All good storytellers know how to paint the environment to suit the story. They know how to integrate elements that speak to the core of the message, helping paint each experience to be completely immersive. Luckily, technology and paradigm shifts in storytelling styles allows for a richer, deeper set of stories. Scent design and inclusion into thoughtfully crafted experiences help draw out the emotional associations we all hold within us. These are not your grandfather’s scratch and sniff cards.
Let me tell you a story. When I was a little girl, I used to go hide in an old garden shed in my back yard. The house we were living in at the time had a very dark and mystical back yard, full of ivy and old trees. The garden shed was turned into a play house at some point before our presence there. My sister and I kept bird nests, magical looking sticks and other treasures there. Every day after school, we would step outside the back door and the scent of moss and sweet grass would hit us. Of course we thought the whole backyard was made for us, and only us. Because at that age, you are still convinced by the idea that everything was created for the sole purpose of your enjoyment. I spent many hours in that old garden shed, playing the particular species of imaginative games only innocence allows to bloom.
Still, to this day, when I smell moss or certain types of Midwestern ivy, my old garden shed materializes in front of me.
Isn’t it funny, how stories capture us? I mean, we’ve been communicating lessons, memories and rituals by story since…well, forever. And contemporary science only unravels more reasons why story is so captivating for us.
Let me tell you another story. A research group Princeton, led by Uri Hasson, was measuring the level of empathetic response while an audience hears a story. As the woman storyteller expressed each part, her varying levels of animation rose and fell as waves. And as the waves rolled in, the neurological responses mirrored that of the storyteller. She expressed sadness, the audience felt it. Inside. And you could see it on the MRI imaging scanner. Blood flowed in surges to the insula, part of the emotional brain region.
“By simply telling a story, the woman could plant ideas, thoughts and emotions into the listeners’ brain.”
But then then woman spoke the same story in Russian, with the same emphatic highlights, and the participants did not react. In fact, even a story spoken in a language the participant understands, but is not delivered well, will not illicit the same response. Comprehension was just as important as the presentation, if not the most. Both empathy and sympathy necessitate understanding.
But inducing feeling is more than hearing words. Remember my story from above? It wasn’t just hearing the sounds of the birds, seeing the ivy and the way the light hung above the trees. It was all of it, together. Stories are painted on the canvas of details. Scent design, as well, is defined by environment; the story waiting to be told.
It used to be that something “new” or “innovative” would be enough to capture your audience’s attention. But we now need to provide more. Something fluid, subjective and extremely emotional. Story illicit these neurological responses, even during passive participation, because we are wired for nostalgia. We are wired to feel.
In the act of experience design, the integration of sensory stimulations is paramount. Which is why we’re here. Sensory technologies that are designed, engineered and delivered target exactly what makes a story real: the immersive properties of an environment.
SensoryCo offers modern storytellers systems and direction in scent design, water and wet effect, weather effect design, wind effects and fog artistry. What will your next story be?