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Too Much Information
So how can firms deploy fragrance to
seduce rather than assail? First, technology has forsaken the traditional scent
strips and cards that reeked in magazines whether you liked the odor or not.
Instead, drops of oil are embedded in
printing ink and are released only
In stores, machines placed
in air-conditioning ducts keep a
scented mist light—not heavy and
sticky. They also release intermittent and varied amounts so our
olfactory mechanisms won’t tune
“If you vary the fragrance levels,
the olfactory system is more likely
to pay attention to it,” says Pamela
Dalton, senior research scientist at
Monell Chemical Senses Center in
Even then, results aren’t guaranteed, says Mark Peltier, president of AromaSys Inc., a firm that
creates such equipment—and is
challenged by older buildings and
their drafts. “Light and noise will
go where you aim it. That’s not true
with aroma. Air flow is in charge.”
And chaos would erupt if every
product in a grocery or electronics
store emitted its own aroma.
Further complicating the quest to make
scent into cents are our personalized
preferences. Experience creates the associations that lead us to love or loathe
an aroma. To sway us, a scent also must
be appropriate to surroundings.
“If it’s just a smell, it can be annoying, even when it’s pleasant,” says Peltier.
The heavy seaweed and wet rock odor
along Oregon’s coast would be nausea-inducing on a Florida beach, where citrus, coconut and vanilla seem right. “And
if you took that aroma and put it in a Vail
lodge, instead of a woodsy scent, it would
be ridiculous. Context is critical.”
The best fragrances evoke a brand’s
best attributes. Thus, a clean linen
aroma befits Thomas Pink menswear
clothiers, says Rachel Herz, Brown
University psychologist and author of
Scent of Desire ( William Morrow, 2007).
“A chocolate smell would have no impact
on shoppers, because it’s irrelevant to
the product.” But add that smell to a
vending machine and it triples Hershey’s
A less tangible connection works for
DeBeers Diamond Jewelers in Beverly
Hills, whose citrus cocktail aroma simply
symbolizes the product. “Bright, sparkling and rich. In that store, I’m feeling
The Nose Knows
“The future is limitless,” says Mark Peltier,
president of AromaSys Inc., a firm that
creates scent-sending equipment.
Among future projects are those that:
• Use distinctive wood and leather notes
for each luxury car brand.
• Suit conventions’ themes.
• Ignite spectators’ passions—and
taste buds—at sports arenas.
• Calm passengers during flights—
diamonds,” Herz says. “It augments the
products’ perceived value.”
A retailer also can generate a scent trail.
Most obviously, fudge stores and bakeries send out a lure in malls. A Florida
hotel, frustrated with sluggish business
at its tucked-away ice-cream stand,
piped in the scent of fresh-baked cones.
“People found it and sales went up dramatically,” Vogt says.
Other successful ads included a
recent Sprite campaign with a lemony fragrance and the playful slogan,
“SubLemonal.” And fragrance strips still
work, if they are mild. Westin placed an
ad in magazines that was so successful
the chain added candles and lotions to
its unique aroma within six months. Last
year, Omni placed blueberry-scented
strips in the USA Todays delivered to
rooms, to seduce guests into ordering
Readers of People and People en Español
magazines responded with fan mail