Ever heard of olfactory branding? Scent design and interior design intertwine to spur repeat purchases

Ever heard of olfactory branding? Scent design and interior design intertwine to spur repeat purchases

(Courtesy The Carlyle)
The Carlyle NYC Lobby (Courtesy The Carlyle)

That immediately identifiable department store scent isn’t your average vanilla musk Glade being pumped through an atomizer. Scent designers refer to home fragrance concoction as an exact science factoring in not only the inner workings of the olfactory sensors but neuropsychological responses to specific scents.

(Courtesy Intercontinental Barclay)

The practice, as a whole, is called “olfactory branding,” and is used by hotels, restaurants, and retail brands to subconsciously imprint positive impressions in consumers’ minds and spur repeat purchases. High-end haunts are increasingly relying on brand-specific bespoke scents to evoke distinct qualities. Byredo Bibliothèque, is one such sought-after line of dream fragrances, noted the New York Observer.

(Courtesy The Carlyle)

While housekeepers at luxury establishments used to refill thimble-sized clay oil dispensers recessed discreetly into the walls, today’s scenting is high-tech, with scent designers brought on board to capture the essence of major hotel renovations and launches. Scent designers collaborate with building engineers on the implementation of motorized compressed cartridges and sophisticated hidden scent diffusion equipment.

(Courtesy Gild Hall)

“A client chooses a vision, we create it. I’m no different from the architect,” Tracy Pepe, founder of Nose Knows Design, told New York Observer. Pepe is working with InterContinental New York Barclay to realize a scent capturing the luxury branding intentions behind their extensive renovations. She also touts a scent kit called the Whiff Collection, featuring eight scents paired with a corresponding color palette for homeowners to fine-tune the complementary visual-olfactory experience.

(Courtesy The Smyth)

Consultations with private clients recall an interior design consultation – the customer is quizzed on past experiences, travels, memories and lifestyle to pare down an arsenal of emotionally evocative scents: From calming lavender and jasmine to energizing citrus, rosemary and peppermint, to whiffs of leather and wood that beget old money and class.

After consultation, custom scents can take up to a year to develop – and prices run the gamut from $5,000 to $30,000, which is what firms like Air Aroma, maker of scents for Sofitel Luxury Hotels, Morgans Hotel Group, SLS Hotels and the Marmara Collection, typically charge.

Meanwhile, olfactory branding firm 12.29 is the brains – or rather, nose – behind fragrances for Thompson Hotels, including Gild Hall and The Smyth, developed over twelve months. The “velvety” scent activates exclusively when the sun sets. In response to guest demand, a similarly scented candle will appear later this year. Luxury hospitality brands like The Carlyle are enlisting tailor-made fragrances to remind guests of iconic peripheral products, such as the hotel’s famous soap, which is “meant to remind guests of their fond memories of The Carlyle,” according to spokesperson Jennifer Cooke.

The Carlyle NYC (Courtesy The Carlyle)