Online Exclusives

Something in the Air

By Christine Esposito, Associate Editor | July 9, 2013

Ambient scenting can drive sales in retail, hospitality sectors.

Of the five senses, smell might be the most powerful, but it hasn’t been used to its greatest potential when it comes to branding, according to executives at Prolitec, Inc., a provider of ambient scenting technology and services under the Air/Q Atmospheres brand.
Headquartered in Milwaukee, WI this global company works with retail stores, hotels, casinos, assisted living communities, offices and other spaces and counts Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister, Hard Rock Casinos, Hilton and Bliss Spa as clients.
According to Roger Bensinger, executive vice president of business development, smell is more powerful than touch, sight and hearing in terms of short-term memory retention.
But ambient scenting is often an overlooked branding and messaging tool.
“Defining ambience for an environment has long been a branding strategy, but the tendency was to focus on music and visuals (lighting, decorations, layout, etc.),” said Bensinger. “However, marketers have learned that scent is the most memorable of the senses and a key factor in creating a pleasing environment.”
And, more importantly, it can contribute to the bottom line.
“Think about your own experiences. Have you ever walked into a hotel and thought it smelled fabulous? Did that smell evoke comfort or luxury or some other emotion?,” Bensinger asked. “Scent can do all that which, in turn, can increase the time someone spends somewhere which increases sales, or it can make employees happier and more helpful.”
But incorporating scent into public spaces hasn’t been easy.
“It used to be an employee walking around a room spraying fragrance, burning candles, or using other solutions like reed diffusers. None of which were ideal, and in many instances weren’t safe,” Bensinger. “Or, an aerosol in a spray can or in a commercial dispenser might dispense heavy liquid droplets, which are concentrated close to the spray zone and fall to surfaces. “
Prolitec’s technology offers an improved method. It converts liquid fragrances into micro-droplets, which are on average 1 micron, or 1/50th the diameter of a human hair. It behaveslike a dry vapor, which delivers uniform, full coverage that covers the entire room, according to the firm.

Smells Like Increased Sales

Ambient scent makes for an improved atmosphere, but it has also helped sell finished products. For example, Prolitec worked with an upscale spa chain to improve the sensory experience it provided to its customers. Prolitec developed an ambient scent in spa locations that emulated a key ingredient found in the company’s scented products. The spa client also wanted a signature scent in every location to strengthen its brand image. Air/Q designed a scent that has since been rolled out to locations in the US, Middle East and Europe, which has helped fuel sales of finished products.
“The ambient scenting has helped drive successful sales of their creams, shampoos and conditioners,” Bensinger told Happi.
Another Prolitec success story came when a retailer wanted customers to sample a new scent. The solution developed by Air/Q involved airborne diffusion.
“The sales of this fragrance exceeded post-launch expectations, and included pre-sales as well which was unexpected,” said Bensinger.
According to CEO Richard Weening, in addition to its technology, Prolitec’s scents are the secret behind its success. The company works with two of the “industry’s most respected scent experts dedicated to our business, Christophe Laudamiel and Raymond Matts,” told HAPPI.
In fact, Air/Q Collections offer more than 100 scents, which are compliant with the strict safety regulations in more than 70 countries.
“We can customize scents so a company can have a scent created just for them or we can formulate an existing signature scent of theirs to work with our technology,” said Weening.
Yet while scent is a powerful motivator, it is also highly subjective; not everyone reacts to scents in the same manner. In a public setting like a store, hotel or casino, it is imperative to find the right mix.
To that end, Air/Q’s delivery systems are fully programmable so scent intensity can be customized based upon the environment and traffic patterns.
 “It is important not to over-scent a public space; the effect should be subtle and not overwhelming. You certainly don’t want to feel like you’re walking through the fragrance section of a department store where sales people are spritzing you as you walk by. Regardless of how good a scent smells it isn’t pleasing to be assaulted with too much of it. Our technology eliminates that issue,” said Weening.
In addition, the firm’s scents also have less than 1ppm concentration, which is well below that which would trigger an allergic reaction, he said.
Prolitec’s executives estimate the ambient scting market at “over a couple hundred million dollars, with double digit growth annually.” But they recognize there are still hurdles to overcome for ambient scenting to gain greater acceptance.
“Probably one of the biggest hurdles for acceptance and use is frankly the sophistication level of a business,” said Weening. “Savvy marketers understand the power of scent and how it impacts their business.  Sometimes it is hard for smaller businesses to justify the cost of an ambient scenting program.”

Related End-User Markets: