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Sensory Deprivation – Creating the Right Smell for a Luxury Property

Money drives invention. The need to sell and market products has brooked a subtle science of provoking the responses that make us trust, make us want, and ultimately make us buy products. We are used to our visual senses being constantly appealed to. Adverts flash at us from every web page line the walls of cities. We know what colours sell what, what key chimes best with certain adverts. Understanding physical and reactions to advertising and marketing is big business and now people are looking to understand how smell affects consumers and guests in holiday accommodation.

The science of smell is being used to fool our emotional senses into being more connected and more willing to buy. Using smells brings up images of failed experiments with smell-o-vision TV or selling cakes. But, using smell to make your product memorable and draw people into a purchase is becoming part of big businesses approach to marketing and product. When people talk about that New Car Smell, this is the brand that the car companies have created. They know that people associate it with the luxury of a brand new car and have manufactured this to make it even more noticeable in their cars.

Renting accommodation is not a sterile transaction. It becomes your home for those two weeks of holiday. It is supposed to be the setting for your halcyon days. It has an emotional weight behind it. Choosing this accommodation relies on a combination of sense, logic and something that we can’t quite explain. An emotional, subconscious response to lines, shapes, colours and impressions of what we see. Smell is an often overlooked part of this, but now hotels and other businesses are starting to experiment with how it can be used to their advantage.


Smell provides a clearer impression on the memory that hearing or even sight. When searching for the image for this very blog, I chose coffee beans. They are recognisable and distinctive. We associate the smell with pleasure. Even simply looking at them can transport you to the rich, burnt toast of roasting coffee. By having a pleasant image, you’re more inclined to click the image. Your brain makes the leap between your senses without you noticing. Smell goes straight to the Limbic center of your brain. It bypasses rational thought and connects with emotions.

There are companies that will take care of your ‘scent branding’ for you, creating an ‘olfactory logo’. It can be easy to dismiss this as a ludicrous over-analysis, but big brands are starting to take this seriously.

“You don’t viscerally experience a logo the way you experience a scent,” said Caroline Fabrigas, chief executive officer of Scent Marketing. She has previously worked for Prada, Chanel and Clarins and has created scents for the new Baccarat and 1 Hotels in New York, along with more than 200 Hyatt hotels. The process is similar: Such firms as New York-based Air Aroma bring together a team of interior designers, marketing experts, psychologists, graphic designers, and perfumers, with research and development fees that run from $5,000 to $30,000 per formulation, depending on scope.

Vacation rental businesses can create the same effect without having to hire expensive odour consultants. Think about the smells that represent you local area. Pine forests? Orchids? If you can link this effect to the visual effect, it will help to form an even stronger connection for your guests. Reflecting on a photo of the trees from the window of a New England cabin will be even more vivid and   Even if your properties are mainly based in the cities and you may not want to reflect the smell of the urban environment too closely, check out your national or state flower, find something that grows locally and add this into your brand for your property. For example, the Four Seasons in Maui uses a lime-based, tropical- flower, and exotic-wood fragrance. It fits with the location and is aimed towards what the guests want to experience during their stay in a place like Maui.

Online businesses have to concentrate on their visual impression but, when your guests step through your door, that’s when things click in 3-D. This is the real first impression of your business. The smell needs to be subtle, not overpowering. Acerbic bleach and cleaning products might give your guests the right impression in terms of cleanliness, but they won’t form that emotional impression or association that will bring them back to your property.

You can maintain your chosen scent with reed diffusers, sprays, drawer liners and candles. Just make sure these all match or compliment each other and don’t overpower your guests. Avoid overly sweet, saccharine fragrances. Same goes for musky, darker odours. It doesn’t just create a pleasanter, more welcoming environment, it adds another dimension to your business and your brand. The true effects of scent marketing are not fully understood yet, but if the worst it can do is create a warm welcoming impression for your guests, and a provide trigger to vivid and distinct memories of their time in your properties then it is small investment that is surely worthwhile.

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