How scent can enhance four types of facilities

by Sophie Berrill
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On Aristotle’s hierarchy of the senses, smell floats in the middle, coming in third behind sight and hearing in ancient Western thought.

People aren’t always aware of the intangible power of this neglected sense to influence their perception and experience. 

Odours have been shown to activate the amygdala and the hippocampus, the regions related to emotion and memory. So it’s no surprise that the smell of a certain meal might transport you back to your grandma’s dining table, or the whiff of an ex’s perfume might trigger a pang in your chest.

Smell is important (just ask anyone who lost their sense of smell when they got COVID) and some brands and businesses use olfaction to their advantage in the built environment. Specialists can help businesses and FMs design signature scents for their spaces, taking into consideration their desired ambience and even how they want visitors to behave. 

Here are four different types of facilities that can be enhanced with scent.

1. Hotels

Hotels were early adopters of signature scents. Travel is about making memories, so it makes sense that hotels and other accommodation would like to embed themselves in those memories as much as possible and attract repeat guests. 

Hotels use scents to create a whole range of different atmospheres, from luxury to romance to evoking the relaxation of aromatherapy at a day spa. This is a form of scent marketing, where a particular smell is strategically deployed to form an association with the brand. It also attempts to enhance the guest’s perception of a pleasurable experience.

2. Retail spaces

Research has found that when businesses add ambient scents to their brick and mortar stores, they can reap a whole range of benefits. 

One study from the International Journal of Marketing Studies surveyed 400 customers in a Nike store. The results indicated that a pleasant ambient scent improved evaluation of the store environment, products, quality of services provided and the level of pleasure experienced. The pleasant scent also improved the customers intention to revisit the store and their spending. 

3. Office buildings

Some scents have been said to improve work performance. For example, a lemon scent can apparently increase alertness, according to Scent Australia’s director, Daniel Green. Green has been developing signature scents for brands for 11 years. In his experience, most offices prefer scents in the lobby for people to smell as they come and go, or to have them dispelled sporadically while they’re at their desks.

“For an office, it’s pleasant. So if you’re at your desk and every now and then you just give this really nice smell, it’s a little bit like having a cup of coffee,” he says.

“It’s more effective in the sense that when the scent is always there, you stop noticing it because you become habituated to it.”

4. Aged care

While deploying scent is less common in aged care facilities, Green sees untapped potential for scent in this space.

“We actually find not that much interest from them, which is a pity,” he says.

“The most obvious reason for me is that the residents would benefit from having their family visiting them more often, but my understanding is people don’t like visiting and one of the reasons is that these places are a bit depressing. 

“They often have bad odours. Unfortunately people have accidents and if you make the place smell great, you’re actually going to increase the likelihood that friends and family come to visit and spend time there, and that’s going to have a great result for the people who live in these places.”

Profit-motivated aged centres might also be able to attract more residents if the facility smells more like a pleasant home than a sterile hospital.

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