All of the five senses can be useful in causing pleasant memories to rise to the surface. To this day, I can’t enter a ballpark without tasting a hot dog, and hearing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” from a perceived organ even when there is no music being played.

Smells bring back memories—your first birthday cake, the perfume or the aftershave of your first love, the smell of the turkey when your mother took it out of the oven on Thanksgiving Day—all of these things evoke childhood emotions, even when you’re 64.

When we visit a retailer for the first time, an imprint is stamped in our mind that is hard to forget. The aromas first experienced in your store when a new customer walks in, can trigger emotions that may last a lifetime.

Smart retailers know that certain aromas at the point of the sale can trigger an obsession to shop.

Think back to your first memory of a department store right before Christmas. Can you recall the yuletide aromas, even today? Sights, sounds and smells are the most powerful weapons in a retailer’s arsenal, and can be especially potent during the Christmas season.

My father owned a background music service when I was growing up. He told me about a study that the tempo of the music being played over loud speakers controlled the flow of customers. If you wanted your customers to move quickly through the store, you simply increased the tempo of the music being played. If you wanted them to slow down, and to spend more time in your store, you lowered the tempo. That’s one of the reasons you never want to play rock and roll music in an elevator. ‘Elevator music’ was call so, because it calmed the occupants in an otherwise claustrophobic environment.

Once I was waiting for a dinner to be served in an Italian restaurant. They were piping selections from Bach into the restaurant. I was compelled to ask the waiter if there had been any murders in his restaurant as of late. He didn’t get it. Probably for the best. You have to be familiar with Bach music to understand the significance.

Memories, triggered by the senses can set you up for disappointments as well. For example, while on Thanksgiving vacation in Texas last week, I had always intended to visit one store in a chain of a particular convenience store brand, because of their reputation for having the cleanest and best decorated restrooms in the industry. As I pulled up to the front door, I mentioned to my wife that she was in for a treat.

Upon entering, the store was clean and organized, and the employees were dressed in nice uniforms. The store wasn’t overly stuffed with merchandise, and the aisles were wide and inviting; but, when I opened the door to the bathroom, my enthusiasm fell like a stone. Not because the bathroom was not clean. It was clean alright, although in this case there appeared to be a wad of toilet paper in the bowl that apparently had resisted all attempts of going away.

However, the reason for my disappointment was that the ‘world famous bathroom’ I had expected, looked like every other clean bathroom in every other convenience store I had entered over the past three decades. I did not see what I expected, and I was therefore disappointed. In short, the chain had built up expectations that it was no longer capable of delivering. The experience wouldn’t prevent me from visiting the chain again, but it certainly wouldn’t make me drive out of my way to go there.

If you ever want to be remembered for something, be sure you are able to keep up the image, or the results can be worse than if you never created the image at all. I think the reason that Susan’s standard was different from the chain I just mentioned, was that Susan’s mission was simple to maintain, whereas the chain was not able to carry through with its mission as it grew.

Growth can be a killer without planning. Once your image begins to deteriorate, there is no stopping it. In order to maintain a consistent image, it is imperative that the obsession permeates through your staff. In Susan’s case, you did not work for Susan if you were unable to share her vision; else, in order to sustain her obsession, Susan would have had to continue to run every store by herself. And since Susan was just one person, the inability to sustain an image would make successful growth impossible.

Sustaining an obsession is only possible if you work on it obsessively, and involve all the people who are necessary to keep the image alive. Customers are creatures of habit. They respond positively to positive experiences, and negatively to negative ones. It takes two positive experiences to offset one negative one (at least).

Think about how you can utilize sights, sounds, and smells in your store to bring back pleasant memories that will be beneficial and serviceable throughout the life of your business… and have a great holiday season that can set the stage for the coming year.