5 Senses for Branding: Sound

Our sense of smell is the most emotional of all the senses and is very strongly linked to memory. According to the Sense of Smell Institute, people can recall smells with 65% accuracy after one year. Compare that to visual recall of photos which sinks to about 50% after only three months. Do you have happy memories of smells from your childhood you can still distinctly remember? I can clearly imagine the scent of  the Hello Kitty store even though I haven't been since I was a wee-tot…it's a sort of vinyl/fruity/pink plastic-y smell that still, 25 years later, makes me feel immediately nostalgic.

Real-estate, hotel, retail, car manufacturers and more…there are many industries over the years that have recognized and leveraged the power of the sense of smell. Below are a few brands that provide some examples:

"Stepping into a Rolls-Royce is a sensuous experience, and smell is the most evocative of the senses. It's very important." -Hugh Hadland, Rolls-Royce Managing Director

The new-car smell has long been recognized by car manufacturers as a powerful quality that sparks a love affair between their brand and a new owner. When Rolls-Royce buyers began complaining in the mid-1990′s that the cars weren't living up to their predecessors, researchers tracked the problem to the source: the smell (of plastic). Using a 1965 Silver Cloud as a reference, the company deconstructed the scent and found that aside from leather, a major constituent of it was in fact, wood. So, they took their findings and re-created the scent of a classic "Roller" which they now spray under the seats.

Source: Smells Like Brand Spirit, Fastcompany.com

This one is kind of obvious. Starbucks is well known for being intentional about the mood and the smells you experience when you walk through their doors. Remember in 2008 when they dumped breakfast egg sandwiches because it didn't pair well with the coffee aroma? It contrasted with the brand's identity. Schultz did not believe Starbucks should smell like a McDonalds, so he decided to do away with the sandwiches until they eventually came back with a different cheese, adjusted oven settings, and other changes to eliminate the undesirable scent. It has also been reported that Starbucks did not allow employees to wear perfume or cologne, as it interfered with Starbucks' signature smell.

Westin hotels & resorts are architecturally inspiring, thoughtfully designed and located in the world's most exciting cities and resort destinations. To complete the full sensory approach to welcoming their guests, Westin strategically positioned scent delivery systems that diffuse a light White Tea fragrance in all of their hotels. They chose the particular fragrance to convey serenity and relaxation. The smell even became so popular that Westin decided to launch its “White Tea by Westin™” product line that includes candles, oils and a home spray version of their signature scent.

If you want to foster an emotional connection with your customer, whether you are selling a product or improving your customer experience, branding with the nose in mind is a great idea. But just smelling "good" won't be enough…understanding your brand attributes and your target audience – and how those align with a sensory experience – is where strategy plays a huge role in your success.