Brand loyalty has never been so important to nurture. The rise of digital, the increase of real-time review sites and the ability of word of mouth to spread around the globe practically overnight, has led to more consumer awareness, more choices, and more discernment and volatility. Additionally, the growth of one-of-a-kind luxury boutique hotels, offering personalised original experiences, has created a distinct need for brands to differentiate themselves by exploring less traditional territories.
So how can hoteliers develop new delights to keep customers happy? For years the hospitality industry has been striving to address the desires of their guests by appealing to their senses. Now, the age of multisensory marketing is upon us and hoteliers that truly understand this already have a head start over those that do not.
Architecture, interior design, lighting and music, are all crucial elements of the sensory marketing toolkit: each plays a role in delivering the holistic and immersive experience every brand dreams about creating. But there is one other sense that should perhaps be more catered for: our sense of smell. Perfumers are not alone in believing this: in 2004, a Nobel Prize was attributed to new exciting discoveries about the sense of smell, followed by another one in 2012.
Our sense of smell is after all our most ancient, complex, and powerful sense. Our recognition of scent is also much stronger than our visual recognition; after one year, humans are able to recall smell with up to 65 per cent accuracy, compared to just 50 per cent of visuals after three months1 and humans can actually smell billions more scents than they can see colours2. And, according to Premium Scenting’s research, 73% of consumers have had a feeling or memory instantaneously triggered by a scent. Scent design, or scentscaping, deserves the same kind of respect, attention and commitment as other aspects of hotel marketing.
It is important to recognise that scent marketing is not as simple as trying to diffuse any relatively pleasant scent across a lobby. A successful scent marketing strategy begins with the development of the fragrance, using the same premium ingredients that the luxury perfume and fragrance industries have become accustomed to. And just like music needs a good sound system, it is also crucial to use the right technology to diffuse the scent effectively and precisely: a scent should be subtly, evenly and consistently dispersed, and its fragile fresh notes should be respected and protected. If it is too strong in one area, and too faint in another, the implementation is unlikely to be successful. Indeed, another Premium Scenting study found that a strong smell in a hotel lobby is more likely than noise or unattractive interiors to make people regret or rethink checking into a hotel (53%).
Of course, strong smells do not necessarily mean unpleasant ones. But it is important to understand that the smell must not overpower anywhere, because for guests and employees alike, the brand experience begins the minute they walk through the front door. Giving clients the olfactive signal that they have arrived at the right place, that they can expect the premium hotel experience they were hoping for, and in turn that they can reward you with their trust, is a message that can be communicated in seconds with a well-designed scent.
Creating a ‘scent logo’
Effective scentscaping requires the scent be well integrated within the hotel brand experience.
Firstly, the quality of the scent used should be on par with the quality of the space, look and feel of the hotel. They should complement, rather than conflict with each other. Scent design, by using a palette of refined scents should connect with other sensory cues such as light, texture, colour and sound. This allows a hotel brand not only to convey a reassuring, exciting and recognisable atmosphere to guests, but also to provide a certain “je-ne-sais-quoi” appeal that is so characteristic of many truly inviting hospitality establishments. Hotels must treat scent marketing with careful consideration and allocate budget to olfactive design. It is crucial to understand who your customers are and what your scent wants to achieve. Some scents will fit with the décor, others scents will emphasise or influence the mood of your guests.
Secondly, scents become ingrained in people’s memories after just a couple of visits. These olfactive memories can last for a lifetime and tend to be a lot more accurate than visual or echoic memories3. Savvy hoteliers understand this, and consequently make sure that they give the development of their customised scents to true professionals.
Brand scenting is both an art and a science. It requires both artistic flair and scientific ingenuity. There is no prescriptive formula to apply in creating a hotel’s scent logo, but it is important to consult with experts to develop a truly beautiful fragrance that incorporates the core attributes and heart of your brand.
What next for hoteliers?
Premium Scenting’s research has demonstrated that consumers are increasingly demanding pleasantly scented environments from their favourite brands. Over half of consumers say they love their favourite stores due to its ambience – placing multi-sensory cues such as design, fragrance, lighting, and music above good service from friendly staff, 91 per cent of consumers say a pleasant smell in a hotel would impact them, with 69 per cent claiming that it would improve their perceptions of the venue. This has led hotels to be more open about their use of scent design and even becoming proud of and upfront about the scent experience their guests can enjoy. Today certain luxury hotel chains showcase the details of their signature scent to guests, with commentary on how it was artistically designed, why it encompasses their brand or where the ingredients for the fragrance came from. This open communication is at times followed with a set of room amenities, and candles and rooms sprays to travel with. And this is often at the request of consumers who love bringing home a little bit of their feel-good memories and remain proud of their brand loyalty.
The future of scent marketing will become so normalised that facilities not catered with proper scent design, – will begin to stand out as uninviting. This should not surprise us. The nose, in many scientific studies, is shown to be as important as your eyes to make decisions, improve intelligence and perceive your environment, and yet has been neglected for so long in our conscious lives. It is high time to catch up.
As the digital world is transforming brand perception, it’s important to remember that scent is one of the few elements left that is not transmittable via internet, social media or television. Brands need to ensure that their use of scent is fully and consciously aligned with all of their other attributes and creates a holistic brand experience that is both memorable and tangible in the eyes, and the noses, of the customer and the employees. Brands can and should discuss their scent to entice potential guests to come for a visit and enjoy the soul of their place. Scent will never be everything, but it certainly deserves its place under the sun.
To find out more about the Business Impact of Scent in hotels, download Premium Scenting’s report:
1 Batey, Mark., Brand Meaning, (2012), Routledge, p.63
2 Bushdid, C., Humans can discriminate more than 1 trillion olfactory stimuli (2014), Science
3 Yeshurun, Y, The privileged brain representation of first olfactory associations, 2009