Triggering Memory from Scent

How many times have you found yourself saying “oh woah, that smell remind me of xxx”? You’ve probably rarely think about it but of all the senses, smell is the strongest connection to memories we have.

At Journey Candles, we're been particularly interested in this. After our first few markets and especially around Christmas we often find customers telling us what scents remind them of. A perfect example of this is our cinnamon scent that we sold for a limited time over the festive season. This was probably the biggest reaction we had and it was almost always guessed correctly and associated with Christmas time. 

How does scent actually trigger our memories?

Not being a big scientist myself I won’t go into all the nitty gritty of how the brain works and turn this into science lesson (plus I can’t trigger your memory over the internet with a classroom scent ).

However the when our nostrils receive scents they pass through your olfactory bulb, which the smell-analyzing region in your brain. But before they reach your thalamus they travel through you memory and emotional regions of the brain. So scents are actually going through a fair bit of processing before you even recognise them.

They've also found we have way more receptors for scents (at least 1,000) than it does for other senses, like sight (four) and touch (at least four). which explains why we can often smell things but may not have the words to describe them.


How is scent used in this way?

Scent can be a pretty powerful tool and has been used for years in marketing campaigns. How many times have you’ve been to an open home and seen some fresh baking on the counter for example. A subtle but potentially powerful way of making you feel comfortable in the new home and envisage yourself living there.

Some brands have also utilised smell to identify with their brand. Walking past Lush or Abacombie & Fitch means even with your eyes closed, you could have a pretty good idea that those stores are nearby.  This can trigger familiarity and even confidence in that brand, potentially urging you to go inside the store.

Triggering memories by smell isn’t always used for the good, the U.S Department of Defence have been able to utilise this as a weapon by releasing terrible smells on their targets that I really don’t need to go into. Although this isn’t a new idea, stink bombs have been around for a long time and although a good prank. They probably only trigger memories of them being used on others in your childhood and not an especially horrible smell.

So why are we using candles to do this technique?

Well we’re definitely not focussing on the bad smells to trigger your memories. But as we’re both pretty keen travellers, we found smells can trigger our own memories from our travels. Anyone else remember their trip in South East Asia by one sniff of Durian? Although we definitely won’t be making a durian scented candle, our ‘Mai Thai’ mango themed candle takes us back to holidays in Thailand on the beach. So our hope is our candles have this same effect one you!

We’re alway open to new ideas with our scents and if you have a travel story connected to either a scent we have or one we don’t we love to hear them and exchange ideas and talk to likewise passionate people about travelling.



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