chinese supermarket 99 Ranch knows their smell of seafood and disinfectant. A bug, not a feature of most big Chinese supermarkets.
posted by Rash at 9:51 AM on September 15, 2012


Dairy Queens have a specific smell, for me. It's cream (but not a warm cream), banana, chocolate syrup, etc.
posted by koucha at 1:52 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's a certain kind of bodega/deli/corner store you only find in manhattan. They usually have a grill where they make breakfast food or a buffet. The buffet ones always smell like a nursing home, and the grill ones consistently have this stink of fried things and burnt coffee. I'd recognize that grill bodega stink anywhere. YUCK!
posted by Afroblanco at 7:09 PM on September 15, 2012


The poly-cotton fabric that a lot of clothing is made from since cotton became more expensive has a very distinct smell. A couple of clothing chains smell extremely strongly of it - Dorothy Perkins in particular - which is strange as they aren;t the only stores reliant on polycotton. The Oxford Street store where the clothing is at ground level really smells like it - the Bond St one up the road, where the ground floor is shoes and bags, does not. Perhaps I went on a day when they were unpacking new garments.

H+M I'm sure has their own store scent.
posted by mippy at 4:59 AM on September 17, 2012


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