Using Sensory Elements to Trigger Memory Recall

Imagine you just smelled a distinctive scent that you first encountered during a childhood vacation. Or minutes ago, you heard your favorite song from high school on the radio.

If you just envisioned a specific memory, you experienced memory recall.

Aroma and music are two very powerful tools that can emotionally transport people to specific places in the past.

We asked MadAveGroup team members for examples of how aroma and music trigger specific memories, regardless of how many years have passed.

Which song provokes a distinct memory for you?

Susan Harris, Fulfillment Manager, said, “Whenever I hear ‘I Love a Rainy Night’ by Eddie Rabbitt it takes me back 30 years to playing the record on my Big Bird record player and dancing around as a child.”

“Growing up, my dad would play the grand piano in our living room every morning,” said Marketing Specialist Gwen Brassell. “One of his favorite songs was ‘In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning’ by Frank Sinatra. Years later when I got married, I could think of no better song for our father-daughter dance. My dad had a huge smile on his face and tears in his eyes as we danced together on that special night.”

Content Developer Jessica Speweike: “My favorite band is Delta Rae. They released ‘Do You Ever Dream?’ around the time I moved to Ashland, Ohio for my first job as a journalist. When I hear that song now, it takes me back to the summer of 2018 and how scary, exciting and foreign it was to live on my own in a new town.”


Determine which genres your key customers might enjoy and play that music throughout your location. If you get your music just right, your customers will feel nostalgic and energized as they walk through your business.

If you have a mixed demographic, focus on timing. Let’s say you notice older customers in the morning and younger people in the evening. Play older music when you open and shift to newer music later in the day.

Which scent reminds you of a specific point in time?

Website Health Specialist Cindy Ursell tells the story of her Sicilian grandfather who was a farmer. “When my grandfather moved to Massachusetts, he was still determined to have a full garden. We visited every summer and the smell of tomato plants and basil was intoxicating. And now I grow tomatoes and basil in my own garden.”

Bob Seybold, Senior Creative Consultant, said, “You know that warm, musky smell in the air just before the sun comes up on a hot summer day? You can almost taste the humidity. Every time I smell that I’m 18 years old again, in Army basic training in Fort Knox, Kentucky in July and we’re waking up at 5am to start the day.”

“The scent of tar takes me back to a trip to my grandpa’s house in the hills of Tennessee,” wrote CEO Jerry Brown. “A railroad track went right through their property. That was 1967. I think of that trip every time I smell tar on train tracks, parking lots, even driveways.”


Scent marketing adds a layer to your brand, giving consumers another element to grab onto and identify with. It helps people remember your business.

When visitors notice a specific aroma each time they enter your location, they’ll always associate that scent with your company. Then, when they smell that scent outside your physical space – on an item they’ve purchased from you or scented promotional materials you send – they’ll instantly be reminded of that initial experience and feel a stronger connection to your brand.

When you’re working with an experienced scent marketing agency, avoid pre-conceived notions of smells you may prefer. Instead, clearly explain your demographic and brand. Thorough scent marketers will use those details and perform extensive research to create a unique blend of scents for your signature aroma.

When you’re ready to explore how to make your brand even more memorable, send us an email or give us a call at 419-725-9100.

About the Writer

Cassandra Evans has been a Creative Consultant with MadAveGroup since late 2019. She has a passion for creating “positive, lasting impressions” on every audience.