What the Smell?


Experiential marketing is a funny beast. You spend countless hours planning how you want the event to look and feel. Your agency has worked tirelessly (sometimes with a host of other agency partners piled on top) to develop a well-rounded immersion experience. Did you think your job was finished? It’s not. Experts are calling for the next big breakthrough in experiences, and it doesn’t require goggles, phones, or a fancy watch. Branded scents are arriving on the scene in a big way, and this trend smells like success.

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Scent is a powerful force for influencing emotion and giving events a unique personality. You may not realize it, but fragrance is not only an intense motivator, but it is also a strong driver of physical space. Just think about any time you smelled something particularly pleasant, or especially awful. Strategic fragrance has been shown to increase the time people spend in a space, so they browse more products, chat longer with brand ambassadors, and end up buying more products or services.

Smell is a sure-fire way to set the stage for a distinct atmosphere, specific to your client’s brand. When a fragrance is associated with a brand, it builds a sense of familiarity. If used appropriately, branded scents create a powerful feeling of arrival, because of that sense of comfort and connection.

As brick and mortar retail transitions from transaction-based encounters to experience-driven journeys, agencies need to take note. In the same way that thought leadership around shopping is evolving, branded events must develop into immersive environments designed to build authentic connections.

Where do you start for planning and designing a branded fragrance? First, you want to decide how you want the audience to feel during the experience. Sometimes this comes down to the demographics. Determine the emotion you would like them to feel, then use the scope of that emotion to inform the notes of the scent.

Second, consider the existing aromas in the space or activation area. How do these odors affect visitors and their behavior? The branded smell should be treated the same way as other ambient elements. They are not the whole experience but help build a picture that creates a connection between the brand and its clientele.

Finally, once you’ve decided on the fragrance, stick with it. You don’t design a logo only to change up the font or color palette when the mood strikes. The association between the logo and the brand’s design elements disappear without consistency. The same is true for smells. If you want to cultivate a feeling of recognition and familiarity, the smell should be present in every brand activation.

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