The roots of scent marketing lie in the deployment of a previously neglected sense (of the five we have) - the sense of smell. For decades, the marketing industry focused its efforts on mainly the visual and the audible, on what the eye loves to see and the ear loves to hear. Recent years have witnessed the introduction of the other senses into the consumer experience. For example, the feel of the product encourages customers to experience the surface of the item. Still, the introduction of scent in branding came at a much later stage, surprisingly, as the sense of smell is the most of the five that has a close tie to memory. Smells invoke memories. And, this is based on a scientific fact - smell and memory centers in the human brain are very close. So linking a brand to a certain scent will have, by far, greater resonance with the consumer than any other branding mechanism.
Since its introduction to the world of branding and marketing, scent deployment has proven to be a great success. The approach to the consumer’s experience with the brand has now evolved to include all the five senses, if possible - an experience that is no longer merely material, but one that also includes emotions and memories. Those scents could evoke certain happy memories, or could make the overall experience in the shop so memorable and pleasant that the customer will form a subconscious view to the brand that would not have been otherwise achievable. This is not to underestimate the other elements of a brand experience, such as the location, the product, the customer service etc.; what I am trying to point out is that adding the scent element to any experience (in a shop, a mall, a hotel, a bank, a school, a courthouse even an auto repair workshop) would make the overall experience richer, deeper and more personal.
The hospitality industry
Of course, the hospitality industry would be one that pays close attention to the “personality” and “memorability” of an experience since it promises customers a comfortable retreat with a personalized experience. Scenting is the element that elevates any experience to new heights where memories are actively engaged in forming a holistic conception of the brand. Let me stress here that scenting is, or should be, just as important to each and every single entity that endeavors to forge a relationship with its users.
One might ask what if someone doesn’t like a certain smell? Or sometimes, certain scents bring back unpleasant memories. That is always a challenge that we face, as this is just as personal and as individual as each and every consumer.
The Middle East market
The industry is relatively young in the region; probably around 20 years. It started with plastic fragrance dispensers mainly in washrooms in the malls, very basic and modest ones with only the fragrance of lemon. Gradually, technological advancements led to the sophistication in the industry of making fragrances. Big global players started penetrating the market, mainly the GCC. However, these big companies came in with their pre-set products and modes of operation. Our entrepreneurial model aids us in standing out as one of the strongest players in the region. Ahla Jaw Scent Marketing was built locally and grew gradually structuring its modus operandi, through trial and error, on the dynamics and needs of the regional market to finally become a pioneer in the market.
We pioneered the introduction of aromatic oils that changed the concept of scent marketing from “hygiene” and “cleaning” to a “life experience” and “image” and deployed it deeply in branding. Scent marketing is no longer a concept of freshers, lemon, apple and jasmine but rather a sophisticated mixture of sometimes hundreds of elements in a manner similar to that of personal toiletries produced by fine fashion houses like Dior and Chanel.
Demands from the region
Hotels always seek to scent their lobbies and common areas like corridors and hallways. Sometimes they seek to eliminate certain smells such as those produced by kitchens catering to the different restaurants in the hotel. Hotels are also usually interested in scenting washrooms, gyms and spas. They obviously have big requirements in terms of management and resources, but the above examples are given in the context of scent marketing.
Some hotels ask for a signature fragrance, and this is one area of expertise for Ahla Jaw Scent Marketing, where our experts sit with the client to understand the specificities of their request and assemble such fragrances. In other cases, we are asked to match a fragrance adopted by the mother company of a hotel, and that is another service that we provide
Commonly used fragrances
It is difficult to specify “commonly used” fragrance these days. Maybe in the early days of the industry, as previously mentioned, there were about 5 scents of straight notes such as lemon, apple, grapes, strawberry and jasmine, and one could single out the most commonly requested one of them. Today, with the evolution of the industry and its offerings of sophisticated and complicated fragrances this notion has probably disappeared.
That said, I believe that each company probably has its own “bestsellers”, and these are usually scents designed in a way so that the end product is favored by a very wide range of people coming from different backgrounds, ethnicities and cultures. For instance lemon is no longer a favored scent due to its link to hygiene. Brands today do not want only that. They want a fragrance that is rich, multitextured and velvety, something that resonates with the client. They ask for complicated scents that consist of exotic materials that were not used before, and which leaves the consumer with a sense of positive bewilderment and awe.
Dispensing of fragrances
Dispensing is usually done through custom-made equipment especially designed to be incorporated within the central air-conditioning systems of all types. These pieces of machinery operate on a method called Cold Air Diffusion, where they are connected in certain areas, following certain calculations, to optimize dispersal and ultimately scenting. Such equipment is fully electronic and programmable, devised from high quality material to enable full control and management of the fragrance ambiance which we smell in a lobby, a cinema hall or in common areas.
Determining the right kind of fragrance Usually when a scent marketing company is working with a client on a project, and after the initial meeting and discussion on the requirements of the client, experts are sent to the location to conduct a thorough technical survey, based on which the engineering team can put together a preliminary draft of the scent system, or customize it to better fit the requirements of the area to be scented. The next step is what is known as a Smelling Session, where a representative of the client is introduced to a selection of fragrances to shortlist two. The next stage is a trial period, where the scent system is installed in either in part of, or the entire, target area. Based on the trial period, the client usually makes a decision on which fragrance to use. Usually fragrances don’t mix - the smell of the chemical used to clean the lobby of a hotel, for example, is too frail to cover or mix with the scent diffused through the central AC system.
Eco-friendly and safety considerations
Ahla Jaw Scent Marketing is the proud holder of a certification from the Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology attesting that our aromatic oils are cosmetic, which means that they are suitable for human use. On a more macro level, Ahla Jaw Scent Marketing strives to be environmentally-friendly. The fragrance industry is holistically moving towards a more green approach to its operations and resources, deploying science and technology to ease the burden on the environment. Great breakthroughs have been reached in this endeavor.
We were involved in scent marketing for the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo. This engaging, entertaining and educational attraction was suffering from an unpleasant smell that was the result of a combination of lack of sunlight and the produce of aquamarine life. The challenges were many, as we wanted to provide a fragrance that can be a natural fit to such a place of natural display, and most importantly one that would have no adverse effect on the various kinds of species living there, some of which were delicate and rare. We succeeded in offering a scent system that covered the unpleasant smell, offered a smell of cleanness and freshness and posed no danger to creatures inhabiting the place. The scent we offered was far from artificial, but a breezy one with hints of rain forest, adding yet another medal of achievement by enhancing the customers’ experience with an excellent and memorable aromatic pair to the view.
About the Author:
Wasim al Imam is the Founder and General Manager of Ahla Jaw Scent Marketing. He graduated from Gemological Institute of America-New York with an Associate degree and has over 17 years of extensive experience in the field of Gems and Jewelry business.