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Scent: New Frontiers in Branding

By: Nancy Jeffries
Posted: May 3, 2007

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Smelling is Believing
Of the five senses, smell is undoubtedly the strongest. “The role of scent is a new frontier in branding,” said Joe Faranda, chief marketing officer, International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF). “The connection between the sense of smell and the limbic system of the brain is strong, ultimately affecting the power of different scents to evoke different emotions. Scent can be used to create an emotional connection.”

Samsung approached IFF seeking to create a scent that would evoke a mood in their New York City retail space. “In a study commissioned by Samsung, the consumer shopping experience was enhanced when the fragrance was diffused, and indicated that consumers visited other parts of the store,” said Faranda. “Retailers know that a more desirable and pleasant experience can occur.” Faranda noted that it was a scent consumers across multiple countries have responded to, and that the emotion or mood evoked indicated a commonality in terms of shared emotional response.

In addition, IFF notes that it has been working with Hyatt Place Hotels to create a customized signature scent, ultimately to reinforce the branding of the company and the consumer experience. Faranda noted that there has been a change in the perception of subliminal scenting as compared to scent that is easily detected by consumers or visitors to a particular area. “The scent no longer has to be working subliminally to be effective,” says Faranda. “Consumers notice it, and we believe it doesn’t have to be subliminal. In fact, the consumer who recognized the smell was found to have a more positive shopping experience.”

A Technical Perspective
From a technical standpoint, Steve Semoff, vice president and director of technical services for IFF, noted the three factors essential to dispensing environmental fragrance. The fragrance is first, the hardware second and the air turnover rate (i.e., how often air is exchanged in a given environment) is third.

“You want to make sure that the fragrance concentration is at least at threshold level,” said Semoff. “If you have a powerful device and low turnover rate, then you’ll saturate the venue with scent and it will become unpleasant, so it’s important to find a critical balance. The air exchange rate is a fixed value determined by the engineering of the facility, so the two variables are the fragrance and the hardware. Ideally, you don’t want to manipulate the scent, or you want to do that as minimally as possible—as signature scents may have taken a perfumer up to a year and a half to create.”