The olfactory sense can build strong bonds between human psychology and physiology, researchers say. If hotels start capitalizing on this small detail by developing and using a signature fragrance, they can leave a deeper impression and provide their guests with even better experiences.
The intangible power of scent on human
Scents are processed in the olfactory bulb, which has direct connections to the amygdala and hippocampus, the parts of the brain that provide emotional reactions and memories.
According to research about the influence of fragrance on human psychological activity, the sense of smell plays an important role in the physiological effects of mood, stress, and working capacity. According to the Sense of Smell Institute, the human nose is able to recall smells with 65% accuracy after a year, in contrast to only 50% of visuals after three months.
The researchers thus explored customers’ responses to scent and how hotels can exploit the signature scent to create positive experiences and build brand loyalty. They found that scent was indeed conducive to guest enjoyment, but only when not overused.
How can using fragrance support hotels?
• Enhance brand recognition
The smell is closely connected to the brain’s limbic system, where emotional processing takes place. It should be no surprise then that many hotels around the world have in recent years sought to harness the power of smell by creating their own signature scents that “represent their identity”. With scent and fragrance, the hotels can now directly monitor how they are perceived and remembered in the eye of their guests.
The use of a signature scent in public areas like the lobby, lounge, meeting rooms, spa, fitness center, and more can increase brand loyalty by giving customers a “sense of place”. Since scent is strongly linked to memory, using the same scent across different locations can also evoke the same pleasant memories among guests. Guests should be able to instantly recognize that they are in the hotel, regardless of where in the world they happen to be.
Hospitality brands worldwide such as Ritz Carlton, W, Marriott and Fairmont are using fragrance to their advantage, knowing that a signature scent leaves a truly lasting impression on guests, one that remains vivid long after their stay is over.
• Create a truly powerful connection with guests
Creating unique guest experiences is a key trend for luxury, boutique and lifestyle-branded hotels. From the moment guests arrive, they already want to feel that their experience is special. With an exclusive, custom signature fragrance, hotels can create the perfect ambiance and create a powerful impression with guests.
According to research, major hotel chains such as Mandarin Oriental, Le Meridien, Langham and Shangri-La have created signature scents that are used as ambient aromas throughout their hotels, delivered through “heating and cooling systems, via discreet atomizers or by way of ingenious diffusers in the lighting”.
Taking the idea further, some hotels even offer products featuring their signature scents such as home fragrances, room sprays and candles which guests can purchase for their own use and thus, further connect with guests, even when they are at home. With staycations, more and more people are willing to purchase products to renovate their house or room in order to turn it into a hotel so that they can feel like they are traveling and staying at their favorite hotel.
However, if excessively used, the intensity of the scent can evoke feelings of headaches, nausea or discomfort. Another drawback of this “the hotel-scent trend” is that hotels have to face a certain loss of guests as those who were allergic to any of the components in the signature fragrance are unlikely to choose them as an ideal place to stay.
Research about customers’ responses to scents used in hotels shows that even among those who like the scent, the majority prefers it to be used only in some parts of the hotel, particularly public areas such as the hotel lobby, restrooms and corridors. On the other hand, they prefer hotels to refrain from diffusing scent in guest rooms, function spaces and restaurants. Therefore, hotels should be careful in the way they pipe scent through their central air-conditioning systems since it can become overwhelming to the senses and negatively influence guests’ overall hotel experience.
Today’s consumers are increasingly seeking pleasurable and memorable experiences that are unique and authentic, which led to a new term of “experiential marketing”. In the tourism field, experiential marketers seek to create “direct and valuable connections between organizations and their guests”, for instance by providing sensory experiences that trigger positive emotions. Using ambient scent may be a way for hotels to create “memorable experiences for guests” while also building brand loyalty and stimulating positive word-of-mouth.
At the same time, hoteliers should be cautious in the use of too powerful fragrance that could be off-putting to those who find them unpleasant or overpowering, presumably creating rather less pleasant memorable experiences.