Making Scents of Multisensory Marketing (Gary Bryant)
Leading European shoe emporium, Humanic, ducts carefully selected scents through different areas on their shop floor: men make their selection while inhaling the sophisticated aroma of a gentlemen’s club; women breathe in a luxurious and heady floral note; a tropical bouquet enlivens the sports wear section; and in the children’s section, a calming, fruity fragrance prevails.
Sceptics shouldn’t turn their nose up at the suggestion that specific aromas do inspire the urge to splurge in your customers. More and more research reveals a tangible link between a fragrance’s bottom notes and the bottom line.
A study of Café & Co, a European coffee shop, showed the staying power that scent installations had on the customer, encouraging him or her to linger longer and spend more time, and money.
While the idea of using more of the senses, and smell in particular, to attract and appeal to customers is not new, how a savvy marketer tackles this new tool in his or her marketing arsenal is critical to its delivery and success. Anill-informed attempt is tantamount to walking through a shopping aisle with a can of toilet spray.
South African marketers are quick to sniff out new trends internationally and climb on the band wagon prematurely, but local marketers are cautioned against merely trying it out as a novel add-on without fully understanding it or creating real value in the lives of your customer.
Making rands and scents
But is South Africa ready? A cursory glance at the vehicles on our roads will tell you we’ve overtaken the era in which consumers are seeking merely to fulfil basic needs. South Africa has enjoyed the retail boom, enjoying access to more disposable income than ever before, and more choice. And that, in turn, means that the imperative to seek means of differentiating your product is stronger than ever.
However, it’s an economic reality that not all South Africans have been exposed to the retail boom and admittedly only a niche consumer set are looking for luxury. Until we have a critical mass of disposable income that drives choice and competition, it’s unlikely that sensory branding will be implemented on a mass scale. So marketers who are interested in reaching consumers through their noses must be certain that their installations really do make life better for consumers and employees, and create tangible value.
Scent installation isn’t merely about creating a pleasant atmosphere. It’s grounded in specialist skill and rooted in research. South Africa may not be ready just yet, but marketers with foresight should start to recognise the value of multisensory campaigns and equip themselves with the sensory know-how on how to harness the effects.
Would a rose by any other smell sell as well?
Research shows that smell is the only sensory input that bypasses the brain’s filtering system, the thalamus, to have a direct impact on the emotions. In marketing terms, this has significant implications for retailers; according to one international survey, consumers were questioned after shopping in a store that utilised an aroma installation. Sixty-three percent of these consumers perceived that their time in the shop was shorter than it actually was, while 26 percent reported having a more enjoyable experience than before the installation had been implemented. Vital information for, say, a bank looking to make their customers’ queuing experience more perceivably pleasurable.
Locally, retailers are starting to sit up and take notice. Two South African casinos already make use of neutralising technology to subtly extract smoke from its environments, and two major retail grocery stores are currently investigating the ability of aromas to neutralise fish odours in the seafood section while filtering spice aromas throughout the meat department.
The Brand Union recently joined forces with Sensarama, a specialist Austrian-based company that focuses on creating olfactory and auditory solutions. Together, we are currently working on a solution for a well-known local retail bank. This doesn’t mean concocting a fragrance, spraying it throughout and hoping for the best. Rather, we’re concentrating on creating a link between the consumer’s unique experience of this banking brand to create meaning.
This entails a rigorous process of examining the brand’s positioning; its colour, typography and language cues; frequently used imagery, symbols and shapes; and the materials, forms and functions present in the retail environment. This is vital information as the unique fragrance needs to complement all these cues. From there, we use a research control group, testing the environment – with and without scent – to benchmark people’s perceptions; how are they feeling, do they believe they spent a ‘long’ time in the queue, is the atmosphere busy or relaxed, tiring or activating?
Leading consumers by the nose
Scent can also play an important role in shaping consumer traffic in a retail environment. Sensarama’s Consumer Scout uses sophisticated camera devices and software technology to track movement and footfall throughout the branch, which provides a basic understanding of customer flow. This helps develop an olfactory map, providing insight into how people navigate their environment, which areas attract them more than others, where a scent is either required to neutralise existing odours or enhance the consumer’s experience.
In a general retail environment, this may answer a number of needs: we can learn how to use scent to draw people to aisles they don’t usually frequent, or areas that traditionally have poor sales.
The implications are undoubtedly exciting, but South African marketers need to be cautious about jumping on the bandwagon. It’s vital that any scent created for a brand is integrally linked to other cues; that it’s an intrinsic part of the brand and not a fancy add-on. Just as Harley Davidson has patented the infamous roar of its engine, the scent will become an ownable piece of intellectual property, which can be registered, identifiable and distinctive in the same way as a brand’s logo.
As they’re the most accessible brand building vehicles, marketers have traditionally favoured visual and auditory messaging. Essentially, however, these tools do little more than make a promise. The fulfilment of that promise comes through the overall brand experience. This is becoming increasingly important in this era of mass commoditisation. When linked in to other brand cues, olfactory branding becomes part of a powerful multisensory approach to managing your brand.
Sensory branding is about creating ownability, a brand’s best asset. Used correctly, in a market that’s fast becoming overcrowded, it’s the tool that will differentiate your brand from a bouquet of smelly competitors.
Gary Bryant is the Strategy Manager for The Brand Union. He has broad experience in branding specialising in corporate brand positioning and strategy, brand architecture, environmental strategy and naming. He has worked extensively in South Africa as well as in Nigeria, Egypt, Dubai
and Saudi Arabia.