Written By: Carter Kasdon
On a recent video shoot in New York City, I was struck by a welcoming sense of well-being while entering the lobby of a new luxury hotel in midtown. I suddenly realized that this sense was actually a scent. A combination of lavender, other fresh-cut herbs, and flowers. It turns out that this hotel chain offers different scents in many of their hotels to conjure moods related to their locations. For example, if the hotel is in Miami, there may be more citrus.
I was there with our client, Andrea Ellen, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for Maplewood Senior Living, and she quickly directed my eye to a small appliance behind the reception desk, called a scent generator, that was the source of the scent. She informed me that Maplewood also uses scent branding in their communities—including peppermint—which increases appetite, aiding a big issue with seniors. According to Andrea, even the U.S. Military uses scent as part of their tactical training.
That experience got me thinking about scents and how they can be used for branding. Though scent branding can be effective, it should be used to support a brand, not to overpower it. Abercrombie & Fitch uses their signature cologne FIERCE to attract young shoppers into their retail stores, which seems to work. But for anyone outside of that demographic, the fumes are powerful enough to make you feel like you’ve been chopping onions. I hate onions.
Think of that new car smell and how effective it is, or the enchanting haze coming out of a burger joint. But why? Apparently, it’s all in our heads. Literally. “Smells are more quickly and strongly associated with memories than visual or auditory cues, because smell is the only sense directly connected to the brain's limbic system, which houses emotions and memories, according to scent experts.”
In context, scent branding helps shift perception of a brand—“People stay as much as 44% longer in businesses that smell good.”—therefore increasing customer affinity and, in the end, sales. Nike used scent branding in their stores and saw that it “increased intent to purchase by 80%.” Everybody likes the smell of money, right?