A Smelly Trip to Slough

On Tuesday Ben and I took a day trip to Slough to visit the UK office of ScentAir, a global scent dispenser manufacturer with catalogue of well over 1500 unique fragrances. They specialise in working with brands and companies to explore how they can apply scent as a means to enhance the customer’s experience. As they explain:

Now marketeers are starting to realise the importance of appealing to all five senses and using brand fragrance, too. For while a picture can say a thousand words, or 140 characters can make a Tweet, a whiff of scent is proven to be far more powerful in terms of brand association and memory recall, and has a more direct link to our emotions.

Once a smell is embedded in a customer’s memory, visual clues are enough for the odour, and its associated memory and emotions, to be reactivated. Research shows that this recall is especially effective if there is a particular name accompanying the scent. Equally, first-time exposure to a particular smell is crucial in how that aroma will be recalled, and what it will be associated with.

We wanted to discuss our project with them to get an idea of any industry interest or insights they may have towards it. What was particularly interesting for us though was that as a company so focused on using scents to enhance brands, they had not really considered digital companies and web applications so were eager to hear more about our project. In return, we had a great discussion with Chris, who works for the marketing side of ScentAir, and he introduced us to the various dispensing models they had on offer helping us to identify a few clearer routes we could go down with our model.

It got really exciting though when Chris showed us samples of some of the fragrances they have – there were utterly loads of them and this only scratched the surface. Those we got a sniff of included the pleasant white tea and thyme, double chocolate cookie and Mcdonald’s apple pie; the uncanny oily machinery, wood-stove and baby powder; and the slightly less pleasant faeces, sewage and damp. All the smells they produce are synthetic though and (we were assured) had been rigourously tested to comply with various health and safety regulations meaning that, though some smelt like shit, we could be safe in the knowledge it was harmless shit stinky chemicals!

For a while we had been toying with the idea of distilling our own essences but due to our lack of available equipment it would be a big investment to get this set up so we had to know for sure that it was the way we wanted to go. Our visit to ScentAir highlighted an interesting avenue which may involve our future collaboration with them in using the scents they have on offer but we’ll have to exchange a few more emails to see how that turns out. Regarding the diversity of output smell then, we may well be quite nicely on track, however there’s still work to do on refining the actual dispenser itself and exploring how it can connect to the web.


Posted on: Sep 23, 2011 at 3:13 PM


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Foundry is a research team at Mint Digital.
Foundry is all about exploring physical objects which connect to the web though digital technology.

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The Smell of Success