Of our five senses, it is arguably our sense of smell that is the least thought about or understood. This is especially so when it comes to event planning: just how can these underrated features of our bodies serve to help us organize a high-quality event?
Together with taste, smell is the oldest sense. It has been argued that this was crucial in our evolutionary history and the survival of our species. Research has also shown that our noses can detect up to 1 trillion different smells.
Considering how what we smell can affect us, either consciously or subconsciously, in such dramatic ways, it is imperative that event organizers find some way to tap into this to manipulate the reactions and emotions of their guests and audiences.
“Smell subconsciously facilitates a variety of human social interactions. People use smell to assess a person’s likability, sexual attractiveness and emotional state. They can also use scent to distinguish a stranger from a friend, a male from a female and some on who is gay from someone who is straight.” –Josie Glausiusz (http://theunboundedspirit.com/smell-pheromones-and-the-subconscious-influence-of-scents/)
Let’s take Swissôtel as a case study. The Swissôtel brand is intentionally extended to include the world of smells as the company sought to design a scent that was consistent with the projection of their image and at the same time unmistakably theirs. This results in a olfactory cocktail that is pumped throughout each individual hotel, “right down to the smell of the Swiss pine specified for the top-tier membership gift box”.
If we are talking high-end events, then perhaps this is not such a revolutionary idea. Scent design companies such as Design in Scent or NWK already afford you to opportunity to create that special scent or smell for your brand or your event.
The strategy is simple: to pick and combine scents and smells that will rouse emotions and evoke memories of those who encounter them. It is a strategy we can pick out immediately from Swissôtel’s example. The use of Swiss pine is an obvious enough choice, but other more offbeat choices (like the smell of money), are added in to give what wafts through its buildings a truly remarkable characteristic.
When organizing your own event, make sure you have a coherent idea of what you want the theme and story to be about. Once you have that, go about crafting it from the nose’s perspective as well. If resources and budgets allow, engage a professional scent designer to help tell this story. And even if this is impossible, be creative and use smell imaginatively. Well-placed flowers, scented candles, incense or any scent producer you can think of that will help build the theme and story arc can make a big difference.
It isn’t immediately obvious, but use the sense of smell to your advantage and leave your guests and audiences spellbound, perhaps in ways they don’t even know about.