Many businesses know that a smell has a message. Vanilla might comfort us while grass makes us happy.
What different smells say to us:
Where are we going? To branding with scents.
The Power of Scents
According to a brand management executive, the scent of a hotel enhances our comfort when we enter. “It gives you a sense of arrival, a sense of familiarity. It really helps get transition from the outside.” And because most of us remember scents–even more than images and words–they can serve as reminders. Like ads, scents can trigger positive emotions about products. One hotel brand officer even told the Wall Street Journal that her newest budget chain could not “smell expensive like a Ritz Carlton” since it targeted a young hip crowd.
Actually, luxury hotels have been using scents for years, Now though, Holiday Inn Express greets us with whiffs of lemon, flowers and sweet grass. At the Westin chain, they hope an aroma of white tea says wellness to us.
Their goal is olfactory branding. They want us to connect a special smell with them. Cinnabon’s former president said that when stoves were moved to the front of a store, sales rose because of baking aromas. In 2008, Starbucks founder Howard Schultz canceled all breakfast sandwich preparation for six months to solve a smell problem. They had to figure out how to stop their heated sandwiches from “engulfing the coffee aroma.” The solution was to increase bacon and ham quality and decrease the baking temperatures. The key was the coffee smell.
Our Bottom Line: Competitive Market Structures
Firms like hotels that compete in monopolistically competitive markets need to differentiate themselves. Although they have many similar competitors, they can create certain unique characteristics. This is where smell enters the picture.
By creating a more unique identity, they move to the right on a competitive market structure continuum where firms have more power:
My sources and more: Yesterday’s WSJ had a rather lengthy article about hotel scents that I couldn’t stop reading. It began my search for the connection between brand and smell that took me here and here.
Please note that this post was edited after publication.