Companies look to scent marketing to build memories, boost revenue
By Pauline Chiou, Special to The China Post
July 16, 2012, 11:51 am TWN
HONG KONG -- When you walk into a store, you may not realize that there's literally something in the air that's already trying to convince you to buy something.
The invisible force is something called scent marketing, a concept used in Europe and the U.S. but is still fairly new to Asia. The idea is to infuse a certain smell in a retail shop that makes a customer linger and more inclined to make a purchase.
Oriental Watch Co. is a large luxury watch retailer which has stores across Asia. The store hired a Hong Kong-based scent strategy company, Skywork Design Ltd., to create a store scent that captured the essence of the company. The lab created a special green tea smell for the store. Daniel Fong, creator of Skywork Design Ltd., felt that green tea mirrors the Chinese identity of Oriental Watch Co.
"When you see a watch, it's easy to forget it. But when you smell something, it's forever," Fong says.
"The smell goes directly to the emotional part of our brain."
For the past four months, Oriental Watch has used the green tea scent in all 12 of its Hong Kong stores. Salesman Ken To can't say definitively if the scent has led to a direct increase in sales but he is certain the scent relaxes customers. "We see customers are willing to stay longer at our store, especially in the area close to the machine (scent diffuser).
We can have more conversations with them and hopefully, we can make a sale," says To. "Our staff like it too. We have a stressful job because we're dealing with US$1000 to US$1,000,000 watches. So the scent helps lower the tension for the front-line staff."
After 20 years in the advertising business, Fong started Skywork Design last year to fill a niche he noticed was lacking in Hong Kong and China. He used his existing network of advertising clients and word of mouth to kick off his business. Today, his biggest clients are teen fashion store 2 percent, Oriental Watch Co., Peninsula Arcade and Hang Lung Properties. Fong says his young company became profitable four months after launching.
There are companies that create scents for hotels and casinos. Fong says their goal is to create a pleasant experience for guests. His company has a different target and approach.
"My strategy is not to focus on hotels because there are a lot of competitors focusing on hotels and property management. Our strategy is targeting the marketing people, to increase the sales and the branding of a company, mainly in retail stores."