Scent is the most powerful of the five senses.

How can companies use scent to attract customers? How can it be used as a marketing tool?
It’s important to think of scent as a kind of layering of experience. For example, scent alone won’t instantly transform a prospect to a sale, but what it will do is to convert the character of the environment and the emotional connection that this personal environment can be uplifted and characterized in a different manner. Something that smells pleasant will evolve the experience — even making it emotionally memorable. Scent figures the deepest in this part of the brain — people collect scent as a sequence of “flavors” of that time, that instant. Being in an attractive environment, with good people, attractively lit and appropriately scented can bind the character of the transaction constructively.

Everybody’s seen scented pages in magazines. What are some of the more creative ways companies are engaging our sense of smell? Probably the most potent, yet the most simplistic gesture is fundamentally leveraging scent in space. People enter your environment, your space of transaction, and they are transformed — that simple shift is remarkable, memorable, and accessible. using scent in published contexts is great for actually doing that — selling scent; but this “environmental / experiential” process is more about telling your story and how to offer that presentation holistically. It’s not about the concept of selling scent, but using the “storytelling” of scent, to enliven your space and the memory impact of your offering.

Do smells evoke emotions?
Scent approaches the front of the brain in the areas of biggest cognitive action — and memory. How to remember something happens at the front of the mind, and memory locks in on holistic experience. And memory is at the very heart of emotional content. How you react to the memory of something speaks to emotional experience. As a child, there’s something that you’ve been exposed to that’s wonderful — or to the contrary, less than pleasant — and your psyche will link to this as a grouping of associations. Scent will be part of that as a psychic memory, infusing emotion…

How should companies decide on which smell to use? Isn’t there a fine line between offending someone’s nose with a fragrance and pleasing it?
Many companies test — and perhaps overly so — scents to consumers. The real key I might suggest is having a person that is a scent designer that is experienced, and that you trust. For example, the skilled nose or fragrance engineer that has build certain scents that are admired, is usually the kind of resource that will help to build the right fragrance for your applications. Applications are important — is the scent to be a hint, to support other scents (like the entry to a restaurant, a car dealership, a spa), or it designed to be a transformative statement, like fashion retail for a runway show? Each of these applications speaks to a different character in what that relationship development might be for a transaction. Scent is always about transaction — with fragrance, there’s a transaction of passing a character, an environmental, molecular expression that will evoke something in everyone who comes in contact with it. The more complex and daring the scent, the more risky the encounter might be.

Businesses from hotels to bakeries are using scent to attract customers. Why should companies in all industries consider using scent?
The premise is simple: smelling good. Imagine if you went to a bank and as you came in, there was a soft scent that was refreshing, slightly crisp, clean and uplifting — with a tinge of lavender for example. Rather than the tired character that might permeate a corporate setting — even a corporate service setting — there was something of distinction. And bear in mind that a scent doesn’t necessarily need to be something that is recognizable as a “spice”, for example. It could be crisp — like printed paper, steel, grass, sunlight on paper…

What’s the connection between scent and memory?

I’ve alluded to the concept of scent and the implications of memory in other answers — hoping that’s enough.

What about taste and smell? What’s the opportunity for places like restaurants and coffee shops
In most strategies for brand experience, the quality of an environment is about a holistic management. When you think about how to boost sales, it’s about how you are thinking through all of the details — from greetings, staff, imagery, color, sound, touch. If you are operating a restaurant, then taste is paramount. If you are operating a car dealership — touch is crucial. A flower shop? A fashion shop. Each one using the holistic treatment thoughtfully — but with perhaps a focus on one critical component of sense — that’s supported by an understanding of the others in harmonious concert.

Do men and women respond differently to scents?

Women have a heightened sense of scent because, in a way, there’s a deeper sensing of the mood of scent in their experience. Women, for example, are far likelier to be interested in the concept of fragrance and the body — parfum. While men might be preoccupied, for example, with a de – odorant, women think more holistically about the implications of scent for their personal presence, their spaces and how they might be affecting others.

How does scent impact one’s mood?

If you think about scent being a memory link, then what does, for example, lavender mean for you? Provence, laundry, something clean, the oily character of crushed flowers, a certain kind of soap? All of those implications, those memories for you have implication to what emotional links there might be. Those connections affect mood, which is an emotional outcome and connection to your personal psychic space.

Tim Girvin

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