Getting ahead by a nose

March 9, 2018 / By  

Retail is becoming more experiential. The rise of e-commerce, growth of new technologies, and ease of mobile shopping is here.  As a result, many mall operators have rejigged their tenant mixes to accommodate more F&B, pop-ups, entertainment, lifestyle and fast fashion retail to draw footfall and extend visitation.

Olfactive branding now offers a means to take the mall “brand” experience to another level.

“Olfactive branding?” I hear you ask! Put simply, savvy mall operators are utilising customised fragrances to enhance their brand experience.  The limbic system is responsible for processing smell, which is also related to long-term memories and emotions.  Consequently, this sense plays a profound role in how we perceive and make judgments.  Scent memories are emotionally evocative, triggering powerful feelings, and these experiences can be brought back almost instantaneously. It’s easy to think of simple everyday examples – passing a restaurant which draws you in, or a person’s perfume. Even in nature – flowers develop sweet scents to attract bees in the pollination process – humans are no different.

Olfactive branding is already tried and tested in other experience-led formats.  Casino scents are designed to have refreshing and soothing effects to create a comfortable atmosphere where one can indulge and feel free of inhibitions, usually manifesting as increased visitation and play time. Similarly, hotels use scents to increase enjoyment, causing the flow of dopamine, our ‘feel good’ chemical. This effect is designed with one intent – to keep guests coming back.

As high-end retailers and malls increasingly compete with online to draw footfall, olfactive branding is becoming a bigger part of retailer marketing. More specifically, savvy retailers are targeting this sense to get customers to make a more sophisticated connection to their brand during their visit. The aim is to back up purchases with a scent memory to enhance the pleasure of the traditional retail experience, the “buzz” of browsing and buying.

In this respect, brick-and-mortar retail can have a fresh physical starting point and a new tool in which to portray brand ethos to consumers. It’s about curating a tangible in-vivo experience, which online counterparts can’t influence in the same way.

Research however, suggests that olfactive branding is so nuanced that customers feel uneasy in an open space, while smelling an odour that augments spaciousness. Instead, modern minimalist and roomy upscale fashion stores could experiment with citrus or sweet and fruity scents which relate to cleanliness and comfort respectively.

Choosing scents based on desired effects can be hard to navigate without help from specialist scent providers, which create unique olfactory logos to best align with clients’ core values.  When creating a scent, decision-makers should be sure about what kind of emotional experience they aim to elicit when implementing a branding strategy – one that is conducive to retail.

Further understanding psychology could see olfactory branding refined to consumers’ circadian rhythms, with scents tailored to daytime and nighttime experiences. I believe there is further potential and we will see this evolve in the future.

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