On June 18, Harvard Professor David Edwards and former student Rachel Field successfully sent “a sniff of a New York breakfast” across the Atlantic Ocean through technology their company developed to “harness the evocative power of smell.” Called the oPhone, the device is in a crowd-funding stage and is expected to go into production next year. Harvard Gazette Staff Writer Alvin Powell explains how it works in “Now Available On The Web? Smells”:“It begins with the oSnap app for iPhones (an android version is in development) that allows a user to create an oNote, consisting of a photograph and a smell created out of a palette of 32 scents available in the app that can be combined in 300,000 possible combinations. The sender then forwards the oNote to an oPhone — the hardware portion of the enterprise, which re-creates the aroma from the oSnap app. The key component of the oPhone is the oChip, which creates the actual smell.”
The oPhone has caught the eyes of officials in aromatic industries like wine and coffee, not surprisingly. But marketers have long recognized the power of scent and its properties. Researchers have found that introducing certain scents gets people to buy more in a retail setting and gamble more in a casino, and that scent increases learning potential and attentiveness. The oPhone tech is cool, too: in theory, marketers looking to reinforce a brand experience outside of the face-to-face environment could do so with, say, a follow-up coupon offer and a scented message. How about a puff of cotton candy to remind you of that auto activation at the state fair? Or a whiff of tequila to get you excited about the VIP tasting experience. Or, a tantalizing note of fresh baked beignets to drive registrations to your conference in New Orleans.
Whether the oPhone technology flies or flops, it’s a good reminder of the powerful role scent can play in a live brand engagement. And that it’s not totally uncharted territory.
Take the launch of KFC’s first-ever “scent-focused” pilot program, which targeted corporate mailrooms in a variety of cities with pre-lunch mail drops. The idea: Just the smell of the food in the office would promote conversation about the brand and make workers more apt to remember the $2.99 Deal Meal in place at the time. Crest used citrus, peppermint, cinnamon and vanilla mint smells to bring to life its toothpaste flavors on a mobile tour; one-third of the consumers who visited the truck mentioned the scent in post-event surveys. And last summer, one of the top activations at Baltimore’s Artscape was from Mrs. Meyer’s. The all-natural cleaning products brand offered a hand washing station where consumers could clean up their tired hands with fragrant liquid soap. Potted herbs dotted the footprint, too, all to reinforce through sight, sound and smell, the brand’s all-natural message.
Fresh scents amid the sweltering heat of a city summer? Smells like influence to me.
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“Now Available On The Web? Smells” [Harvard Gazette]