The Sweet Smell of Success

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The Sweet Smell of Success

The sense of smell has always been a touchy subject for human beings. For centuries, scientists denied that people could use olfactory information the way other animals do.

It wasn’t until 1994 that the human vemeronasal system was identified. That’s the system responsible for sensing and interpreting information sent by way of pheromones, which are information-carrying hormones produced in the skin.

From a commercial standpoint, most of the big opportunities related to smells have been based on minimizing them. People spent billions of dollars each year trying to eliminate or cover up natural odors of various kinds.

But, it’s now becoming clear that our very sensitivity to smell can be harnessed in all sorts of novel ways, from enhancing an entertainment experience to increasing learning and improving our chances of success at work.

In fact, as explained in a recent Wall Street Journal article,1 creating smells for specific purposes is becoming big business around the globe. The City Museum of Stockholm, for example, had a custom-made odor created to go along with its exhibit of ancient Egyptian mummies and medicines. Retail stores and other venues are routinely using aromas to create specific effects.

A British company called Lynn Poly uses a coconut smell to enhance the customer experience at a travel agency, because it smells like suntan lotion. A hospital in Orlando uses the same smell to create a seaside theme. It has noticed a drop in cancelled appointments as a result.

International Flavors and Fragrances in New York is designing an entire line of smells for a New York Hall of Science exhibit on extraterrestrial life. And the Aroma Company in Oxfordshire, England makes a new car smell that enhances the used car experience.

In fact, Rolls-Royce found that buyers were complaining in the 1990s that the new cars didn’t live up to its standards. The company ultimately found that it had nothing to do with the car’s design or performance. It was the smell. The company’s chemists analyzed the smell of a classic 1965 Silver Cloud and recreated the aroma from 800 separate chemical sources.

According to an article in Fast Company,2 once Rolls-Royce began spraying that scent into new cars, the complaints stopped.

ScentAir Technologies is one of the more visible aroma companies, based in Santa Barbara, California. Its lengthy client list includes Bloomingdale’s, Coca-Cola, Kraft, Nestlé, Pepsi, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Sony, and Disneyworld...

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