An Interview with Ed Burke – Scent Marketing

By David Lewis

From Chairman Dr David Lewis

Dr Lewis talks to Ed Burke, Director of Communications at ScentAir

In this blog, the second one in which I discuss key retailing and marketing topics with leaders in their field, I’d like to introduce you to Ed Burke Marketing Director of ScentAir, the global leader in scent marketing.

ScentAir was founded in the mid-1990’s by David Martin, an astrophysicist with a background in rocket science. After working for one of the big US firms, he became Disney Imaginer charged with delivering scents for Disney and spent several years developing scents, for everything from rides to shops, before leaving to set up in business for himself. His goal was to develop products and solutions that would help any kind of business deliver scent as part of their customer experience. Today, ScentAir operates in 109 countries, serves more than 50,000 customers world wide and produces some five billion enduring ‘aroma impressions’ each year.

They create the aromas you will encounter in most of the world’s major hotel brands as well as boutique groups and other chains. They also work closely with the casino industry. Whether you’re in Macau or Las Vegas or any other gaming centre in the world, when you walk into a casino you’re going to be surrounded by an aroma from ScentAir.
In his Charlotte, North Carolina, office Ed tells me how they design a bespoke scent to match the mood a client wants to achieve.

“There is an element of science and an element of art,” he explains, citing as an example one of their many success stories, their work with fashion retailer Hugo Boss. “We asked questions like: Why does a customer choose HB? Why would they walk in through the door versus another brand? What does it represent to them? What are the elements of the store and the clothing and the experience which deliver that promise?”
The answers they came up with were that the brand was typified by, “luxury, style, discerning quality and exclusivity”.

With this in mind they began to narrow down fragrances, rejecting anything bright and citrusy as not being sufficiently sexy and anything too floral as too much like perfume.
“We looked at a lot of rich woods and some spices and some notes along those lines, and we finally came up with Pamboti Wood from Africa. It is a very rich, clean, almost decadent fragrance, unique, luxurious and very interesting.”

“What about enhancing the shopping experience?” I ask him.
“In malls we can have one entrance smelling one way and then another area smelling another way. Let’s say you wanted four or five different areas within the mall with different scents, but then you also wanted each retailer to have their own scent. We have a number of different delivery systems that could help accomplish all of that. We can be very precise. We can scent an area as small as a tiny dental office all the way up to the grandest spaces, the largest malls. To see the overall reaction and impression when people walk into spaces and they just feel good and comfortable.

Observing that when your scent is a part of the experience is a very, very cool experience.”
From a neuromarketing viewpoint, one interesting aspect of Scentair’s work is the fact that customers can be powerfully influenced by an the aroma without ever being aware of the fact. In a casino, for example, the right aroma not only makes gambling more exciting and pleasurable but also causes patrons to part with more money!
“We’re taking all these subtle cues into our brain and it’s obviously working overtime to analyse and then emote a response or whatever it is to each of those stimuli. That’s how we perceive environments in general. So much is going on beneath the surface of what we’re actively consciously perceiving. It’s a discussion we have with a lot of our customers where it would be wonderful if every single client or consumer walked into a business and said to themselves: ‘I like being in here and I like being in here because it smells great.’

At the end of the day we think we’re doing our job if customers are really feeling comfortable. Then you’re going to be driving the things you want to drive, if it’s loyalty or repeat visits or longer dwell times or whatever the goal may be.”


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