Scent marketingWelcome customers with the inviting aroma of freshly baked cookies; attract shoppers with the fresh, clean scent of citrus; soothe patients with a hint of lavender… Scent can play a subtle, yet significant role in transforming perceptions and completing an experience for maximum effect.

In today’s advertising environment, the concept of scent marketing is virtually unexplored since marketers have significantly used auditory and visual strategies to involve customers. This is changing as more businesses employ custom fragrances to promote their unique brand image.

In the hospitality industry, the enhancement of the customer experience through senses other than visual and auditory is a relatively new practice. Thus, hoteliers are missing a key opportunity to foster an emotional bond with customers.

Scent marketing is defined as the act of engaging your customers through the subtle presentation of sensory elements into the environment – specifically, by targeting their sense of smell. The grand objective is for customers to form a deeper connection with products/services and more esteemed perceptions of brands to increase sales, satisfaction, and encourage loyalty and repeat business. Scent marketing has become gradually a fashionable method for establishing and strengthening brand identity, while reinforcing the customer experience.

Research has shown that scent is our most powerful connector – more closely tied to our memories and emotional associations than both visual and auditory stimulus. It is the only sense which is directly connected to our limbic system – the portion of our brains which processes and stores emotional connections and memories – meaning: it can be leveraged to influence customer behavior.

When a business presents a sensory experience which engages their customers’ olfactory senses, it can evoke a favorable subconscious reaction, which helps reinforce positive brand associations. These sensory experiences inspire the emotional connections which drive positive cognitive and behavioral response – which, in turn, influences customer purchasing behavior.

Several companies in the hospitality industry have begun creating their own signature fragrances for use throughout the customer experience. From subtle environmental fragrance diffusers, to custom-created toiletries, candles and room sprays, the opportunities for engaging customers through scent presentation are many. By infusing your customer experience with scented stimulus, their olfactory memory will be engaged – reinforcing the positive emotional connections between the memory of their experience, and your brand’s unique fragrance.

Westin Hotels & Resorts’ white tea perfume or Mandarin Oriental’s conference sprays designed to enhance meeting productivity. Starbucks even has an “aroma task force“, with the job of ensuring their stores smell only of coffee aroma, not of the lesser appealing aromas of the food products they serve. Most major international hotel chains—including Sofitel, Le Meridien, Hilton Worldwide, InterContinental Hotels Group, Marriott International and The Ritz-Carlton—already diffuse their unique aromas throughout their properties. In fact, many have taken scent branding a step further and begun selling a hotel’s fragrance in sprays, sticks and candles. (note yesterday’s article St. Regis launches its own scent: ed)

While an experiential marketing strategy should consider all sensory factors, the recognition of scent as a strong influencer of customer perception is invaluable. Our emotional connections drive our behavior, and scent is the most powerful trigger of emotional response. Its usefulness in creating lasting, meaningful customer connections should not be underestimated, as these connections are what inspire future loyalty and brand advocacy.

About the author

Serge Chamelian1Serge Chamelian is the managing director of h-hotelier, a hospitality services firm that offers a holistic approach to business intelligence solutions, revenue management consultancy and training and development programs among many others.

h-hotelier is currently working with Ideo Parfumeurs – Maison de Creation de Parfums – the number one niche perfume brand in the Middle East, which has acquired a deep knowledge of the fragrances industry. The company has grouped the skills of culture analysts, marketing, and olfactory specialists to deliver high impact identities.