Emotions Stink.


Zoflora is “A powerful disinfectant with twice the germ-killing power of carbolic acid, but with beautiful fragrance oils extracted from flowers”.


It has all the characteristics of a product that I should pledge my undying brand allegiance to – heritage, functionality, consistency, reasonable price, and British.

 And yet, I despise the stuff, it makes me do sick burps.

I feel kind of guilty about this. It’s really not Zoflora’s fault I have such a burning desire to set their bottling plant on fire… It’s the fault of those pesky emotions again, strutting around my frontal lobes like they own the place.

This is because when my first dog died, my mum cleaned her body (the dog’s, not my mum’s) with Zoflora to keep germs and bacteria away.

Completely unbeknown to me, the nerve endings in my nose were secretly and ‘illogically’ collaborating with my brain to create negative emotions towards the Zoflora fragrance, based on the negative emotional experience I was having at the time.

Sensuously negative experiences create olfactory ghouls for later on in life. Every time I get a whiff of Zoflora now, I’m immediately reminded of my dog’s death. I am a brand manager’s worst nightmare.

On a happier note, sensuously positive emotional experiences can create olfactory angels on your shoulder. I have a particular fondness for the smell of damp for example, because of many happy memories of falling asleep on a damp garden swing in the summer heat.

It seems lots of people far more qualified than I have been researching this stuff too.  This lady has got some fascinating things to say about the subject, and she’s got something to do with Oxford which means it must be interesting, right?

A fascinating experiment she mentions is the ‘Winterfresh’ experiment. Basically, American people in the 60’s thought the ‘Winterfresh’ scent was totally awesome, but the English people involved in the experiment thought it were simply horrid. Why was this? Well, turns out that America used the scent to flavor candies, whereas the English used it to flavor wartime medicinal drugs…

So when scientists asked what they thought of the smell, Americans immediately associated it with the happy go lucky days of their pre-obese youth, whereas the English, in a suitably pessimistic stance, likened it to war, death, and painful doctors appointments. Lovely.

This strikes me as a rich and valuable area to be playing around with. However, It’s hard to produce something with smell and the internet that doesn’t seem novel and bordering on ridiculous (Consider the passing fads of older forms of media, scratch and sniff in print, smell-o-vision in television etc). I think this is why it seems attractive. Although smell is an extremely powerful, emotional and evocative sense, it’s still extremely chaotic, random and subjective.

Audio and visual culture tends to have a meticulously constructed language. A set of codes and conventions that enable clear communication to a mass of people. This doesn’t exist for smell, so the connotations and semantics of it as a more formalised tool for communication are still up in the air (Excuse the pun).

  With the ‘smell of success’ we started to ascociate the feeling of personal satisfaction (getting a re-tweet) with Glade’s fresh linen fragrance. Imagine this on a larger scale, where certain scents can provide ubiquitously understood ambient information – what does a wifi bubble smell like? How can smells purposefully aid your memory, warn you of danger and influence your mood?

Hello Internet of smells.

Posted on: Sep 5, 2011 at 10:33 AM


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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