Step in through the doors of Good Earth at the Raghuvanshi Mills Compound in Mumbai, and a subtle scent suffuses the space. It is a layered smell—slightly spicy, slightly sweet. There is soft music, and the overhead lights bathe the products in a warm glow. And you relax upon entering the store. It is simply part of the process of soothing shoppers into enjoying their time at the store. The fragrance has a “woody base accented by top notes of bergamot and lavender”, says Beenu Bawa, marketing director of Good Earth. She explains that this is their signature fragrance, and was created by Anita Lal, who founded this home décor chain of stores.
“It is integral to the Good Earth experience,” says Bawa, “very much part of our branding.” Good Earth is not alone— many companies are beginning to realize the potential of smell in building a brand. The trend is called “full sensory branding” and means all five senses are taken into account in brand building, including the sense of smell.
Inhale:The floral scent in The Imperial’s lobby is not from the arrangements.
Blossom Kochhar, creator of the AromaMagic beauty line, is no stranger to smells. She has built her beauty products line on the strength of smells. “Earlier, there used to be a lot of folklore—make someone smell this and they’ll fall in love with you—but now we have all sorts of scientific research to prove the effect smell has on us.”
Kochhar says the sense of smell is very powerful because its impact on humans is threefold. First, smell acts as a hunger stimulant—you smell good food and your mouth starts watering. Second, pleasant smells lift your mood. Kochhar adds that nothing makes her feel better than the smell of fresh jasmine in summer. Finally, it affects our memory—the smell of good coffee can evoke an image of a beloved uncle who drank coffee.
Research centres have sprung up in the US to study the effects of smell and how they can be used for what is called “scent marketing”. The website of the Chicago-based Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation states that it has conducted hundreds of experiments on human reactions to scents. The foundation claims to have discovered that a combination of lavender and pumpkin pie smells enhances male sexual response, and inhaling the scent of green apples reduces migraines. AromaSys Inc., another US-based company, says on its website that scents have an effect on our mental state. Tests conducted by the company showed that the fragrance of vanilla calmed patients undergoing MRIs and athletes performed better after they had smelt peppermint.
Based on its research, AromaSys markets “brandscents” or “customized aromatic experiences that will extend the emotional impact of your interior”. They can install a machine in a building’s air circulation system and pump a signature scent associated with the company.
AromaSys’ client list includes LVMH stores, Intercontinental Hotels and Las Vegas casinos such as the Mandalay Bay and the Bellagio.
Many luxury hotels in India have also caught on to the trend. Enormous floral arrangements in the centre of the lobby capture the eye at The Imperial hotel in New Delhi. But the fragrance of jasmine in the air does not originate from the flowers; smell diffusers have been discreetly placed around the lobby.
At the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower in Mumbai, all public areas are scented with mandarin oil to add a hint of the exotic. The hotel sources its scent from Forest Essentials, a line of skincare and essential oil products based on ayurvedic principles.
One potential problem with odorizing your home with a certain fragrance could be that, like most things, what smells good to one person might make another wrinkle his nose. Many people dislike certain smells and many even have allergic reactions to them.
However, Sumana Bakshi, executive housekeeper at the Taj, says that no guest has ever complained about the fragrance being too strong, because “it’s a very delicate smell”. The scent has become the signature fragrance for the entire Taj chain of hotels.
Neha Sood, assistant manager at Forest Essentials, who is in charge of its hotel business, says the company has never had complaints about allergic reactions because its fragrances are derived from essential oils, not perfumes. She points out that the amount of oil released by the diffuser can be regulated depending on the size of the room—two or three drops of oil might suffice for a smaller space, whereas 12-15 drops could be used in a hotel lobby.
So, get ready in the days ahead to find fragrance and smell as integral to interior décor as the colour of the walls.
• Imperial Hotel boutique store: Imperial oil, Rs3,500 for 300ml
• Forest Essentials: Eucalyptus, sandalwood, or mandarin oil, Rs375 for 15ml
• Good Earth: Eucalyptus Essence oil, Rs143 for 15ml; Rose Essence oil, Rs1,636 for 15ml
• AromaMagic: Bridal Bouquette, a combination of geranium, lavender, cinnamon, clove and ylang ylang, Rs150 for 15ml; Morning Dew, a combination of lavender, petitgrain, eucalyptus and rosemary, Rs150 for 15 ml.