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The Scent of a Brand. Is it time for your own special scent?

April 19, 2018 | Bobby Buchanan


I’ve always had a sensitive nose – with just one whiff, smells can take me right back to fresh flour tortillas in my Nana’s kitchen, warm pancakes on a Saturday morning, or plumerias on Maui.

A study conducted by Rockefeller University says that people can detect over one trillion odors. So it should be no surprise that our sense of smell is more powerful than you might realize. And when it comes to the use smell in business… “scent branding” is becoming big business.

Just like placing potpourri in your bathroom to transport you to a field of fresh wildflowers, scents can be powerful tools to build or modify perception. When I walk into any Westin Hotel, the scent is immediately recognizable and reminds me of my past experiences there and reinforces that I’m staying somewhere I want to be. In my own office, I have purposefully placed scents to encourage prospective clients to think “fresh, clean, and full of life”.

I recently read an article in Harvard Business Review, and it reminded me of how scents are so critical to us as individuals, but in terms of a business tool, they are often overlooked.

It’s also important to point out that an unmanaged or unintended scent can damage the brand experience, discouraging consumers from building brand loyalty from the start and keeping the door open for them to try a competitor. For example, the scent of dirty mop water as you walk into the hotel lobby of a hotel, old grease or sewer when trying a new restaurant, or trying too hard by having too many air fresheners in the corporate lobby – instant headache. Unintentional as all these may be, they are instinctively associated with that brand experience. Staff can adapt to these negative scents, but guests who experience them for the first time pick up on them instantly.

So, should you consider scent branding?
The answer to this should be a resounding YES! Especially, if you’re in the Hospitality, Food Service, Healthcare, Travel, or other industries where you want to fully control your customers brand experience.

To read more about scent branding:
Havard Business Review Article

Branding, Perspective

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