An Indian newspaper just introduced a “smellable” ad with an evocative scent

An Indian newspaper just introduced a “smellable” ad with an evocative scent

By Heather Timmons @HeathaT

January 29, 2014

Baby products maker Johnson & Johnson has taken a leap into the brave new world of “smellables” with a full-page advertisement in the world’s largest-circulation English-language newspaper—on a page that was liberally scented with the company’s famous baby powder.Judging from the early reaction on Twitter, the ad in the Times of India succeeded, at least when it comes to getting people talking. After all, you can flip past an ad, even when it’s on the front page of the paper (where ads increasingly are in India these days) but it’s hard to ignore a smell, especially one that comes with as many heart string-yanking associations as the scent of a baby:

For Johnson & Johnson, the ad might also be a carefully calculated nostalgia-creator, designed to overcome recent problems in India. The company’s cosmetics manufacturing license at a plant in Southern India was cancelled in 2013, after investigators said talcum powder made there was processed with cancer-causing substances.

Scent is “being mined as a new focal point of interaction for companies looking to break through a cluttered communication environment,” Scott Smith, the founder of a futures research lab, wrote in Quartz earlier this month. Research is focused mainly on smartphones and watches that allow scented texts and daily scent updates and most “smellables” are mostly in the experimental stage.

Newspapers present a much easier medium to scent—after all, perfume companies have been taking out scented magazine ads for years. What could be next? Maybe specific food-scented newspapers, like say, Oreos, or ones that smell of a soap particularly evocative of childhood. Or, as Quartz’s Mitra Kalita suggested, “Indian grandmother—a mix of sandalwood, powder, mustard oil and neem soap.”

Physical newspapers have been written off as anything but the most lackluster advertising medium in the west, but in India and many other developing countries, they still command many millions of readers. Scenting themselves with baby powder is a savvy way to show that in these markets, they reach people in a way that smartphones and tablets can not yet. Let’s just hold off on the diaper ads.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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