Expert's Opinion

Scent Marketing

By Sue Phillips, Scenterprises Ltd. | March 3, 2011

Sue Phillips on the benefits of using environmental fragrances.

Last year I had the wonderful opportunity to take a trip to Morocco with my daughter, and I still recall the incredible sights, sounds, smells and colors which were quite palpable…aromatic, luscious scents as well as the pungent, musky heady aromas of amber, musk and jasmine. Today certain raw materials and ingredients that were used in ancient perfumery are re-surfacing, as “scent-designers” and perfumers are re-discovering the past and incorporating fragrant compounds into their modern-day aromatic symphonies.
One of the “new” trends to emerge, which is steeped in the rituals of the past, is the multi-sensory experience in which ambient or environmental scenting is fast becoming a way for companies to distinguish themselves from the competition by incorporating scent-branding into the mix. In ancient Egyptian times, incense and Kyphi wood were burned to create a “sacred” mood for their religious rituals. The sweet aromas wafted through the air, giving the ceremonies a certain reverence and sacredness. The word perfume literally means “through smoke” and is derived from the very act in which the incense “fumes” scent the air through smoke.
Today, environmental or ambient scenting is much more sophisticated and is fast becoming a multi-billion dollar industry. Marketing gurus and scores of Fortune 500 companies are using scent as part of their marketing strategies to bypass competition and promote brands, businesses, destinations, services or products. Scent Branding is an effective way to enhance customers’ experiences, to influence future purchasing decisions and, most importantly, to establish an emotional connection with a luxury brand or business.
What started out as a need to neutralize and diminish smoke odors from the casinos in Las Vegas, almost 20 years ago, by AromaSys has become a way for these properties to utilize scent to offer a pleasant aroma and a positive experience for the guest, thereby increasing customer satisfaction, and at the same time “scent-branding” their properties. Scent diffusion technology through HVAC systems has become quite sophisticated, and hotels that offer ambient scenting for public areas of 50,000 – 100,000 sq feet (and larger), are reaping the rewards by noticing returning guests who have enjoyed a positive, “scentsory” experience. Hotels and casinos, in particular, carry a scent that has been specially created and engineered for the company that the customer won't experience anywhere else. It is a way of identifying a brand on a whole different level.
This has been backed by scientific claims done by researchers such as Dr. Alan Hirsch, director of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation and Rachel Herz of Brown University. The Journal of Marketing and Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services has shown that scent can make shoppers spend more time and money in a store and make them pay more attention to a brand. Studies suggest that the right aroma at the right time can make people more likely to walk up to a cash register and less likely to walk away from a slot machine, according to a recent article in the LA Times. Many retail stores, hotels and luxury casinos have employed the use of environmental aromas.
Today, companies like Air Essentials have become a big player with their nebulizing systems for many hotels and retail outlets, and ScentEvents literally does just that…they scent events, both small and large!
Recently on a Delta plane to California while writing this article, I was delighted to discover a pleasant aroma in the bathrooms. The delivery system is a scented removable porous hockey-puck type of pellet that diffuses a very strong yet positive aroma in the air to overcome the high altitude. It is encased in a metal shell so that it stays affixed to the bathroom shelf.
One of the newest and most exciting technologies to emerge from France is fragrance through computers, video games and even through “scent-o-vision” via innovative wireless digital technology. At our recent presentation on Environmental Scenting at The Peter Lik Gallery for The Luxury Marketing Council, guests were fascinated to see a demonstration of WoW, The World of Warcraft, (a multiplayer online role-playing game) by Blizzard Entertainment in which scents are digitally synchronized to diffuse and emit as Azeroth (the lead character) escapes the enemy by running through caves and undergrowth. Concurrently, the viewer smells those dank, mossy odors, as well as the acrid smoke from volcanoes and ultimately the sweet recognizable scent of vanilla as Azeroth fights his way out of those challenging areas in his fantasy world.
A young boy who saw the presentation and experienced the aromas had one word to say when I asked him what he thought … “AWESOME”!

At the recent CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, consumers were able to experience Plug and Play aromas at the keyboard in which 20 scents such as chocolate, cinnamon bun, the ocean and a turkey dinner were programmed to emit when the matching image appeared on the computer screen. Imagine watching Rachel Ray sauté those onions, and the viewer at home can actually experience it at the same time! Aah!
At The Special Event show in Phoenix, the largest show of its kind for event planners, I partnered with Neal Harris of ScentEvents to showcase the world of fragrance for both environmental scenting and custom perfumery for teambuilding and corporate events. The wonderful thing is that event planners are seeking innovative multisensory unique ideas for their clients, and the world of fragrance is being looked upon in a very favorable light as people have come to realize that scent is a most compelling addition to their events and brands.
I pay special tribute to someone who pioneered scent marketing and who founded the Scent Marketing Institute…Harald Vogt. He passed away last year, and was at the forefront of environmental scenting. Many independent scent marketing companies owe him a debt of gratitude for his unwavering belief in this initiative and it is gratifying to see his vision gaining traction!
If implemented correctly, the benefits of scent marketing for large spaces as well as for personal space and home theatre can help a company to distinguish itself among competitors. This can be achieved by tapping into deep emotions and feelings of a customer and can make a difference in how he or she experiences a particular brand. It can help make an experience more unique and pleasurable!If customer satisfaction is the main goal of marketing, then scent marketing is sure to become a key player in the marketing all kinds of businesses. As Advertising Age pointed out, ScentBranding is one of the top 10 trends to watch for in 2007...thankfully it is now becoming more mainstream.
About the Author
Sue Phillips, international fragrance expert, was born in South Africa, resides in New York, and is a recognized branding, sales and marketing executive. Sue’s distinguished career includes senior executive positions at Elizabeth Arden, Lancôme and Tiffany & Company.

In 1992, Sue formed Scenterprises Ltd, a global fragrance consultancy and develops environmental scenting for the retail, hospitality and gaming industries for top hotels, spas, resorts and casinos. She helps to “scent-brand” selected properties with their own proprietary fragrance. Recognizing the potential of environmental scenting and scent branding, Sue is at the forefront of this burgeoning new industry. In addition, Ambient Scenting through computers, video games and Television is the new way to diffuse scent for interactive, multi-sensory initiatives for Cooking Shows, Video Games and innovative special events programs, available through Sue’s company.
In 2008, Sue’s company, Scenterprises Ltd, was named USA Distributor for The Perfume Studio, UK, offering custom perfume seminars and workshops for individuals, couples, groups, the bridal market, spas, salons and corporate team building initiatives. This is an ideal initiative for Teambuilding, Customer Appreciation, Motivational and Inspirational events for Corporations as well as
Sue is a contributing editor of Glow Beauty Magazine, Vuvuzela, the new online South African magazine,, and is a contributing editor of Happi, and has written many articles on fragrance, and the correlation of Smell and Taste, and is a frequent guest speaker at industry seminars. Sue appeared on Fox Business TV, KUSI TV, and San Diego Living TV, and was named the “IT” Girl on She can be reached at or 917-449-1134.