Olfactory Branding: How to Create Memorable Brand Experiences

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Did you know you can time travel?

You didn’t?

A specific smell is all it takes to power up your very own time-travel machine – also known as your memory. Overwhelmed by the flashing and loud stimuli of the modern world, people often forget about smell, the strongest of all human senses.

You do time travel every day – without even thinking about it.

Each time you pass near a random bakery and breathe in the aroma of freshly baked lemon scones, the exact same ones your grandma used to make, you travel back to Christmas at your grandparents’ house.    

Get a whiff of the suntan lotion your mum used to vigorously rub into your cheeks during summer holidays, and you instantly travel back to summers long gone by.  

Catch a sniff of the sweet, subtle scent your crush used to wear, you’re transported back to the night of your first kiss.

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It’s strange how a sense so underappreciated can create long-lasting memories.

You can employ an almost-identical approach to create an unforgettable – literally! – experience for those associating with your brand. Olfactory branding is coming to help you take the branding experience to a whole new level by utilizing the power of the sense of smell.

Read on to find out how sensory branding is helping brands enhance emotional connections and how sometimes, brand loyalty may be one whiff away.

The basics of the human sense of smell

We live in a world that likes to trigger other senses to grab attention, mostly the visual and the auditory. Bright colours. Boisterous sounds. The bigger, the better.

When it comes to the sense of smell, animals are praised for it – not humans. But turns out that the human sense of smell isn’t bad at all.

Smell is the first sense you use when you’re born. You can comfortably distinguish between 10,000 different odours alone. Some bold studies even claim that humans can detect up to 1 trillion different smells!  

And that’s not even the most fascinating part about it.

Humans handle smells differently than other sensations. Each sniff you take travels along the olfactory tract and is then directly processed in the olfactory bulb, the brain area responsible for smells.

That same olfactory bulb is near the amygdala and the hippocampus, brain centres in charge of memory and emotion. Their close proximity may be the reason why positive memories come flooding back each time you’re triggered by a pleasant, familiar aroma – such as your grandma’s lemon scones.

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Sensory branding – the new approach to creating memorable branding experiences

Sensory branding is all about telling a brand’s story by using all of the five senses – sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch. Think of it as making your brand come alive.

According to Martin Lindstrom, a branding expert, most brands focus only on the visual. 83% of all branding aims to create only an enjoyable visual effect. Only 3% of Fortune 1000 companies use scent to accompany other aspects of their branding campaigns.

That happens because visual is what makes the most sense to people. People want to see. People want to touch. People want to experience before they pay.

After all, how do you make someone smell a product that can’t be smelled? How do you make them smell an oven? A car? A special event?

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But that’s exactly where things get tricky.

Research has shown that people remember only 5% of what they see and 2% of what they hear. And should we even mention that they forget about 99% of what they touch?

If you compare that to 83% of brands focusing their campaigns on the visual, seems like most of those efforts are in vain.  

On the other side, human beings remember a staggering 35% of what they smell. And remembering smell is effortless, unconscious – you don’t have to think about it. You just… remember it.     

Seeing those numbers, we know what you’re thinking. And we have that answer for you. It’s called olfactory branding.   

What is olfactory branding all about?

Olfactory branding isn’t only about making premises smell nice. The expectations bar is already pretty high on that one no matter the type of business you’re into.

Olfactory branding is about building a long-lasting brand recognition by utilizing the full potential of a custom-made fragrance.

It’s about opening up another channel to communicate your brand to your customers – and have them engage with you even if they’re not directly exposed to your marketing campaigns.  

Think about it.  

Guests staying at a five-star luxury hotel know their rooms will be fresh. They know the potpourri bowl smells like magic. They expect that from your brand.   

But how many of them expect that the room they have in Dublin smells exactly the same as the one they had in Rome? And boy, did they have a good time in Rome!

Now, that’s a completely different branding experience there.  

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Why your branding experience matters?

Long gone are the days when people searched to buy products only. Now, they’re off to find experiences.

Brands are becoming more aware of the behavioural economic. Even though human beings are rational creatures, they make decisions based on emotions – and not only based on logic and facts.  

Designing a unique sensory branding experience means looking to appeal to your consumer’s emotions in a memorable way. You bond with them, thus aiding their decision-making progress when it comes to choosing between you or your competitors.

Here’s what happens when you start creating a better branding experience.

  • Brand loyalty increases

Brand loyalty is the ultimate reward for creating a holistic brand experience.

According to Fundera, 43% of customers spend more money on brands they’re loyal to. But brand loyalty is almost never about the actual product or service – it’s much more than that.

Brand loyalty is always about the experience your product gives – and the consistent quality of it. It’s about the way a product or service makes consumers feel and ultimately, it’s the emotional attachment that forms and stays.

  • Consumers become fully engaged

Our experience tells that consumers no longer want to feel forced to interact with your brand – and the only way to move forward is by building engagement.

Also, Gallup states that customers don’t like looking at numbers and facts when it comes to making a buying decision. For them, feelings are facts. Consumers that have formed an attachment towards your brand don’t only become loyal – they become your brand ambassadors. They become fully engaged.

According to Rosetta, fully engaged consumers buy 90% more frequently, spend 60% more per transaction, and deliver 3 times the value to the brand over the course of a year.

  • An emotional connection is created

As we said, up to 90 per cent of all decisions made are emotional. Try and suppress emotions – or cut them out completely of the process – and you’re unable to make a move.

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The big names harness the power of the emotional connection, with Apple being the leader. Apple’s brand loyalty is the direct consequence of continuously putting the brand experience and the emotional connection over the actual product.

Identifying the four core emotions they want their customers to feel when using their products – delight, surprise, connection, and love – they’ve managed to build quite a substantial following over the years.

We know that developing your very own brand experience is never easy.

In an over-crowded market, using scents to enhance the customer experience may be one of the secrets in making an experience truly holistic.

Sensory branding at its finest

Various industries can benefit from olfactory branding.

1) Hospitality industry

Having a unique scent to lure guests in has been one of the long-held secrets of luxury hotel brands.

And they know how to do it right. All the way from hiding scent diffusers around the rooms and public areas to perfumed towels and even postcards, they know that brand loyalty is sometimes, one whiff away.

2) Retail

There’s a broad variety of retail stores that can benefit from having their own scent – yes, even if you sell ovens! *hint – think apple pies!*

Consumers spending time in a scented environment are more likely to make a purchase.  

Giants like Pandora, Hyundai, and Topshop have been well-aware of the potential of launching multisensory campaigns that make an impact both to neutral and actively disengaged consumers.

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3) Office premises

Having office spaces bear a distinctive aroma doesn’t only leave a good impression with clients who visit. Working in a scented environment might boost employee’s productivity and help manage stress levels.

4) Events

What if you could vividly remember your special moments years down the line? The concept of olfactory branding can be extended to any important event – even The Royal Family has been doing it for years!

Add a special touch by choosing a scent that is diffused throughout the venue or instilled in the invitations – and create memories that last for a lifetime, both for you and your guests.  

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How to choose the right scent for your brand?

Deciding on a brand’s unique aura is much more than just placing scented candles in business premises. Here’s what should be taken into consideration.

1) Know your brand  

Beginning the process of olfactory branding isn’t much different from regular branding. Think questions like:

What are the values of the brand you’re representing? What are the core emotions you’d like to awaken in customers? How would you like to convey those – what’s your tone of voice? What’s your brand’s personality?

2) Translate statement into an aroma  

Conveying your brand’s statement into an aroma isn’t only about picking a scent you like. It’s a process that involves choosing smells that trigger emotions associated with your brand when inhaled and placing diffusers in strategic places.

We recommend working with trained olfactory branding professionals to make sure your brand’s statement and message are clearly communicated.

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 3) Context is important

Each scent should properly complement and enhance what’s already there.

Knowing when and how to use each of the scents created with your brand is key. It may be confusing if you’re diffusing Christmas aroma in the middle of July or a floral scent in the men’s department.

4) Overdoing it may cause the opposite effect

We fully encourage the idea of branding welcoming areas with your very own scent.

But there’s nothing worse than entering a business premise and being hit by a violent aroma. That alone may be enough to create an actively disengaged consumer.  

To assure you’re staying on the right track, our perfume-grade fragrances and scented products are developed in accordance to the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) code of conduct and are free from all toxins.

5) Consistency matters

And perhaps most importantly, sensory branding is all about being consistent. After all, your grandma’s lemon scones didn’t have a different smell each time you went to visit, did they?

The best way to move forward is to cooperate closely with sensory branding professionals.

You can learn more about our working process here or click here for olfactory branding inquiries.

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Trademarking scents

Same as brands need a visual logo, they may soon need a signature scent.

As companies are slowly starting to come to terms with the true potential of olfactory branding, we believe that scent trademarking is the next big thing in the branding industry.

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You may not be able to trademark nature’s scents that already exist by default but you may be able to get the exclusive right to protect your scent logo – the signature scent of your brand. Companies such as Verizon Airlines and Massimo Dutti are leading the way with branded scents at major consumers’ touchpoints.

Verizon Airlines are already known for their “landing” fragrance, a unique aroma that’s spread out through the air at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. And that’s another excellent example of what olfactory branding is all about – imprinting a feeling, a long-lasting memory over to your consumers.

Do you want to redefine your branding experience?

We’re here to assist you in creating an unforgettable experience with olfactory branding.  

Click here to get in touch or call at +353 87 467 2159