Scent in Branding

Using scent commercially clearly isn’t necessarily a new phenomenon—hotels, spas and retailers have been aware of its ability to tap into consumers’ brains for years. What is different is a growing acceptance that “olfactory logos” are a must to complete a brand’s identity.

Fun olfactory logo fact: In 2018, Hasbro (US) patented the “scent of childhood” by winning a trademark for its iconic scent of Play-Doh (one of only 13 scent trademarks ever issued by the US Patent and Trademark Office).

There is an exploding industry of scent specialists vying for a brand’s marketing dollars to create signature scents as businesses big and small recognize that smell registers in our brains first—before sight, sound or touch. The goal is to either get you to buy more, stay longer, or come back. It appears to be money well spent: Studies show that consumers have a much better experience and are likely to stay somewhere longer and spend more money if the experience includes scent. In fact, shoppers tend to stay 15 minutes longer in locations that are pleasantly scented, and that translates into spending.

Advancement in scent technology will start impacting product development in interesting ways. For example, studies show that the longer women can smell their hair-care products, the more likely they are to stay loyal to them. Don’t be surprised if scent scientists develop some way to layer time-released beads of scent into personal care products so that users can get a whiff of that “just washed” smell all day long. Another hair-care innovation comes from HAI Beauty Concepts, which launched a new line of blow dryers that infuses every blow out with the sweet scent of jasmine (with more scents to come).

Scent of a Place

Unsurprisingly, the hospitality industry was among the first to register the impact scent can make on brand loyalty. If you’re a frequent traveler, signature scents are likely the reason you feel more at home at a Westin versus a Marriot hotel. Boutique hotels have smartly gravitated toward scent as a differentiator, and new properties, such as Anantara Quy Nhon Villas in Vietnam and the just-opened Fendi hotel in Rome (Fondazione Alda Fendi Esperimenti), are taking the luxury of scent to another level by letting guests personalize their room’s aroma from a scent menu.

Just as intriguing is a new deeper focus on the “bottling” of the scent of a place, allowing you to take home that “holiday” feeling or the relaxation from your last spa visit in the form of a candle or skin-care product. With the scent of your recent vacation wafting through your home or office, your mind and body are transported back to a state of relaxation.

Scent’s ability to transport us to other places is used to great effect in multisensory experiences in spas that are designed to chill us out and calm us down. From experience showers to multisensory pods to float tanks, spas are deploying scent to trigger subtle changes in our bodies, such as lowering heart rate and blood pressure, improving breath, and triggering positive memories for stress reduction.

Scent Explored in Art

Ambitious multisensory art exhibits that focus on the sense of smell are helping us come to a greater understanding about the role aromas have in shaping our perceptions. Polymorf, a Dutch design collective, created an award-winning art installation entitled Famous Deaths, which seeks to recreate the last breaths of famous people, such as JFK and Whitney Houston. And a recent New York exhibition entitled Avant-Garde explored how scent can create richer experiences. One installation, Dialect for a New Era, partnered a perfumer and a linguist to explore the notion of expanding language beyond words by associating signature scents with them. For example, push a button for the “collective moment of déjà vu,” and you’ll get a whiff of birthday cake.

Scent’s Power in Workplace Wellness

Using aroma in workplaces as an invisible mood enhancer—both for employee satisfaction and productivity—is on the rise. A Japanese company found that while lavender and jasmine soothed employees, diffusing a lemon scent was able to increase their productivity by 54 percent. Rachel S. Herz, assistant professor of psychology at Brown University, writes that people who work in the presence of pleasant-smelling air set higher goals and are more likely to employ efficient work strategies. People are more creative in problem-solving when exposed to a pleasant scent compared to an unpleasant one.

Forecasting the Future

  • The neuroscience of scent, and scent’s impact on the human brain, memory and emotional wellbeing, are still in the early days. “Scent design” will become more ubiquitous in all kinds of public spaces and in ways we might never have dreamed of. 
  • The future: more powerfully immersive multisensory experiences—designed collages of visual, auditory, scent and touch experiences—in stores, travel destinations, spas, restaurants, public buildings and art installations.
  • The next frontier in scent is digitization: from tech that will enable smartphones to identify and analyze scents to, ultimately, the ability to transmit scents electronically by stimulating neurons in the nose. “Digital smells” will then be broadcast over the Internet and as part of virtual reality experiences.

This is an excerpt from the “MediScent: Fragrance Gets a Wellness Makeover” trend in the 2019 Global Wellness Trends Report.

This is an excerpt from the TRENDIUM, a bi-weekly communication exploring the wellness trends identified in the Global Wellness Trends Reports.

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