The rise of aroma marketing

Is your nose falling prey to stealth advertising?
 
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03.The use of scent as branding

Brand and scent marketers are very particular when it comes to choosing a scent that will connect with their target market. Hotels, for example, opt for sophisticated scents to enhance our perception of their brand.

US clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, which pumps its signature citrus and musk fragrance, Fierce, through its stores at a comparable intensity to its music, has transformed its scent branding strategy directly into sales. Fierce is now the bestselling men’s fragrance in-store and a popular choice in the US.

The long-established strategy of sellers baking cookies in their home before an open house inspection is an attempt to connect potential buyers to fond memories of home cooking. Similar smells that lure us towards the bakery in shopping centres can now be pumped out even when nothing is actually baking.

Brand and scent marketers are very particular when it comes to choosing a scent that will connect with their target market. Hotels, for example, opt for sophisticated scents to enhance our perception of their brand.

 

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Drew Schlesinger is the general manager of hotels at Sydney’s Star Casino. Having presided over the opening of a string of luxury international hotels, Schlesinger believes ambient scent plays an important role in the consumer decision-making process. White tea was chosen for the lobby at the Star’s newest hotel, the Darling, for its perceived associations with sophistication and relaxation, with citrus notes for the pool and eucalyptus for the spa. (Interestingly, fresh air is the pleasant odour diffused through the Star’s gambling rooms, rather than a specialised fragrance.)

Arriving at these exact formulations wasn’t easy for Schlesinger. He says he sampled about 15 slightly different scents before deciding what to use for the Darling. “The aim is to not only create a pleasant odour, but also to make an association with the property or the hotel,” he says. And it is this association Schlesinger believes draws the punters back, time and time again. Over at the Starwood hotels (Sheraton, Westin, St Regis), enriching guest experience and enhancing the brand are key aims of their scent marketing.

Terry Jacobson, business development director at Australian company ScentAir, says that given the oversaturation of audio and visual marketing, more and more modern stores are designed to maximise the impact of scent and create a multisensory experience. “At most major department stores, the perfumes and cosmetics department is always at the entrance or ground level to meet you on arrival,” he says. “So too for most supermarkets – the bakery is positioned close to the entrance to greet shoppers with a welcoming aroma of baked goods.”

Do some scents work better than others at getting Australians to reach for their wallets? Jacobson says the scent of sunscreen – or Coconut Beach as it is known in the Scent Air catalogue – is popular because of cultural sentiment. Tea-based oils – green, white and even Japanese flavours – and the sweet smell of fresh figs are also big hits with brands at the moment, according to Cosic.

Is there anything wrong with scent marketing?

While Australian consumers are generally savvy and able to recognise much of the marketing spin that surrounds us, this sort of subconscious manipulation goes beyond the generic definition of advertising. So, just how ethical is it for brands to infiltrate not only what we hear when we enter their space, but also what we breathe? 

“We’re not putting a drug into the air, just making the environment more pleasant,” argues Semoff. “The amount is so small – from a concentration standpoint, it is only one part per million of fragrance present in the air.”

Cosic says that, like the colour theme of a store or the font displayed on its signage, scent is an important aspect of branding – and itlooks like it’s here to stay.

 
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