I know, it’s kind of a cliche scene, a couple walk into the hotel lobby to be met with the stunning captivation of pleasantry and comfort. From the flowers in the corner, a surrounding color of luxury, to the smell of relaxation whisking through the room: the hotel is ready to seduce you. And we want to be seduced. But typical marketing trends and a bubbly customer service strategy may not be enough. Enter in: scent marketing. As the most luxurious hotel brands move to develop their own signature scents, the once early adopter smell-market has gained considerable traction. As Eva Ziegler, the marketing executive at Le Méridien hotels explains, “The front door is no longer a door, it’s a transitional portal. You enter into the Méridien world via the scent.”
In a recent article from the Financial Review, the Scent of Luxury becomes a discussion point for hoteliers who are intending to enhance their brand for the coming 2014 year. But the bottom line may not be the only focal point as many hotel owners are concentrated on utilizing smell for setting ambience rather than marketing. As Jakki Temple of The Star explains in the article, ““I’ve experienced it in a number of different hotels and it’s really interesting in how, if it’s done well, people almost don’t notice it. But they are aware that the hotel is fresh and beautiful.”
The relationship between sensory perception and mood elevation is hardly clear. As psychologists delve down the rabbit hole of olfactory analysis, the murky waters of subjectivity only gets darker. In a 2003 study conducted within the first ever real retail environment in a shopping center in Montreal, it was found that smell can create arousal. Then, naturally, “Arousal influences pleasure. Pleasure mediates shoppers’ perceptions of the retail environment. However, this positive mood is not due to ambient scent. As expected, the retail atmospherics mediate the perception of product quality.” Simply emitting ambient scents will not necessarily get the job done. Creating an atmosphere to invoke a certain set of emotions takes strategic implementation, thoughtful selection of scents and scenting technologies and a thorough examination of who, exactly, is the target and what the intended end effect is.
As Scent of Luxury explains, “Scent is our most primal and instinctive sense. Humans take about 30,000 breaths every day and are able to identify more than 10,000 different smells.” But what’s more interesting than the amount of smells to be perceived, is the pathway from smell to processing. Since the olfactory bulb is located within our limbic system, smell is largely an emotionally based reaction to sensory stimuli. Certainly no formula exists that can perfectly predict what kind of reaction people will have to a particular smell. What remains clear is that scent plays a substantial, yet subtle, part in our perception of our experience with familiar brands. Captivating this primal instinct and directing it in a certain direction is more an act of intuition with a sprinkle of science than the other way around.
As more hotel owners incorporate scenting into their overall marketing strategy and brand definition, companies like SensoryCo are popping up all over. With services such as scent development and implementation, the murky waters of scenting effects become manageable. As this new trend takes over, don’t be surprised to enter the lobby of your favorite hotel, only to be transported by the scent induced ambiance into a world of luxury.