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Scent Branding

An excellent article in business week on the rise of ambient scenting and its influence on our mood.

The fragrance industry thinks it has the answer. Jovanovic and Gaurin, who are responsible for luxury colognes and perfumes such as Tom Ford Black Violet and Giorgio Armani Onde Extase, are leading the latest fragrance business craze, a form of sensory branding known as “ambient scenting.”

No longer confined to lingerie stores, ambient scenting became standard practice in casinos in the early 2000s and invaded the hospitality sector soon thereafter. Sheraton Hotels & Resorts employs Welcoming Warmth, a mix of fig, jasmine, and freesia. Westin Hotel & Resorts disperses White Tea, which attempts to provide the indefinable “Zen-retreat” experience. (Despite its abstraction, the line was successful enough to inspire Westin's 2009 line of White Tea candles.) Marriott offers different smells for its airport, suburban, and resort properties. The Mandarin Oriental Miami sprays Meeting Sense in conference rooms in an effort, it claims, to enhance productivity. In the mornings, the scent combines orange blossom and “tangy effervescent zest.” In the afternoon, executives work away while sniffing “an infusion of Mediterranean citrus, fruit, and herbs.”

Scent branding is becoming just as prevalent in retail. Researchers believe that ambient scenting allows consumers to make a deeper brand connection, and data has led many other non-scent-related companies to join the fray. Recently, Gaurin, 41, helped create a fragrance for Samsung's stores, which has been cited throughout the industry as a milestone in scent as design. He claims the research, which IFF declined to provide on account of contractual agreements, showed that not only did customers under the subtle influence of his creation spend an average of 20 to 30 percent more time mingling among the electronics, but they also identified the scent—and by extension, the brand—with characteristics such as innovation and excellence.

Although independent research remains scant, the number of companies testing the waters is indicative of a broadening phenomenon. Perfumer Coty's upcoming release of a new Guess fragrance, which will also be used for in-store “spot scenting,” is intuitive enough. But Credit Suisse, De Beers, and Sony have all been experimenting with ambient scenting in their retail spaces, too. This month Salisbury (N.C.)-based Bloom grocery stores made history by erecting the first-ever scented billboard, which sprays a charbroiled smell over a highway via a giant fan.

Not surprisingly, many businesses are skeptical about the benefits of investing in a signature scent, while others prefer their olfactory experiments remain a secret. Still, Big Fragrance, which includes companies such as Firmenich, Givaudan, Symrise, and, in particular, IFF, predicts an enlarging market if it can gather enough research to make a definitive case that scents evoke specific emotional responses that prepare consumers to spend. And while there has been a lot of intra-industry discussion about engineered olfaction's potential benefits to various products—scented cell phones are a hot topic, as is improving the airline experience—fragrance companies have been given few opportunities to put their talents to the test. (Visa's collaboration with IFF on a forthcoming scented credit card is a notable exception.)

That may be about to change, as evidence of the powerful relationship between the olfactory bulb and the brain's limbic system, the part that handles memories and emotion, appears increasingly compelling. In 2007, in collaboration with IFF and the nonprofit Cosmetic Executive Women, the Raymond Poincaré Hospital in Garches, France, experimented with scent on patients suffering serious trauma resulting in the loss of memory and, in some cases, speech. One patient, who lost the ability to speak after a motorcycle accident, uttered his first words after being presented with the smell of tar. (After nine months of not being able to talk, his first word was “tar.”) Another patient, who had emerged from a 12-month coma, was moved to words after the staff exposed him to the smell of a certain bread that had left an imprint from his childhood.


Continue Reading @ Business Week.

Mindhacks, an excellent website, dug up the following extra research on scents: There is now a small but determined scientific literature on the effect of scents on consumer behaviour. These studies have found, for example, that a well-chosen perfume can increase people's liking of products, improve memory for aspects of the product, and when combined with similarly evocative music, can boost sales. Interestingly, many studies suggest that shop scents seem to work well when they match the theme of the display but have a lesser or absent effect when the smell clashes with the product (and there's been one study which found no effect at all).