Air freshening - something in the air

5th of December 2016
Air freshening - something in the air
Air freshening - something in the air

Fragrancing is now big business in away-from-home markets, and not just in the washroom. Companies are increasingly investing in how all areas of their building smell – whether it’s hotels, supermarkets, airports or office buildings. Writing for ECJ, Jo Jacobius explores the science behind scent in these environments and asks about the effects and benefits. Jo Jacobius is communications consultant to the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) UK.

Fragrance experts working to scent the built environment including hotels, washrooms, retailers and other away-from-home indoor environments, draw a sharp distinction between air freshening and ambient scenting.

Air freshening is generally used as odour remediation, and is the traditional means of ‘freshening’ washrooms to provide a solution to malodour. Ambient scenting, on the other hand is quite a different matter involving brand enhancement and customer experience.

Two IFRA UK members, ScentAir and The Aroma Company, have both specialised in different aspects of ambient scenting for over 20 years but each says that this is an art and a science that has really been gaining attention in the past 5 years in particular.

Says Simon Harrop, director of The Aroma Company: “There are three aspects to changing indoor air quality: firstly the removal of malodours; secondly, masking odours;  and thirdly, ambient scenting  of a neutral space to enhance the branded consumer experience”.

Christopher Pratt, managing director of another IFRA UK member company, ScentAir, agrees with this distinction. “We are in the business of creating customer experiences. Companies come to us because they don’t just want, for example, a clean smelling washroom but want the washroom to be the best they can be. They don’t just want a spritz of fragrance to avoid it smelling unpleasant; they’re after something that is carefully aligned with the brand and which can be adjusted”.

Simon Harrop, a multi-sensory consultant to major brands, points out that scent offers a golden opportunity for marketers that most brands fail to address. “We use perception mapping to understand what different perfume notes and fragrance accords will generate in terms of non-cognitive reaction as smell is such a strong potential driver of behaviour.

Given that the visual space is overloaded - 83 per cent of brand communication appeals to the eyes alone – there is enormous opportunity for marketers to engage with audiences via their sense of smell.Only three per cent of marketing is through olfaction. We are gradually changing that.”

People don’t generally have the vocabulary to describe scents but humans do have a high acuity for smell recognition. “We use Implicit Association Task techniques to get respondents to give us reactions to scents based on a lexicon of emotions. This helps us create fragrances that resonate with the brand values of the companies we work with,” says Harrop.

Method of delivery

The business of ambient scenting is not just about the analysis and choice of scent but the method of delivery and an understanding of the brand for which the fragrance is being created. ScentAir, for example, has 15 different applications to fragrance spaces  offering everything from high level, uniquely developed and patented  systems such as dry air evaporation and ducted air conditioning systems through to low-tech or no tech methodology such as diffuser sticks and candles.

This company has a scent library of over 1500 fragrances, some of which are bespoke. Systems such as dry air evaporation employ miniscule molecules which swiftly transform into gas so that they disperse readily and move more easily as people walk in the space.

The science behind fragrance dispersal is a key part of what these expert companies offer. Part of the service offered is advising not just on the fragrance but on appropriate application system:  wall-mounted, ceiling mounted, embedded in track lighting or delivered via other methods.

Simon Harrop and his team have worked with businesses in 100 countries, including a bank in Columbia, a car company in Japan, a cruise line and airlines. For the airline, they embedded the signature fragrance into every aspect of a traveller’s experience – ticketing, airline seat headrests, carpets on the aircraft and brochures.

Says Christopher Pratt: “Most clients, certainly in the hotel and retail sectors, have a signature fragrance. Our hotel customers include the Shangri-La Group, Marriott Hotel Group and Starwood, which owns Sheratons amongst other brands, and each have their own scent or scents. But it’s not just the super-premium brands that recognise the importance of the guest experience in this way. Other customers include Holiday Inns and Premier Inns and these also have signature brand fragrances”.

The Aroma Company’s work with the Columbian Helm Bank formed part of a wider marketing review. Their ‘brand in a box’ briefing tool was used by everyone engaged in designing for the bank, from interiors through to advertising and even the sweets and drinks on offer. The consistent scent and sensory branding was a factor that helped increase consumer satisfaction by nearly 30 per cent.

One of the challenges for those creating scents for global customers is the need to adapt not only scent types but to pay attention to the strength of the fragrance for different markets.  “There are cultural differences,” explains Mr Pratt, whose company operates in 109 countries.  “The intensity of fragrance desired is great in the Far East and in the Middle East whereas in Germany and Scandinavia, fragrances must be light and almost imperceptible”.

For retailers, online shopping has, paradoxically, led to the trend in ambient scenting for physical stores. The retail use of branded fragrances is relatively new – only during the past three to five years has anything other than Christmas fragrancing been widely used. The instore experience must offer more than just a level of service the consumer can’t find online. Scent is a way to underline the brand experience and the brand persona, helping encourage return visits, make customers comfortable, increase dwell-time and enhance the perceived value of goods.

The market for air freshening is also a significant one. BAMA, the British Aerosol Manufacturers’ Association, represents the makers of aerosol products used for air freshening. Its chief executive, Patrick Heskins, says: “Aerosol air fresheners offer a number of different ways to fragrance a space. Traditional, continuous spray air fresheners can be used to instantly address a problem with malodour either by neutralising the malodour molecules or masking them with a much more pleasant scent. Spray cans are available for fragrancing very small rooms whilst high delivery systems which can add a scent throughout a ballroom or concert hall. The great advantage of these systems is, once you have the fragrance intensity you want, you stop spraying”.

Aerosols can also be used to continuously fragrance a room using auto-spray systems. Says Heskins: “Although the box on the wall may look very technical, with LCD displays and different control units, at its heart is an aerosol can with a metered dose valve which provides a fine spray and consistent dose of fragrance from the first to the last actuation.  By dosing the fragrance at different time intervals you help overcome issues of olfactory fatigue as the scent is allowed to disperse before being refreshed”.

Creating the perfect perfume for a space begins with the client.  The brand marketers for the fashion house or hotel group brief the chosen perfumers by providing insight into what the brand stands for and, importantly, who the key audience is. The understanding by these internal brand owners is crucial. They also need to have confidence that those undertaking the development and delivery of the ambient fragrance will create a scent that is safe and contains ingredients that comply with the safety guidelines and regulations.

Sustainable sourcing

Regardless of the type of air fragrancing used, all methods have one aspect in common.  It is essential, for professionalism and peace of mind, to use an IFRA UK member. With IFRA UK expertise inside the fragrance you can be assured that it’s not only going to smell good but you have the reassurance that the fragrance in your product will be safe and fall within regulatory restrictions, too.

All IFRA UK members must comply with the IFRA Code of Conduct and adhere to the strict IFRA Standards – a carefully researched and globally accepted set of Standards. This risk management system for the safe creation and use of fragrance ingredients is crucial for those in charge of public buildings where public and environmental safety are paramount.

How the fragrance supplier sources materials may also be important to the customer brand sustainable sourcing is something which the perfumer and the fragrance house can advise on as IFRA UK members will be fully aware of the sources of each and every ingredient as well as its price and likely availability.

Lisa Hipgrave, director of IFRA UK and herself a perfumer, says: “The smell of a building is often a key differentiator for consumers and is one of the aspects that lingers, often subliminally, in the memory of a customer or guest. Fragrance is the small invisible ingredient that makes the big difference. You can ensure fragrances are the best they can be by choosing to use an IFRA UK member”.

The future of ambient fragrance marketing looks poised to be very interesting. Simon Harrop, for example, is offering a sensory ‘shower’ – sight, sound and smell in public spaces such as shopping malls. For marketers and brand owners looking to enhance their brand image and create greater customer satisfaction, sensory immersive experiences, led by scent, could be about to alter public space experiences significantly.


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