Making Sense of Hotel Scents: How Brands Woo You With Smell

Sniff, sniff. What’s that smell? Keep reading to find out! Ever wonder if that hint of lavender you detect when you enter a particular hotel is a faint whiff of lovely perfume? Most likely it’s not — what you smell is the subtle odor of brand marketing. Yes, hotels brand get you with design and decor, but your nose also is enticed into brand loyalty.

This is how it works according to Heather Balsley , SVP of America’s Brand Management for InterContinental Hotels Group(IHG) , who was kind enough to explain the process of scent selection to us.

How does the process work to determine a scent for a hotel?

All of the brands in the IHG portfolio cater to a specific target guest and several of those brands offer a different scent option tailored to their particular guest’s needs and expectations. While at InterContinental Hotels & Resorts each property can create their own signature scent, Hotel Indigo properties can choose from four signature scents each quarter and EVEN Hotels, Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express brands offer the same scent across all properties globally, year-round to create a consistent and common experience for guests.

Do scents really help build brand loyalty?

Research showed that 35 percent of Fortune 500 brands had adopted some level of sensory branding philosophy. The research also showed that after sight – which naturally was a key part of the brands’ sensory experience already – smell was the most important of the five senses and responsible for a large part of a consumer’s emotional response to a brand.

Balsey then explained that scents have actual effects, in additional to smelling lovely. For example:

Sage notes clear the mind, are uplifting, and relieve depression.
Bergamot is known as nature’s sedative. It relaxes the brain waves and is very calming.
Peppermint is known to improve physical performance and increase alertness and concentration.
Citrus oils like orange and lemon are considered ‘pick me ups’ and stimulate brain waves.
Rosemary stimulates the nervous system and increases energy and memory.

So how do the various IHG hotels specifically seduce your nose? Next time you visit, try to detect the following aromas:

· Holiday Inn: blend of citrus and white tea, with subtle undercurrents of herbs, perilla leaf, woods and a sensual musk.

· Holiday Inn Express: blend of green tea, sweet grass and citrus with a hint of green herbs and woods.

· The InterContinental Boston: white ginger ylang as its hotel scent because of its subtle yet distinctive smell.

· Hotel Indigo: Scents are updated quarterly. Examples of the four scents currently in use are:

1. Lavender de Provence – The full body and texture of lavender wrapped in a veil of creamy sandalwood
2. Noel – Citrus top notes mixed with warm spices and balsam fir
3. Sugar Cookie – The aroma of fresh baked sugar cookies, right down to the crystal sugar on top
4. Cranberry Apple Marmalade – A fruity compote of spiced apples, and tart cranberry

· The InterContinental New York Times Square: hotel changes scents each season and receives them from a company called Aromasys. White tea is the current scent being featured on property and it was specifically made for the InterContinental New York hotel. During the holiday season, the hotel features the “Winter Woods” scent, which complements the lobby greenery and decorations with scents of evergreen and earth.

Andrew Gajary, general manager of the InterContinental New York Times Square, added this about the process:

“When beginning the process of determining a scent for a hotel, key factors that play into consideration are the hotel’s location and the property’s overall theme. Based on these elements, we then work with experts in the field to bring to life those characteristics through aromas, which trigger guests’ olfactory system (also known as sense of smell). Being a modern midtown hotel with a strong environmental focus, our custom scent pulls together aromas, including various floral, to create an environment that is relaxing (antithetical to the busy New York streets), welcoming (ensuring guests feel at home) and modern (clean and fresh).”

So next time you go to a wonderful smelling hotel, know that they created that scent with you in mind.


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