AROMAgroup: How to Increase Sales Using Scents

Why can we overlook a banner ad, but unable to ignore a smell? What scent was in the air of Sochi Airport during the Olympics? How should a bank, a hospital, or a supermarket smell for people to like being there? We have discussed this and many more with Yana Korshunova, a representative of AROMAgroup, a company from the city of Ekaterinburg.

Yana Korshunova

A representative of AROMAgroup company

AROMAgroup company was founded 15 years ago. How did it get started?

Yes, it was in the year 2005. Back then, I studied in the International Business Department of the Ural State Technical University. I had to prepare marketing materials in German, and, in search of facts, I ran into an article about a German company that manufactured equipment and created scents in the field of sensory marketing. That subject caught my attention, I contacted them and ended up being representative of that company here, in the Ural Region. The sales increased fast, and shortly, we understood that we were ready for an independent journey and development of our own equipment.

Only the equipment, or the scents as well?

As of today, the production of scents in Russia is impossible, because all raw materials used in our industry are of European origin. We cooperate with four major perfume houses of France, Switzerland and Germany, and bring all fragrances therefrom. It is not obvious to the majority of people, but the worldwide-known brands do not produce scents themselves. There are perfume houses that create them for a hundred companies, from the very Yves Saint Laurent and Paco Rabanne to the companies specialized in the household chemical products. We are customers of those perfume houses as well.

Tell me a little bit about scent machines. Did they change a lot over 15 years?

The first equipment used both in Russia and worldwide worked on cold evaporation. It meant that we took some kind of scent vehicle, which was either a gel or a bottle of liquid with a wick introduced into it, and placed it into a cylinder. A fan and simple electronic equipment were installed on the top side. Back then, we cooperated with three contractors from Ekaterinburg: one company sliced steel tubes and thoroughly worked them, the other produced beautiful cap covers made of beech, and the third assembled them. I would like to note that our devices looked quite decently at that time, even better than the German counterparts that were on the market.

Since AROMAgroup was the only company that manufactured scent equipment in Russia, the industry-specific association of the USA invited us to visit its conferences. Back there, I was introduced to the products of the other companies, first of all, the US companies, the unquestionable leaders of that industry. So we got to manufacture the new type of equipment that worked on nebulation. In those devices, the perfume mixture under high pressure is broken up into the smallest invisible particles that fill a room. We had no technological capability to assemble such devices in Russia, and in the year 2013, we relocated the production facilities to China, because in that country a vast experience in the scents industry was accumulated. But it is only true for the standard and small scent machines. Here, in Ekaterinburg, we assemble the equipment that is destined for installation in the ventilation systems or for the aromatization of the air outdoors. Those are custom-made projects designed for a specific place.

And usually, who requests aromatizing of the air outdoors?

The most obvious places are the so-called coffee-to-go shops. Imagine yourself going down a street, the weather is chilly, snow is falling, and then there is a scent of hot chocolate, coffee, or mulled wine coming from somewhere. Your spirits immediately raise, you want to turn the corner and see where that nice scent comes from. This trick is actually very good, many people dream of installing such equipment at their place, but, unfortunately, not everyone can afford it. One such device costs about 100,000 rubles (about 1300 USD).

And what does the science say? Why do scents have so much influence on the success rate of business and the profits?

Let us look at it through a simple example. You come into a supermarket with a list of specific products. And then you smell the hot bread or the freshly brewed coffee. Even if you are not hungry at that moment, you will still respond to the smell by salivation and appetite induction, and you will most likely take some product from the shelf that was not initially on your list.

The point is, unlike the other organs of senses, the olfaction is connected to the limbic system of the brain that is also in charge of the subconscious responses. It means that we do not even have time to think, and the organism already responds to one or another smell. In ancient times, it helped people to survive, to understand immediately if the food is spoiled or if there is a fire somewhere. The smell also helps us to choose our sexual partner.

The point is, unlike the other organs of senses, the olfaction is connected to the limbic system of the brain that is also in charge of the subconscious responses. It means that we do not even have time to think, and the organism already responds to one or another smell.

Speaking of today’s world, the channels of communication between the brands and the consumers such as sight and hearing, are overloaded. There is even the term banner blindness. The brain simply refuses to notice the intense flow of advertising from a wide variety of vehicles that smites us. However, we are unable to physiologically filter the smells, unless we hold nose or contract the now trending illness that dampens olfaction. It's not all as easy as it sounds, though. The researches carried out in Western countries show that even if someone ceases to pick up the smells for some reason, the brain still perceives them and gives signals of danger if recognizes it.

It is therefore no wonder that humanity got to use smells for commercial ends. Moreover, scent marketing works well in other places besides hotels, restaurants and stores. It can be used in any industry: banks, non-food retail, healthcare and culture. It’s just that we work through the triggers other than the appetite. We select the smell in a way for a human to like being in the room, to obtain the emotions needed for that business.

If a bank is concerned, for example, the keywords are status and reliability. Those images can be made using the men’s perfume, sandalwood, wood scents, the smell of expensive leather. Children will draw their parents to a store if it smells of vanilla and chocolate from inside. Another good scent is melon bubble gum; it is cheerful, fresh, and raises spirits.

And what smell should be in a hospital?

Definitely, the most significant words, in that case, are safety and sterility. In your opinion, what scent is relatable to the cleanness?

The first thing that comes to my mind is mint and menthol.

That's right. Moreover, those associations were fostered in you by the marketing specialists as well, through all those slogans about the fresh mint and the frosty freshness. By the way, there is an anecdote told by the marketing specialists. When Procter & Gamble entered the post-Soviet market in the 90s, they could not understand why their excellent household chemical products sold so poorly. Then they carried out a study and found out that our women didn’t trust those products because they didn’t smell of chlorine! You know, any man or woman from our country knows: chlorine begets cleanness. So, the company had to aromatize its products to adapt them to meet the consumer’s demands, and only then, step by step, substitute the smell of chlorine with the scents of lemon, conifer needles and green apple. Mint became the symbol of cleanness later. However, if you ask someone of the younger generation what scent relates to the cleanness in their opinion, those will be rather some flowery hints like orchids, or even roses. Those changes are also the achievement of marketing specialists.

So, getting back to the medicine, sterility and safety relate first of all to the scents of citrus fruits, green apple, conifer needles, mint and freshly cut grass.

How is your work with customers organized?

To begin with, we identify the business tasks that they want to accomplish with our help. Normally, it is to increase income. Then, we see what scent triggers will help to achieve their goals. Speaking of the food retail and the restaurants, we act through the appetite. If the case in hand is, for example, a shoe shop or a jewelry store, we act through the emotions that encourage people to stay in that place for as long as possible and, consequently, to increase the probability of purchase. Of course, other factors, such as illumination and work of the staff, have their effect, but the scent is very important.

By the way, there is a huge catalogue on your website where one can find out what emotions are induced by one scent or another.

Yes, visit it, take a look into it. Speaking of the website, we created it over ten years ago, and its core was considerably outdated and required a significant upgrade. After all, our company is the leader in scent marketing, and our portal has to make it obvious. Until some point, we leveled it up ourselves as well as we could, but we have predictably hit the ceiling of possibilities and have gotten to search for a capable contractor who would undertake all works. It took us long to find a suitable company, but, thanks to the social networks, we found SyncWeb, and so far, we have been very pleased with our cooperation.

Why did it take you long to find suitable people?

We are big experts in our trade, but amateurs in IT, so it was important for us to find a competent and the most transparent partner who would honestly and clearly define the scope of works, their cost and stages. It was also important for me to cooperate with a company from our city instead of individual freelancers. Turns out, there are not so many such specialists in the market. The guys from Syncweb have already accomplished some objectives, and the website is mostly ready. We are currently making some modifications. I hope we will launch it before the new year.

Let us get back to the scents. Do you fall for the tricks of the scent marketing yourself?

I do, though I am fully aware of the tools through which one or another emotion is induced in me. And I have clearly undergone professional deformation. When I come into the lobby of a hotel, I always see scent machines. They are virtually everywhere, even in Turkey.

Did you ever happen to want to take a scent with you, to copy it?

Yes, of course, it is also a marketing trick used by many hotels. For example, Le Meridien, a US hotel chain, has created both its brand scent and soundtrack. Tourists can purchase it and take it home. The scent and the music will remind them of the place where they felt good and will make them choose a hotel of the same network again and again.

In general, a brand scent is very important for the network brands, and we always recommend our customers to emit one and the same scent in all places. So that a person who comes into a place in any city of the world could dive into a familiar and inviting atmosphere. For over ten years we have been cooperating with Linline clinics chain, and the scent of mandarin settled down there. Even their logo is blue and orange, so the scent fitted perfectly into the general idea.

Were there any cases when a scent did not work or the effect was adverse?

It happens, but not often. Normally, mistakes are made during the setting of the objective that the scent is supposed to accomplish. For example, a Japanese cuisine restaurant was one of our customers. So, the owner wanted to increase the average bill but was against using the coffee and pastry scents that normally help to do so. On the one hand, it was understandable: croissants were not on the menu of the restaurant, but that was exactly the scent that incited appetite and made people want to order a coffee and a dessert after the main course. It meant that they would eat sushi rolls anyway when they came to that place, but they had to be stimulated to buy more. If the objective was to emphasize the elegance and the special oriental atmosphere of that place, the scents of green tea and sakura would perfectly fit into the perfume composition, without a doubt. However, unfortunately, those scents do not accomplish the objective to increase the average bill of the restaurant.

What was the largest room that you ever aromatized?

They were many, and it is hard to recall one specific one. For example, the Sochi Airport that we aromatized before the Olympics, was among our major projects. In the city of Saratov, specialists of our company worked in a covered horse racing track where one of the oil companies was celebrating an anniversary. To begin with, they neutralized the smells that were inherent in that place. After that, they filled the room with the scent of the freshly cut grass, which fitted well into the case involving horses. The customer was pleased. We have also aromatized the solemn welcome ceremony for VIP guests that took place on the occasion of the opening of Zaryadye Park. Back there, we used the composition based on the men’s perfume to emphasize the importance and status of the event.

In general, a brand scent is very important for the network brands, and we always recommend our customers to emit one and the same scent in all places. So that a person who comes into a place in any city of the world could dive into a familiar and inviting atmosphere.

What did the Sochi Airport smell like?

Like piña colada with a hint of tanning lotion and a trail of cocoa and pineapple. It was a room where it was better to use the ventilation system for aromatizing so that to evenly distribute the scent in the entire area. Our old partner, Globus hypermarkets chain, from Moscow, works out the idea of scents even during the construction, and the specialists of our Moscow branch design the scent equipment for ventilation systems even at that time. Bread basket is one of the favorite scents of that chain. They also often use the gingersnap scent, especially when the cold weather sets in. By the way, though the New Year mood is relatable to the scents of mandarins and conifer needles around Russia, the capital city that sees itself as a part of Europe, prefers the scents of mulled wine and Christmas spices.

Are the exotic and weird scents, like mold, used somewhere?

Yes, this smell is also in our collection, as well as the scent of burnt rubber, moisture and railway. They are perfect for establishing the atmosphere needed during the exhibitions, theatrical productions, performances, in museums.

What the cost of a scent depends on?

On the number of its components. There is a great number of variations of seemingly one and the same scent. For example, next season we want to create new compositions based on orange. Our company makes requests to the perfume houses, they send samples of scents, where the scent of each “orange” will be different, and such a difference may be quite considerable. I wouldn’t lie if I said that a new scent is invented each week. The more components it includes, the more “round”, whole and natural it is. There may be over a hundred of such components. If a scent uses, say, ten hints, it will seem cheap, chemical. This is why one kilogram of the same “orange” can equally cost four euros and four hundred euros. One can relate the first scent to a cheap refresher, but when one inhales the second scent, there will be the association with tropical countries and fresh orange juice that one will want to drink at once.

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