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Marketing Matters: Leveraging Scent to Deliver on Brand Promise

By: Liz Grubow
Posted: May 3, 2007, from the May 2007 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Another aspect of assigning a scent to a brand is ensuring that the scent matches the actual product benefit itself. For example, Olay combines its heaviest-feeling product, Body Wash plus Body Butter Ribbons, with jojoba, and its lightest-feeling Body Wash plus Lotion Ribbons, with aloe. Farmaesthetics also correlates the scent of aloe with a light-feeling product in its Cool Aloe Mist (U.S.). This trend continues overseas, with The Body Shop’s aloe-scented Cooling Body Gel (France) and the recent release of Herbal Health Shower Cream (China), which profits from the presence of lemongrass and glasswort.

In the repositioning of Clairol’s Herbal Essences, scent is also matched with each product’s benefit. Using a fusion of fragrances that has proved popular with the Gen Y demographic, Herbal Essences has segmented hair care products into 10 categories. Each category contains a family of products to assist a consumer in getting exactly the look, feel and scent that she wants in hair care.
Sephora revolutionized the fragrance shopping experience by placing all fragrances on display and allowing consumers to experiment with different scents for themselves. The move was a success, demonstrating that customers still pop the top and smell products to make their ultimate purchase decision. This phenomenon is in spite of some innovation in delivering scent to consumers through various methods at the point-of-purchase.

For example, Scentsa Fragrance Finder is a fun and innovative way for consumers to simplify their fine fragrance purchase decisions. Introduced in 14 Southern California Nordstrom locations in January, Scentsa is a computer touchscreen system with data on 6,000 fine fragrances. The system can be customized by retailers to point consumers to an in-store fragrance that matches their touchscreen input.

Innovators continue to seek pathways to the scent experience in a noninvasive way, which is the second challenge the bath and body industry currently faces. The industry is looking outside itself for inspiration in delivering the scent experience. Victoria’s Secret, along with the Westin, Marriott, Hyatt and Four Seasons Hotels have already created their own brand scents, which are released in key places within their environments to offer a heightened sensory experience to customers. IFF and Interactive Scentsory Design have even produced ways of embedding scents into textiles by weaving microparticles into clothing and carpet fibers.

Verizon, another nonindustry company, has recognized the synthesis between scent and capturing consumers. In marketing its Chocolate phone, the company used cocoa scent in its packaging and signage. Additionally, Verizon employees used mist bottles full of the signature scent to lightly envelope potential Chocolate phone buyers in cocoa, hoping to subtly but scentfully influence their purchasing decision.