Fragrance and positive connections

13th of April 2017 Article by Paul Wonnacott
Fragrance and positive connections

Paul Wonnacott is managing director and president of Vectair Systems, specialist in washroom hygiene and aircare systems. The company does business around the globe and Wonnacott has gained considerable experience in many of the world's most important markets. He writes his latest blog for ECJ about the vital role of fragrance in all areas of business.

I read an interesting story recently, written by personal finance reporter Brian Milligan for BBC News, with the headline "Branch banking takes on a new fragrance for 2017". It talked about how, if you live locally to Clapham, South London, you may have walked past the new Lloyds Bank and noticed a whiff of white tea and thyme. It seems banks are the latest group of companies to realise the benefits of scent marketing.

According to the building's designer Sarah Harrison: "It gives that inviting feel, that welcoming feel. You can smell it on the High Street when the wind's blowing in the right direction."

According to the BBC report, one bank in the USA offers its customers coffee and accompanies this with a nutty aroma of Arabica. It even goes as far as to call itself a café, not a bank.

With more and more online shops cropping up, the British High Street has been in trouble for a while now and High Street banks are set to close hundreds more branches in 2017. With this in mind, they are looking for new ideas to entice customers into the high street stores that they do have and are apparently investing millions in makeovers. In fact, the BBC report says in 2017, at least three British banks will open more branches than they will close.

So why use scent?

Customers linger longer and are generally happier when exposed to certain scents. This is because scent can be an incredibly powerful way in inducing various memories. In fact, I believe scent to be the most powerful sensory trigger - although I confess I have always had a rather sensitive nose.

In scent marketing terms - or as I like to call it, "connecting through scent" - this means that brands can connect with their customer through a particular fragrance. Companies and venues such as hotels, spas, airports, wedding venues, restaurants and bars are increasingly looking to scent marketing in order to engage and attract new audiences.

The fragrance needs to be pleasant, and therefore appealing. It can relate to an item that is being sold (like in the coffee example), it can be iconic of the brand (think Abercrombie and Fitch and their Fierce perfume that is pumped through all their stores) or it can attempt to evoke certain memories and/or feelings, such as being beside the sea, or a feeling of serenity.

The idea is that the scent sticks in a customer's mind, cementing the brand or venue in there too. It's all about creating memories & moments that stay in the mind for more than a few hours. The appropriate background scent can ever so subtly trigger consumers to spend more time in a store or can be a useful way in persuading someone to visit as they are passing by.

In fact, one study's findings showed that 84 per cent of people were more likely to buy shoes, or liked them more, when in a scented room. In the same study, many of the subjects reported they would pay 10-15 per cent more for the product (Lindstrom, 2005). In a Las Vegas casino, a pleasant ambient scent in an area of the casino was related to 45 per cent more revenue than comparable non-scented slot machine areas (Hirsh, 1995).

This may be even easier to understand when you learn that the scent receptors in our nose connect directly to the portion of the brain that is directly accountable for memory and emotions. We need only eight molecules of a substance to activate a desire in a nerve ending, but forty nerve endings must be stimulated before we smell something.

Weightlessness makes astronauts lose their sense of smell in space, as well as taste. When there is zero gravity, molecules cannot be volatile, so few of them get into our noses deeply enough to register as a smell. Much of the taste of food depends on its smell; there is the age old argument that claims wine is simply a tasteless liquid that is intensely fragrant. Have a drink of wine with a head cold, and you'll taste water.

So, scent is pretty valuable when it comes to creating positive connections. But it can all so often get lost in large spaces like hotel reception areas or airports. Luckily, advances in new technology have gone a long way in solving this problem, with innovations like vibrating mesh technology, whereby a mesh or membrane with 2,000 laser cut holes vibrates at the top of a liquid reservoir and produces a mist of very fine fragrance droplets. This is not only effective, but it is also environmentally-friendly, which is of growing importance to venues around the world trying to do their bit for the environment.

So what is next for scent? I've always wondered when ‘smellyvision' - smelling scents through your TV to correlate with the programme you are watching - will arrive. Perhaps it's not so far off...


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