I recently bought a purse from a large name department store. The bag is banished to the guest bedroom because it reeks. It will air out there for a month or so. This purse has been soaking in the scents of its store for a while. Many stores are scenting their air with fragrances.
This can be done by large units in air conditioning systems or small motion controlled units hiding under a shelf on a promotional display. There are a lot of companies out there delivering a myriad of devices and smells to businesses, this marketing technique is called ambient scenting and it’s taking off.
These fragrance pumping devices are found in stores, hotels, casinos, cruise ships and even public buildings. They may be trying to mask an unpleasant odor or they may be trying to seduce you into spending more of your money. They may also be making you sick, but more on that later.
Shopping Malls: ripe with ambient scenting
The concept is to use smells to create brand recognition. A signature scent that may evoke certain emotions or memories. My friend Kelly says that Cover Girl powder has a unique scent to it and when she smells it she instantly recalls Cover Girl and the positive feelings she has towards their makeup. Companies are taking scent branding beyond their products and are using it in their stores and promotional displays.
Most people know that the popular teen clothing store, Abercrombie & Fitch keeps their stores smelling of their cologne, Abercrombie’s Fierce. If you walk into one of these stores you will be greeted by their signature scent.
Scent Air, an ambient scenting company, boasts on their website about some of their customers.
- Sony Style Stores – a signature fragrance of “citrus, vanilla and other secret ingredients”
- Westin Hotels & Resorts – entrances use a white tea fragrance
- Four Points by Sheraton Hotels – lobby and common areas smells of “Pinwheels in the Breeze”, a Yankee Candle designed signature scent
- Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino – Uses a HVAC system to pump “Coconut Spice” through 135,000 square feet
- Bloomingdale’s– Baby Department smells like baby powder, coconut in the swimsuit section, and Lilac fragrance in Lingerie. Seasonal scents like chocolate, pine and sugar cookies waft there as well.
- Hard Rock Hotel Universal Orlando – Smell of “Ocean” in the lobby and “sugar cookie” and “waffle cone” near the ice cream shop.
- Celebration Health MRI facility – smells of “ocean” and “coconut” to relax patients receiving MRI’s.
Scent air offers many ways to distribute fragrances from devices that can be hooked up to large building air conditioning systems with intensity controls to point of purchase sprayers that can be mounted on a shelf display and be triggered by motion sensors. Scent air is so high-tech they custom make units large enough for theme parks and the military to use in simulation training. They even created scent distribution devices for street billboards. Scent air is just one of many companies offering ambient scenting devices.
Another company named Prolitec created scents for a large retailer in Europe comparable to Wal-Mart. They created a “Wine Cellar” scent for the wine section and “Nature After Rain” for the checkout line. For hotels, Prolitec claims it turned a pool’s chlorine smell into fresh flowers and masked bad tobacco and moldy odor. Prolitec also supplies a major casino in the Southeast with ambient scenting to hide tobacco smells there. Prolitec suggests its products to cruise ships, malls, fitness centers, schools, health care facilities, theatres, and airports. Here are some of Prolitec’s clients they have listed on their website…
- Abercrombie & Fitch
- Diane Von Furstenberg
- The Breakers
- Palm Beach
- MGM Grand Hotel & Casino
- Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
- Bliss Spa
- GE Healthcare
- Lifeline Fitness
- Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
- Henry County Health Center
Event planners may contact another scenting company called Scentevents for their parties. They have quite a list of events on their website which they provided this service. It ranges from weddings to movie premieres to theme parks to museums. They carry a wide range of scents including crayons, rotten fish, fresh-cut grass and bubble gum.
Ambient scenting may just be an interesting marketing technique to most people but it can make some sick. Many people suffer from allergies, asthma, migraine headaches and multiple chemical sensitivities. All of these can be triggered or made worse by fragrances. When someone walks into an establishment there is no way of knowing whether fragrances are being pumped through the air.
I get headaches triggered by fragrances. Trips to certain businesses mean I will be popping Excedrin before the afternoon is over. I thought it was probably the fragrances of the other people in the store but now I suspect it has to do with the fragrances these stores are using. I am now a lot more savvy to this and avoid those stores. I wonder if these businesses even give consideration to people like me. Do they think about the customers they might be losing because their marketing technique makes them ill?
I’m not saying all scents are evil. I enjoy the vanilla wafting through the air from Ben N Jerry ice cream shops. That fragrance does not give me headaches, maybe it’s just natural vanilla?
If you are like me and suspect an establishment is using a fragrance that is making you sick, please speak up. Tell the manager. Write the corporation. That business would most likely want to know and if enough people complain perhaps it will create change.
And for those businesses using Ambient Scenting, it would be nice if you disclosed it somehow. A sticker in your storefront window perhaps or a disclaimer on your website. I would love to know before I plan a cruise or book a night at a hotel whether or not they use this kind of scenting. I know this will likely never happen but it really should.
Ambient Scenting is widespread, don’t take my word for it…. here are some links to check out and as always your comments are welcome.
If you want to know more about how fragrances can affect your health, how prevalent scents are in our society, or how to have a fragrance free lifestyle please browse other articles on this blog “Smell Inc. The Perfuming of America”.