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Who Invented Scratch and Sniff Stickers?


This article delves into the intriguing history of Scratch and Sniff stickers, a revolutionary olfactory innovation that has permeated various industries. It examines who invented scratch and sniff stickers, and investigates its humble beginnings rooted in the mid-20th century to its current status as a sensory experience, exploring the key players, technological breakthroughs, and how these collectibles helped drive the scent-ertainment category.


In the realm of sensory marketing, few inventions have left as indelible a mark as Scratch and Sniff stickers. The marriage of scent and visuals has captivated consumers across generations, making it a staple in promotional materials, children's products, and even trading cards. This blog navigates the historical landscape to unveil the pioneers behind this aromatic revolution.

The Genesis: 1960s - The Birth of an Olfactory Phenomenon:

The story begins in the early 1960s when a creative spark ignited the minds of chemists Gale Matson and Betty J. Lewis. Working at 3M, they stumbled upon a breakthrough in microencapsulation technology, a process where tiny scent-containing capsules were embedded in the surface of materials. This marked the birth of the Scratch and Sniff phenomenon.

In 1965, Matson and Lewis patented the concept, laying the foundation for what would become a multimillion-dollar industry. The micro encapsulation process involved enclosing microscopic droplets of scent within a polymer sphere, creating a durable and long-lasting aromatic experience.

The Emergence: 1970s - Scratch N Sniff's Commercial Debut

With the patent secured for the micro encapsulation process, the commercial debut emerged in the 1970s. Initially marketed as a novelty for children, the scented sniff sticker quickly gained popularity as a sensory delight. In 1974, the first mass-produced Scratch and Sniff stickers hit the market under the 'Scratch n Sniff' brand, thanks to a collaboration between 3M and Creative Teaching Aids.

These stickers, featuring fruity scents like banana, strawberry, and grape, became a sensation among schoolchildren. The 'Scratch n Sniff' brand laid the groundwork for what would become a pervasive element in various consumer products.

Microencapsulation Revolution

The success of Scratch and Sniff stickers hinged on the micro encapsulation technology. This revolutionary process allowed for controlled scent release upon scratching, providing a consistent and enjoyable olfactory experience. The versatility of microencapsulation extended beyond stickers, finding applications in other industries such as printing, packaging, and even trading cards.

The Scented Revolution: 1980s - Scratch and Sniff Goes Mainstream

The 1980s marked the peak of Scratch and Sniff's popularity, with an explosion of scented products hitting the market. The technique found its way into children's books, marketing materials, and even magazines. Publishers utilized Scratch and Sniff to engage readers in a multisensory experience, enhancing storytelling and advertising campaigns. The ability to add micro encapsulated perfume or scented oil to promotional material were dream tools for the marketing department.

Brands leveraged Scratch and Sniff stickers as a marketing tool, using scents to evoke nostalgia or associate their products with pleasant memories. The ubiquity of Scratch and Sniff stickers in advertising during this era solidified its place as a mainstream sensory marketing strategy.

Technological Advancements: The 1990s - Aromatic Evolution

Advancements in microencapsulation technology during the 1990s paved the way for more sophisticated and diverse scents. Manufacturers could now create an extensive range of aromas, from food scents to nature-inspired fragrances. This era saw Scratch and Sniff stickers becoming more intricate and targeted in their scent offerings, catering to an ever-expanding consumer base.

Additionally, the incorporation of Scratch and Sniff technology into product packaging became more prevalent, creating a memorable and immersive experience for consumers at the point of purchase.

21st Century: Integration into Digital Media and Beyond

As technology evolved in the 21st century, so did Scratch and Sniff's applications. Digital media platforms embraced the concept, incorporating virtual Scratch and Sniff experiences into online content. Advertisers explored ways to engage consumers through interactive and scented digital campaigns, bridging the gap between the physical and digital worlds.

The enduring appeal of Scratch and Sniff stickers is evident in their continued presence in various products, from children's books to marketing collateral. The nostalgic charm and sensory engagement that Scratch and Sniff offers remain unparalleled, making it a timeless and effective marketing tool.

Following the Scratch and Sniff boom in the 1980s, scratch and sniff has won a place in the hearts of collector's from ages 5 to 105. The Sniffyz Group, formed in 2022, is proud to be championing the category and the Sniffy brand is attracting a new era of scratch and sniff collectors of all ages. 

The Sniffyz range of Scent-sational Collectibles, starting with their Sniffyz Scratch and Sniff trading cards, season 1, combines a wide rage of scents, puns and unique characters. Their mission, encompassed by their tagline, "Scratch. Sniff. Collect.", is continues the work done by so many over the years to keep scratch and sniff in our hearts and minds. May the smells live on!

Conclusion: The Ongoing Legacy of Scratch and Sniff

In conclusion, the journey of Scratch and Sniff stickers from a serendipitous discovery at 3M to a pervasive sensory experience is a testament to human ingenuity and creativity. Matson and Lewis's microencapsulation breakthrough laid the foundation for an aromatic revolution. Their microencapsulation work is a cornerstone for the Sniffyz brand, a leader in the scent-ertainment category, and brings the range of scent-sational collectibles to life.

Scratch and Sniff stickers not only captivated the hearts of children but also became a powerful tool for marketers and advertisers. The integration of scents into various products, from stickers and cards to digital media, showcases the adaptability and enduring appeal of this olfactory innovation.

The legacy of Scratch and Sniff stickers continues to evolve, with ongoing advancements in scent technology and new applications emerging. In a world inundated with visual and auditory stimuli, Scratch and Sniff stands as a reminder of the power of scent to create lasting impressions and evoke cherished memories.

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