McDonald’s Scented Billboards: A Whiff of Marketing Brilliance?



Read Time

2 min


12 April, 2024

Everyone knows the smell of McDonald’s fries. It instantly makes you hungry!

Well, imagine walking down the street, minding your own business, when suddenly that unmistakable scent hits you through the air.

That’s exactly what’s happening in Utrecht and Leiden, where McDonald’s has rolled out their latest marketing gimmick: scented billboards.

It’s no accident – it’s McDonald’s Netherlands latest marketing play.

An Overstated Smell for an Understated Design

They’ve installed billboards that emit the tantalising aroma of their famous french fries. But these aren’t your typical billboard designs.

They’re understated, featuring only the iconic McDonald’s red colour from their fries packaging. No yellow. Hidden within these billboards are vents pumping out that irresistible smell.

Smells Like McDonald's billboard campaign photo

Within Sniffing Distance

The strategy is as straightforward as it is clever.

Positioned strategically within sniffing distance of a McDonald’s, these billboards work on a sensory level that bypasses the eyes and goes straight for the stomach.

Smell is a powerful trigger for memory and emotion. By tapping into our sensory memories and making us reminisce about enjoying their fries, McDonald’s isn’t just pushing their product; they’re invoking the happy emotions associated with it.

McDonald’s Netherlands CMO, Stijn Mentrop-Huliselan says:

Smell has been proven to be more effective at sparking clear and emotional memories than images

Flipping Advertising Traditions

This new campaign is McDonald’s flipping the traditional advertising brief on its head. They’re not just trying to get you to look, in fact, they probably don’t care if you look.

Here’s how they did it:

They’re after your nose, not your eyes.

What’s the takeaway here?

These unbranded billboards (alongside BA’s mostly unbranded campaign from last week) are pioneering a form of advertising that could set new trends in the industry. While other brands are busy crafting visuals, McDonald’s is creating an experience.

Will it make us rethink our snack choices? Probably not.

Will it change how we think about fast food advertising? Definitely.

So next time you catch a sniff of something delicious and find yourself searching for the source, rememberโ€”it might just be McDonald’s pulling you in, one sniff at a time.

Image Credits:
McDonald’s Netherlands

Hey I'm Tony, Founder and Director of Canny Creative. I eat, sleep and bleed Canny to be honest. I'm an absolute workaholic (and yes, I know that's not a good thing!).

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