How a scent creates close connections with customers

HERE’RE some excerpts from a great little interview with Mr Mark Signorin, the Director of Fragrance Development of ScentAir, a top scent marketing firm in the US.

To read the full interview, click here.


There’s a particular vocabulary to the world of scent. I’ve heard you use the words “billboard,” “thematic,” “ambient,” and “branding” to describe different approaches. What do they mean?

“Billboard” means you put a fragrance into the air, and that’s something they’re specifically trying to sell. So a Ralph Lauren store sells a line of fragrances, and we might put that into the air. “Thematic” means, with a company like REI, for instance, they may have a mountainscape, and we’ll put a woody type fragrance. Or they may have camping equipment, and we’ll put a campfire smell. “Ambient” is when a business just wants their customers to come in and feel comfortable. Maybe they want to take away any musty odors in the store.

“Branding” is the most complex. If you think about JW Marriott, they have a very defined brand: luxury without pretense. They gave us a big brand book, and we had multiple meetings with them. I had to develop a scent that would work in their big, “great room” type lobbies that in some cases have restaurants. I had to develop something I thought was going to work, not clash, and hit home the brand message.

How do you deliver smells in the actual venues?

In a very large lobby, we may go with the HVAC system. Our base model for fragrancing a space is our “scent wave,” a felt-and-paper system that basically holds the fragrance. A fan blows across and picks up the fragrance, almost like wind over a lake will pick up rain.

Clients have also included entertainment and the military. What are some examples?

In Orlando, you might have a dinosaur ride. We had a fragrance called “dinosaur breath.” So when the dinosaur came out to scare you, you’d get this smell of bad breath. For training our troops, the government would ask for smells of things like dead bodies, burnt bodies, feces, raw sewage, gunpowder, cordite. They’d use these to in a way desensitize the troops, so if they walk into a warzone and they see these things, the training helped them to be better soldiers. We’ve also developed scents for flight simulators. Depending on the smell, the pilot knows it’s burning wires, or fuel. “Oh, I smell fuel: I have to do these things to keep myself alive.”

The value of scent tech in a case like that is obvious, but how do you sell corporate customers on the business case?

We don’t say, “Use this fragrance, and you’ll earn 10% more.” We don’t want to enter into that conversation. We’re providing an experience for customers. If it’s working right, you may get longer dwell times in a hotel, or linger times in a store or casino. That usually equates with higher revenue. It’s not, “If I spend $10 on fragrance, how much will I get back?” It’s more, “If I use scent, connect with customers emotionally, and give them a place they want to come back to, that turns into brand loyalty.”


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