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Scent and Shopping

by Laura Skelton

The Built Environment: Final Thesis


Professor David Smiley
April 20, 2006
Scent and Shopping

Cultures of Scent 3

Food 4

Perfume 5

Incense 6

Street 7

Decay 8

Scent Architecture and Gender 9

Deodorization 12

Re-Odorization 13

Scent and Retail

Scent-Marketing 17

Scent Design Technology 20

Subliminal Scenting 22

Brand Identity Scenting 24

Evocative Scenting 27

Implications

Aura and Autheniticity 30

Optimized Air 36

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Cultures of Scent

Recent developments in the use of scent in retail architecture stem from a desire

to resurrect the memory of the imagined aura of traditional cultures of scent. These

include the culture of food, perfume, incense, streets, and decay. Smells of food emanate

from the kitchen hearth and remind us of home and feminine domesticity. Perfume is tied

to the boudoir, with connotations of sensuality and femininity. Incense exists in holy

spaces, and is connected with sacrament and ritual. The smell of the street is the signature

distinction of a neighborhood or city. The stench of decay radiates from the corpses of the

morgue or the cemetery, or from garbage and waste, acting as an offensive reminder of

the passage of time. The particular smells of a space define it as a particular type of place,

connecting the scent cultures of food, perfume, incense, street, and decay to the perceived

or imagined aura of a place.

In "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," Walter Benjamin

defined aura and authenticity, and examined how the perceptions and status of these have

changed in an age where objects no longer have a unique status, and where serial

reproduction is possible.1 The ideas he presents about aura and authenticity and the status

of the "original" in connection with the work of art easily translate into the realm of

"natural" and "artificial" smells. They deal directly with the source of much of the

uneasiness and distrust that some people feel towards the use of artificial scents and

scent-producing machinery in their environments. When the cultures of scent are no

longer bound to the places within which they traditionally existed, the authenticity of the

very identity of the place is thrown into question. With the possibility of serially

1
Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction."

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reproducing smells of food, perfume, incense, streets, and decay, the unique scent-

identity that once made a place special and gave it its auratic qualities is eliminated. The

emergence of scent machine technology problematizes the idea of the aura of place in

contemporary society. The implications that Benjamin sees of mechanical reproduction's

profound effect on the kinds of art that are produced and on the way we perceive things

in general suggest parallel readings of the effect of the mechanical reproduction of

smells.

Food

Scent has always had strong ties to the aromas of food. Early memories of

architectural origins center around the hearth.2 Its warm smells of cooking foods fill the

space of the interior and become closely affiliated with ideas of domesticity and

nourishment. Food smells are said to remind us of home.

The smell of food cooking in the kitchen is a form of unintentional though

important sensory experience that has roots extending back indefinitely. This form of

smell is tied closely with the programming of our brain.3 It is thought that our large brains

developed originally to distinguish between different smells, and so scent is tied to a very

primitive area of our brains.4 Scent is also involved in our experience of food

consumption, and so its enticements and aversions are central to the quest for

nourishment and the balancing of a diet. Food smells can indicate the content of a

bubbling pot as well as how well it has been tended, foreshadowing the dinner to come.

2
McEwen, Indra Kagis. "Between Movement and Fixity: The Place for Order." Socrates'
Ancestor: An Essay on Architectural Beginnings. MIT Press, 1993, p. 101.
3
Lindstrom, Martin. BRANDsense: Build Powerful Brands through Touch, Taste, Smell,
Sight, and Sound. New York: Free Press, 2005, p. 24.
4
Ackerman, Diane. A Natural History of the Senses. New York: Random House, 1990,
p. 9-11

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In the context of the city, food smells historically relate to market spaces. The smells of

all of the different kinds of produce, fish, poultry, and meats convey important

information about their quality and their freshness.

Food smells have also been intentionally manipulated for centuries through the

use of specially prepared spices. The prices the aristocracy was willing to pay for

imported spices is in itself an indication of how much value has always been placed on

creating positive smells in the context of food. Spices were used to flavor food in general,

to prevent spoilage, and to cover up bad tastes5.

Perfume

The perfumed boudoir is the connotation raised by the sensual aspect of scent.

The use of perfume for cosmetic enhancement is an ancient practice, dating back to

before the time of ancient Egypt6. The unintentional scents of pheromones and body

odors play a large part in animal and human sexuality and the game of seduction. These

aspects are enhanced in our society through intentional manipulations of scent to exert

influence over those surrounding. Some cultures have rituals of perfuming endowed with

magic powers of seduction7. Violets have been particularly prized as sensual, partly due

to the difficulty in creating a perfume out of the volatile floral essence8. This extended

into architecture in the form of the sensuous female space of the dressing room, gently

scented by the cosmetics of the woman.

5
Le Guérer, Annick. Scent: The Mysterious and Essential Powers of Smell. London:
Chatto & Windus, 1993, p. 71.
6
Forbes, R.J. "Cosmetics and Perfumes in Antiquity." Studies in Ancient Technology.
Vol. 3. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1965, p. 2.
7
Le Guérer, 16.
8
Ackerman, p. 9-11.

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Perfume and the space of the boudoir connote a sense of privacy and of intimacy.

The individual scent of a woman combined with the intentional scent of her particular

perfume infuses the space of the boudoir, tantalizing and inviting one inside.

Incense

Worship spaces have a long history of the use of scent to control the sensory

atmosphere. The use of incense dates back through the history of churches to that of

ancient temples. Incense is often burned during services in the Christian church,

symbolizing a connection to heaven through the rising smoke, while simultaneously

using this sensory connection to put worshippers in mind of a higher realm. The recipe

for kyphi, an Egyptian perfume, is inscribed in the walls of a temple there where priest-

perfumers do their work9. The Egyptians referred to perfume as the "fragrance of the

Gods"10. The formula for the perfume to be burned in the Jewish temple was given

directly to Moses, and it was only to be used in the temple11. The connotation of this scent

was restricted to the holy space of the temple, and its sweet odor was to be associated

only with God. Paradise was supposed to be scented with sweet odors12. The temples of

Islam had rose-scented mortar, while that of Babylonian temples was scented with

perfumes13.

Emperors capitalized on the powerful connotations of scent in the creation of their

characteristic spaces. Nero, at dinner parties, would install pipes to conduct perfumes to

9
Le Guérer, 111.
10
Forbes, 8.
11
Le Guérer, 115.
12
Le Guérer, 121.
13
Ackerman, 36.

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diners at each plate14. He also scented his palace with rose petals15. Cleopatra is said to

have been particularly devoted to the use of perfumes, scenting her entire body, lining her

walls with roses, and scenting the sails of her ship16. Temples in China were built of

unlaquered cedarwood, which emitted a sweet scent17. The doors of a palace in

Khorsabad were so scented that they perfumed the air when they were opened and

closed18.

Street

The aura of the city, its distinctive smell that triggers memories in the mind of a

particular place, has existed as long as the city itself.19 Even today, the smell of New

York in the summer brings instant recollections to anyone's mind who has been in the

city during the hottest months of the year. The scent of different neighborhoods in

Chicago communicates the ethnicity of their inhabitants through the residual odors of

cooking spices and the stalls of street vendors. Industrial cities can be smelled from miles

away as the nose picks of traces of chemicals and exhaust carried by the air. The "wet

soot, dank cold stones of London; the sea brine and stagnant water of Amsterdam; the

sweat-soaked felt boots and sourish fetid bodies of Moscow; the dead incense and ancient

dust of Florence; the stale beer, boiled pigs' feet and sauerkraut of Munich, and the bitter

black coffee of Rio de Janeiro" all give an immediate sense of the atmosphere of a

14
Forbes, 29.
15
Ackerman, 36.
16
Ackerman, 59.
17
Ackerman, 60.
18
Ackerman, 60.
19
Illich, Ivan. H2O and the Waters of Forgetfulness: Reflections on the Historicity of
"Stuff". Dallas: The Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, 1985, p. 47.

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place.20 As Ivan Illich writes, "Odor is a trace that dwelling leaves on the environment."21

The scent of the street is an instantaneous indicator of the use of a space, the hygiene of

the inhabitants, and the types of cooking that goes on. This city aura locks the memory of

the street in the mind of the visitor and the resident alike, each assured that nowhere else

can this experience be had but in the particular block, neighborhood, or city in which it is

found.

Decay

Parallel to the notion that pleasant smells signify sanctity was the idea that evil

stank. The scent of decay came from hell, witches' dens, graveyards, sewers, garbage

dumps, and sick wards. Vivid descriptions of hellish regions often mentioned their

horrible, rotting, sulpherous stench. Witches emitted satanic odors and carefully

cultivated noxious breath to use as a weapon. They developed bodily stench from

spending time collecting ingredients for their deadly brews from graveyards and

gallows22. The idea of the mine as an abyss of hell is referenced in one early 19th century

story. When a young man looks into the entrance to the deep mine, he sees that "In the

abyss there were stones—slag, or burned-out ores—lying around in a wild jumble, and

sulfurous gases rose steadily from the depths as if a hellish brew were boiling, the vapors

of which were poisoning all of nature's green delights"23. Just like the priests created

pleasant fragrances to waft through the holy spaces, witches created foul-smelling brews

to work evil powers.

20
Lohmann, Karl. "The Scents of the Cities." The American City & Country. Dec 1954,
p. 54.
21
Illich, 51.
22
Le Guérer, 5.
23
Hoffmann, 311.

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This idea of bad scent as connected to evil and dangerous things carried into early

theories of medicine. Physicians believed that diseases were caused by "bad air" or

miasma. It was common knowledge that smelling foul odors actually made people sick24.

The congestion of cities and the lack of sanitization methods led to the concentration of

graves, sewage, garbage, and smoke that fouled the air of the city25. The spread of the

plague and the failure in efforts to combat it led doctors to try many tactics, such as the

burning of incense and the use of perfumes to ward off the disease-causing stench26.

Floors of castles in the medieval age were strewn with rushes, lavender, and thyme to

ward off typhus27.

Scent Architecture and Gender

The changing role of scent in society, and particularly in architecture, is closely

linked to gender roles and their connections to rationalism and the condemnation of the

sensual. The scent-cultures of food, perfume, incense, street, and decay were rejected by

the Platonic pursuit of pure, rational form, which scorned odors as vulgar and feminine.28

Following this mode of thought, Alberti's treatise on techniques of perspective

construction helped to set the path for architecture for centuries. Architecture ceased to be

conceived as a habitable space, and became the purely visual-rational form of plan,

section, and perspective drawing. This mindset infuses modernist ideology as well, with

an increased reliance on the photograph as the defining lens through which architecture is

24
Le Guérer, 40.
25
Illich, 54-57.
26
Le Guérer, 59.
27
Ackerman, 25.
28
Aamodt, Mette. "Architecture Smells." Immaterial/Ultramaterial: Architecture, Design,
and Materials. Ed. Toshiko Mori. New York: Harvard Design School in association with
George Braziller, 2002, p. 66.

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viewed. The traditional ideas of the Greeks of architecture and the city as being defined

through movement, through a communal ritual dance weaving the city together, was

replaced by a static, sense-deprived, visual conception of architecture as pure form

existing in a world without habitation or decay.29 Architects attempted to elevate the

practice of architecture to the rational level of pure form, into an otherworldly realm of

harmonious lines and planes. This visual hegemony perpetuated throughout the majority

of the western architectural tradition.

Because of this rationalist tradition, and because of the power status of men in

architecture, the history of western architecture is the history of masculine architecture.

Masculine architecture dominates. It is conceived from the exterior, as a display of

power, rationality, and grandeur.30 It is visual architecture, perceived from a distance, as

pure rational form descended to earth to rest upon a hill or in a city square. The eye

perceives the underlying order and the exercise of control. However, this masculine

architecture is not inherently conducive to dwelling. Many see this rationalistic masculine

world as "alien, uncomfortable, and even dangerous."31 It is cold, without personality, and

does not acknowledge real-world human experience. As Ivan Illich writes, "Unlike the

architect who constructed a palace to suit the aura of his wealthy patron, the new architect

constructed a shelter for a yet unidentified resident who was supposed to be without

odor."32 Modernism is a deodorized architecture, with clean lines and white walls

expressing the sensory purity of the form.

29
McEwen, p. 81.
30
Betsky, Aaron. Building Sex: Men, Women, Architecture, and the Construction of
Sexuality. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1995, p. xii.
31
Betsky, xii.
32
Illich, 54.

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Parallel to the overt tradition of western architecture, the masculine tradition, is

the tradition of the decoration of the interior. This is feminine architecture, the

architecture of dwelling.33 According to Aaron Betsky, it was the role of women "to make

livable the world men made."34 This involved gathering objects that evoke memories,

such as photographs and paintings, lining walls with textiles to soften and warm the

interior space, and arranging the home to be pleasing to the senses, as a refuge from the

harsh exterior world. The room lined with a carpet, woven wall-hangings, curtains,

pillows, soft upholstered furniture, and blankets, evokes the interiority of the womb

space, and acts as the perfect counterpoint to masculine architecture. Female architecture

is not about visual dominance and the view from a distance. The separation required for

the apprehension of a totalistic view is impossible in the interior realm of the feminine.

The interior dwelling spaces by their very nature connect physically with the body, and

are apprehended bit by bit through inhabitation. The world of women is the world of the

home, the space that makes dwelling possible, and mediates the cold abstraction of

masculine space and human needs for comfort and a sense of habitation.

An architecture that recognizes the human potential for a multi-sensory

connection with a physical space is inherently feminine. Instead of mandating distance as

masculine architecture does, multi-sensory architecture necessitates a close physical

intimacy with the materials of the interior. Scent architecture, architecture apprehended

through the sense of smell, is thoroughly feminine. Scent is a primitive, irrational scent,

linked directly in the brain to the centers of memory and emotion. With scent, we feel and

remember before we rationalize, nearly opposite the process of visual perception. Scent

33
Betsky, xiv.
34
Betsky, xiii.

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architecture requires the inhabitation of a space and the imbibing of its air. Scent

architecture is always interior, even when it occurs outdoors, since it is about the sensory

qualities of the air which fills a space and transmits to us the particles picked up from the

objects which coexist with us in the space. Scent is inherently connected to domesticity.

Food-scents emanate from the hearth, the traditional center around which the home

revolves. Perfume-scents waft from the boudoir, the epitome of intimate interiority. Scent

architecture rejects the masculine hegemony of the visual, recognizing other aspects of

the human need to dwell.

Deodorization

The conception of bad smells as dangerous, and needing to be covered by

perfumes, shifted during the time of the Enlightenment to an ideal of odorlessness35. No

longer was the city and the body to be drenched in characteristic scents, creating an aura

of place. The odors of the city that act as signs of the patterns of use of the inhabitants

were to be effaced. The ideal city conveyed nothing to the nose, and thereby relieved it

from the need to be bombarded by the undesirable information of the city. Paris in the

Enlightenment went about paving and whitewashing the entire city in order to rid it of

noxious odors and to make it seem more sanitary36. This process was only furthered by

the advent of refrigeration technology. The traditional scent of the marketplace, with its

information about the freshness and quality of the foods for sale, was replaced by a

deodorized, whitewashed space, perfectly clean but perfectly bland. However, this new

deodorized city lost much of the emotional ties that smell can bind to the memory. Even

35
Illich, 47.
36
El-Khoury, Rodolphe. "Polish and Deodorize: Paving the City in Late-Eighteenth-
Century France." Assemblage 31 (1997): 6-15, p. 7.

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without being able to identify a particular smell, we can immediately recall the place it

emanates from if we smell it again37. This rationalist need to deodorize the cityscape

created a prejudice against odor and a desire to rid all places of their defining smells.

Along with the hygienic process of deodorization, the evocative, defining odors of

the pre-enlightenment city were obliterated from the perceptual realm. The aura of the

city, its distinctive odor that set it apart from every other place and defined its

specialness, was stripped away. The deodorized city, although it lacked the sickening

stench of decomposition and decay, also lacked the sweet smells of food, the indications

of habitation, and the fragrance of perfume. City dwellers increasingly experienced

sensory deprivation, and became more and more detached from the intimate connections

they once had with the spaces and objects of their daily lives, their interactions limited

solely to visual perception.38

Re-Odorization

After a long process of attempts at deodorization of the city, the body, and the

retail environment, a new trend emerged in scent design. The modern ideals of city life

trumpeted sanitation and cleanliness, and bound them to ideals of deodorized space.

However, something seemed to be lost in the process. Writers recalled the aura of the city

in a nostalgic way, and wrote about the ability of the smell of a certain neighborhood to

instantly trigger memories and associations of place. Marcel Proust, in his novel Swann's

Way, writes about his plunge into vivid memory triggered by the smell of a Madeleine.

Writers recalled that home always had a welcoming smell, whether of familiar foods

37
Judd, Dennis R., and Susan S. Fainstein, eds. The Tourist City. New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1999, p. 82.
38
Pallasmaa, Juhani. "Hapticity and Time: Notes on Fragile Architecture." Architectural
Review, p. 78.

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cooking in the kitchen, or of traces of perfumes worn by loved ones, or simply the

materials that filled the space. While deodorization attempted to free us from the

inescapable stench of modern industrial life through modern sanitization procedures and

later through new environmental control technologies such as HVAC systems, they

removed the positive scents that evoked the aura of place along with the stench of filth

and decay.

The sense of smell, long ignored in our culture, began to regain a foothold in our

world with the 1960's love of scented candles and incense. It came back into its own in

the early 1990s with the sudden rise in popularity of aromatherapy. Self-help enthusiasts

devoured scented products of all varieties with purported healing benefits. Peppermint for

energy, chamomile for relaxation, jasmine for sensuality… Many companies added

aroma-therapeutic aspects to their products to draw consumers with promises of salutary

effects through self-indulgence. Side by side with the aromatherapy trend came new

research into olfaction and the effects of different scents on mood.39 The belief that

pleasant smells could have healing powers, which had vanished from western discourse

centuries earlier, had suddenly reappeared. The positive findings of these studies linking

certain scents to effects on mood further fueled the scent trend. Aromatherapy moved

from a niche market to a ubiquitous part of products in many stores.

Until recently, smell had eluded the grasp of modern rationalism. Scientists little

understood how olfaction worked, and even today there are many lingering questions.

One problem stems from the fact that, unlike colors, there do not seem to be a limited set

of primary scents from which all other scents can be derived. Because we can distinguish

39
Peltier, Mark. "Conditioning Indoor Environments Using Aroma Technology." DCI.
New York. March 1998: 18-21.

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such an incredibly wide range of smells, the most those interested in the study of smell

could do was to create awkward systems of classification for smells, based on a variety of

shaky systems of logic, that still had too many groupings to be practical. Finally, with the

aromatherapy research, some progress was made in harnessing primal scent with the reins

of rationalistic thought.

In 1990, at the same time aromatherapy took off, some of the first retail scent

companies were started.40 With the increasing indications from different studies that scent

played a major role in shaping our emotions, moods, and even our productivity, scent-

marketing companies such as AromaSys saw ways to capitalize on the findings. Research

was conducted that linked certain ambient smells to increased time spent in a store, more

money spent in malls, and a higher value estimate of products. Companies developed that

offered to make the benefits of this new knowledge available to retailers. Though many

details of the workings of smell, and of the rules of its components, still eluded science,

smell was brought under the control of rationalistic thought through the desire to

optimize profits.

By focusing only on sight and sound, these new companies advocated, retailers

were missing out on an important opportunity to connect with their customers.41

Individuals in our consumer society were being bombarded with more and more visual

advertising messages all the time, and the messages were becoming less and less effective

as time went on. Consumers had become adept at tuning out advertising, navigating their

world with habitual mental blinders that let them ignore advertising messages. Scent,

40
AromaSys, Inc. AromaSys, Inc. – Environmental Aroma Systems. 2006.
<http://www.aromasys.com> (19 April 2006).
41
AromaSys, Inc.

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however, is unavoidable by its very nature. While customers might close their eyes,

sooner or later they must use their nose to breathe. The olfactory system is located in the

evolutionarily oldest part of the brain.42 Scent acts as a direct link to memory and

emotion, bypassing the rational processing facilities that sight and sound go through, and

connecting with us on a much deeper and more primal level.43 Instead of rationally

evaluating scent, our olfactory system works to trigger instantaneously memories of

where we have encountered a scent in the past, and all of the emotions that we have

associated with it. In a world of increasingly aware consumers, the medium of scent held

invaluable opportunities for brands to connect to consumers on a deep-seated, emotional

level.

In essence, what the scent-marketing companies were offering retailers was the

opportunity not only to reclaim the positive aspects of the odors they had banished from

their stores, but also to intentionally manipulate the olfactory aura of their stores to

influence the behavior of their customers. While retailers in the days of real smells could

control the timing of when and where they baked bread or displayed flowers in order to

draw customers, the retailers of the 1990s and 2000s had free reign to "design" the scents

they thought would have the optimal effect. And optimize they did. Research institutes

such as the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago,

International Flavors & Fragrances in New York, the Olfactory Research Fund in New

York, and Morell Chemical Senses Center provided data on the use of smell in

influencing behavior, and on the remarkable effects of certain smells on certain target

groups. With all this new science at their fingertips, retail companies could find the best

42
Aamodt, "Architecture Smells," 66.
43
Lindstrom, p. 24.

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way to influence their target audience. Whether it was by wafting imperceptible odors

through their store to subliminally influence spending behavior, or by creating a signature

scent as a kind of exclusive incense to identify their brand, or by pumping scents that

created pleasant atmospheres of nostalgia to put customers in a mood to purchase their

products, many retailers found ways to use scent that they would not have in the past. A

new era of manufactured aura had arrived.

Scent-Marketing

With the new research on the potential applications of aromatherapy, scent-

marketing companies began offering their services to retailers as a way to take advantage

of the untapped potential of smell. They offered retailers new ways of using smells to

their advantage. They provided proprietary scent machines with different smell inserts at

a fee to retailers, many of whom began to run scenting trials in some of their stores.44 The

firms began to build scent libraries of basic essences and exclusive blends, which they

pledged would create certain atmospheres.45 They offered customized scent creation

services for retailers that wanted a distinctive aura to pervade their stores.46 By offering

their services to big-name companies, the scent-marketing businesses created a buzz

about their new, subtle way to influence consumer behavior and to create emotional

connections between customers and brands.

One of the earliest scent-marketers to emerge was the St. Paul, Minnesota-based

AromaSys Inc. Founded in 1990, the firm took off during the aromatherapy boom of that

44
Enis, Matthew. "The Smell of Success—Literally; New Wave of POP Marketing Has
Customers Following Their Noses." CSP. June 2004.
45
ScentAir, Inc. ScentAir: The Market Leader of In-Store Scent Solutions for Brands and
Retailers. 2005. <http://www.scentair.com> (19 April 2006).
46
AromaSys, Inc.

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decade.47 The company takes a different approach from some of the other firms in that it

does not claim that its scents will increase retail sales.48 Instead, they see "controlled

scenting" as a new aesthetic tool that designers can use "to add aromatic elements to the

design process, harmonizing with architectural themes and specific location features."49

AromaSys sees smell as adding to the aesthetic pleasure of a space, much in the same

way that a pleasant color of paint and an attractive design scheme would make customers

feel more positive about their store experience. They refer to their blends as "aromatic

symphonies," to be appreciated in much the same way as music.50 Currently AromaSys is

the supplier of "environmental aroma blends" to many casinos and hotels, as well as to a

handful of retailers.51

The industry leader in scent-marketing is the six-year-old Charlotte, North

Carolina-based company ScentAir.52 Unlike AromaSys, ScentAir stands by their claims

that carefully scented retail spaces show increased sales. They emphasize that their

systems "help enhance environments, communicate brands and create memorable

experiences."53 They have a far larger library of pre-blended scents than AromaSys,

grouped on their website into the categories Fresh, Environmental, Floral, Bakery, Drink,

Candy, Fruit, Fun Food, Holiday, and Entertainment.54 ScentAir provides environmental

47
AromaSys, Inc.
48
Lee, Elizabeth. "Dollars and Scents: The Nose Knows, or Does It? Businesses Using
Artificial Aromas to Get Customers in Right Mood." The Atlanta Journal – Constitution
22 Aug. 2004: MS.1.
49
AromaSys, Inc.
50
AromaSys, Inc.
51
AromaSys, Inc.
52
"Scent System Creates Perfect Atmosphere In Candy Store; Chocolate Scent Draws
Customers Into Store." ScentAir Press Release. Mar 2004.
53
ScentAir, Inc.
54
ScentAir, Inc.

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scenting services to a long list of businesses, including retailers, entertainment centers,

hotels, food companies, groceries, convenience stores, and the government (rotting

corpse scent for battlefield simulation).55 They have gotten a significant amount of press

coverage with the addition of scents to various stores across the world, and they share

stories of some of their successful solutions for different companies with their potential

clients.56 ScentAir has established itself as the firm to go to with questions related to scent

and its connection to brand identity.

While AromaSys and ScentAir are the main companies that specifically offer

scent-marketing services, there are other research firms and marketing companies that

also offer scent services to retailers. Marketing Aromatics, a subsidiary of Behavioral

Dynamics, which was set up in 1989 by a group of Swiss businessmen, offers to tailor

custom corporate identity smells that businesses can use to mark their interactions with

the public.57 BrandEmotions, a subsidiary of New York-based International Flavors &

Fragrances, offers to match appropriate scents to brands by studying the demographics of

the target customer and identifying the most appealing aspects of the brand, then finding

a suitable fragrance.58 Georgia-based EnviroScent has super-strength aroma machines

capable of scenting areas within a baseball stadium.59 Orlando-based Fragrance

Technologies is responsible for scenting the Christmas store at Disney World.60 Aroma

55
ScentAir, Inc.
56
Hall, Matthew. "Making Dollars from Senses; See It? Smell It? It Must Be Retail."
VM&SD Magazine. July 2003.
57
Bidlake, Suzanne. "Scents of Real Purpose." Marketing 15 Oct. 1992: 21.
58
Tischler, Linda. "Smells Like Brand Spirit." Fast Company 97 (2005): 52-57.
59
Sutter, John David. "Marketing to the Senses." Knight Ridder Tribune Business News.
Washington: Dec 3, 2005, 1.
60
Murphy, Kate. "A Sales Pitch Right Under Your Nose." New York Times. Sept 13,
1998: 8.

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Co., based in Oxfordshire, England, also markets both localized scent samplers and

environmental scenting machines.61

Scent Design Technology

During the aromatherapy craze of the 1990s, many retail products went on the

market purporting to be able to scent interior spaces in pleasant ways. Sprays and

aerosols could leave a residue on interior surfaces. Heated oils and ceramic devices were

inexact, messy, and difficult to control precisely.62 Artificial scents were also much more

primitive, and with the lack of control that the distribution methods had, they had a high

potential for being cloying and nauseating rather than pleasing. The advances that recent

years have brought in the creation of artificial aromas and in systems for distributing

them in a controlled manner throughout retail environments, therefore, played a large part

in making the scent-marketing trend possible.

AromaSys was the first to develop an effective method for distributing scent over

a space. Instead of using messy, inaccurate heating units to activate and release aroma,

their EAS 2000/5000 Aroma Systems use an electric charge over a liquid scent medium

to release precisely controlled quantities of scent.63 The AromaSys scent machines also

can be installed to use existing HVAC systems to distribute their scents, solving the

problem of achieving an even scent distribution.64

ScentAir uses a similar system for their scent distribution machines. Their

ScentWave machines can disperse scents over areas of up to 2,000 square feet, and are

61
Enis, "The Smell of Success—Literally.
62
Hall, "Making Dollars From Senses."
63
AromaSys, Inc.
64
AromaSys, Inc.

20
programmable to release scents in specific quantities at different times.65 The machines

come with fragrance cartridges that are easily replaced by store employees.66

EnviroScent's ScentHawg machines are made for larger purposes. A fan belt

sends air across trays of scented gel made from natural oils. Friction then releases the

scent molecules from the gel base. The machines are two feet wide and are made to sit

near concessions areas in a ballpark.67

ScentAir has a separate system called ScentPOP, which covers areas of up to 200

square feet with fragrance. The ScentPOP technology is intended more for applications

such as vending machines, where an aroma of that which lies inside can induce customers

to purchase the sealed products.68 This product allows retailers to create "scent zones"

within their stores, targeting different smells at different points in their customers'

wanderings and creating a dynamic scent experience.

More recently, Japanese scientist Yasuyuki Yanagi and his collegues at the

Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute in Kyoto developed a scent-dispensing

device called the air cannon.69 The machine uses cameras to track the eyes of passersby,

and when they pass it aims a blast of scent just below them to hit them right in the nose.70

The machine is so exact that someone standing a mere 20 inches away will smell

65
ScentAir, Inc.
66
Hall, "Making Dollars From Senses."
67
Sutter, "Marketing to the Senses."
68
"ScentAir Technologies Introduces Scent for Vending Machines; Chocolate Sales
Increase When Scent Was Added to Vending Machine." ScentAir Press Release. Jul
2003.
69
Knight, Will. "Where's That Funny Smell Coming From?" New Scientist. London.
April 3, 2004: 22.
70
Knight, "Where's That Funny Smell Coming From?"

21
nothing.71 This micro-scenting increases the possibilities for targeted scent-marketing,

beyond an ambient, lingering scent, and opens the potential for a space that has different

scents in neighboring areas.

Just as important as the advances in scent distribution were the advances made in

technology for scent analysis. Scientists created new forms of electronic sniffing devices

that could create a chemical signature for the atmospheric aroma of a space. Smell

research organizations collected new scent signatures by traveling around the world with

this sniffing apparatus, collecting the scents of different places and plants and bringing

them back to the laboratory. By finding the specific chemicals that created different

smells, the researchers were able to create scientific smell databases, some with over

20,000 distinct odors, that they could then use to design intentional synthetic aromas.72

Subliminal Scenting

Definitely the most covert of retail scent design tactics, subliminal scenting is

when stores infuse the air with imperceptible quantities of fragrance that are supposed to

have a subconscious behavioral effect on their customers. Several studies by different

researchers led to new findings about the effects of certain smells on buying behavior.

The opportunity to psychologically influence their customers into spending more money

enticed some retailers into imperceptibly scenting the air of their stores.

Dr. Alan Hirsch of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in

Chicago was one researcher who believed in smell's ability to subliminally influence

shoppers. He conducted an experiment where he demonstrated that when a room was

71
Knight, "Where's That Funny Smell Coming From?"
72
"Science and Technology: The Sweet Smell of Success." The Economist. London: Sept
5, 1998. 348.8084: 75-77.

22
scented with a floral fragrance, shoppers were willing to spend more money on a pair of

sneakers and were more likely to want to purchase them.73 Interestingly, his findings were

true whether the scent was perceptibly pleasant or imperceptible and subliminal.

According to Hirsch's data, 84 percent of test subjects preferred the sneakers in the

scented room, and also that they would pay $10 more for them.74 The idea that scenting a

dressing room in an athletic shoe store like flowers could have such a dramatic effect on

the customers' evaluation of the product and willingness to spend money is a strong

indication of the potent powers of smell to subliminally influence our attitudes and

emotions.

Mall designers have taken advantage of subliminal scenting research as well. A

mall in a suburb of Montreal was scented different odors.75 According to researcher Jean-

Charles Chebat, when "clean" scents were present, such as lavender or citrus, mall

patrons spent on average twice as much as when the mall was unscented.76 The Fragrance

Foundation in New York found that floral smells influenced shoppers to spend more time

and more money in shopping malls.77 In a similar study, a fruity-floral scent infused in a

jewelry store increased the lingering time of shoppers.78 Steven W. Schussler, the senior

vice president of development, at the Rainforest Café, says of the chain's practice of

pumping floral scents into their retail areas, "It makes you curious and makes you more

73
Stiefel, Chana. "Does a Floral Scent Make You Buy?" Science World New York. Sept
20, 1999: 7-9.
74
Stiefel, "Does a Floral Scent Make You Buy?"
75
Daks, Martin C. "Smell, Listen and Spend Money Like Crazy." NJBIZ 18.24 (2005): 1-
2.
76
Torabi, Farnoosh. "A Nose for Business." Money Oct 2003: 34.
77
Hunter, Beatrice Trum. "The Sales Appeal of Scents." Consumers' Research Magazine.
Oct 1995: 8.
78
Murphy, "A Sales Pitch Right Under Your Nose."

23
likely to spend money. Call it a subliminal awakening."79 Peppermint and vanilla,

however, are apparently not so effective in influencing spending behavior.80 According to

research by Maureen Morrin, "contemplative" buyers, those who spend more time

making their purchase decisions than impulse buyers, were the most influenced by the

presence of a pleasant odor.81 While shoppers might consciously perceive the air coming

from the shopping center's HVAC system no differently from how they did in the past,

the subliminal influence of the subtle scents still seems to encourage shoppers to desire to

spend more time in the store and to be willing to spend more money.

Since subliminal scenting is perceived by many as being as manipulative as

flashing subliminal messages on a movie screen to get people to buy something, it seems

to be the area of scent-marketing tool that companies are the least willing to admit to

using. While in some ways it can be seen as simply creating a more pleasant environment

for shopping, it could also be seen as an underhanded means to increase sales. As more

and more shopping malls, restaurants, retail stores, and casinos use subliminal scenting as

another means to influence spending behavior, consumers should be aware of the

likelihood that every sensory outlet through which they interface with their environment

may be used as a means to influence them.

Brand-Identity Scenting

Nowadays scent-marketing companies offer to create "signature scents" for

brands and for corporations. The intention of this brand-identity scenting is to create a

unique odor which customers and employees will come to associate strongly with the

79
Murphy, "A Sales Pitch Right Under Your Nose."
80
Torabi, "A Nose for Business."
81
Daks, "Smell, Listen and Spend Money Like Crazy."

24
brand. When they smell it their memories of (it is hoped) pleasant past experiences in the

store and with the product will rush back to them, strengthening their emotional ties to

the brand. This type of scenting is the modern-day equivalent of the incense of the

temple. The ancient Hebrews had a recipe for special incense that was only to be used in

the temple for the worship of God. Whenever someone smelled that unique odor, they

knew they were in the sacred space. Taking a lesson from religion, retailers see that by

creating a scent that is exclusive to the space of their store, shoppers will come to form

emotional memory ties linking the pleasant odor to the pleasant experience of the store.

Retailers can create an artificial aura for their retail environment.

Victoria's Secret is one example of a store using a signature fragrance to trigger

emotional attachments in their customers.82 The interior of every Victoria's Secret store is

infused with the aroma of their fragrance products. What many customers don't realize,

however, is that this identifying Victoria's Secret odor is not a simple result of the

juxtaposition of their beauty and fragrance sampling areas with the lingerie area of the

store. The scent machines, or "environmental aroma systems," in the store, supplied by

AromaSys, waft a carefully selected, seductively feminine scent throughout the store

environment.83 The smell subtly infuses the clothes, so that even upon returning home,

purchasers can sniff their new acquisitions and be transported back to the sensual

femininity of the Victoria's Secret experience. Similarly, Abercrombie & Fitch retail

stores use ScentAir machines to diffuse a distinctive aroma throughout their stores.84

Though some of the scent is from the perfume test sprays in the stores with A&F's

82
Tischler, "Smells Like Brand Spirit," 56.
83
Torabi, "A Nose for Business."
84
ScentAir, Inc.

25
signature scent, they enlist ScentAir to ensure that their unique aroma evenly pervades

the stores and the clothing under all circumstances.

Sony Style enlisted the services of ScentAir to design a custom scent for their

stores. In keeping with their innovative image, they wanted a scent that was noticeable

and memorable.85 They particularly were targeting female shoppers at their 16 mall

locations.86 By combining notes of mandarin orange and vanilla87 with other "secret

ingredients," they created a unique olfactory experience.88 This olfactory marketing effort

was soon followed by an attempt by the Samsung Experience store in the AOL-Time

Warner Building to create its own scent identity. The smell Samsung designed was "a

unisexy, modern fragrance along the lines of Calvin Klein's cK One."89 Although both

Sony Style and Samsung sell electronics, which have virtually nothing to do with smell,

both companies saw the benefit of creating a distinctive aura that could be found only in

their stores. ScentAir also lists Best Buy as a client, further indicating the trend in the use

of scent to brand electronic retailers.90

Brand-identity scenting is a way for companies to create a unique aura for their

brand that deepens the emotional associations that connect them to their customers.

Fashion retailers use signature scenting to create an identifying trigger to remind

shoppers about what their store and their brand are all about. Even when customers take

the clothes home, they can relive the scent of the store that pervades their purchases. For

electronics stores that may sell very similar products, having an emotional impact that

85
ScentAir, Inc.
86
Tischler, "Smells Like Brand Spirit," 56.
87
Tischler, "Smells Like Brand Spirit," 56.
88
ScentAir, Inc.
89
Tischler, "Smells Like Brand Spirit," 52.
90
ScentAir, Inc.

26
sets them apart from other retailers plays a vital role in keeping them ahead of the

competition. By using signature scents, retail environments connect with shoppers and fix

an impression of their space in customers' minds.

Evocative Scenting

Many retailers use scents that they hope have strong nostalgic connections to

trigger emotional responses and pleasant memories in their targeted shoppers. The scent

might be an intense blast of something they are selling which customers cannot for some

reason smell in the modern store environment. It might also be something that is not

directly related to their product, but that is somehow closely associated with memories of

using it. Perhaps these scents can be seen as helping us to visualize how enjoyable it

would be to use the products by triggering our memories of using products like that in the

past. Companies use scents that trigger our emotions and memories in an attempt to

create a positive environment that makes us want to buy their products.

The Hershey's Store in New York's Times Square uses scent machines to

recapture the aroma that is lost when their products are sealed into airtight packages.91

The store blasts shoppers with an artificial chocolate smell as they enter.92 With the

advances the past century made in refrigeration techniques and in hermetically sealed

packaging, customers no longer are able to connect with Hershey's products in the way

that they would have been able to in a past era. With everything wrapped up in plastic

and foil, customers would smell mainly cleaning products and each other when they

entered the store, not the enticing aroma of chocolate. With the advances in technology,

91
Higgins, Kevin T. "Surround Sound, Meet Surround Smell." Food Engineering. June
2004.
92
Lee, "Dollars and Scents."

27
one of the major selling points of chocolate, its tempting smell, was lost.93 Scent

technology is able to solve the problem and then some. With a simple scent machine

carefully equipped with a calibrated aroma, customers as they enter the store can feel as

though they have been transported to the core of a chocolate factory paradise. ScentAir,

the company responsible for the Hershey's Store chocolate aroma, also applied the

technique at places such as Harry and David Chocolate, Dylan's Candy, and Chocolat.94

Many grocery stores are applying the same techniques in their different

departments. The aromas that in the past let customers know that their produce was ripe,

their bread fresh, and their flowers fragrant was overcome by modern refrigeration

techniques. The smells of the marketplace were replaced by the deodorized space of the

air-conditioned supermarket. While these advances helped greatly in promoting health

and reducing spoilage, they also eliminated the wonderful smells that tantalized shoppers'

palates and assured them of good quality. Grocers such as Kroger's supermarkets, Piggly

Wiggly, Shop Rite, Super Target, and Bi-Lo turned to scent design to recapture the good

smells of the marketplace.95 In the bakery departments, smells such as honeynut bread,

butternut bread, apple pie, chocolate chip cookies, sugar cookies, or cake waft through

the air even when there is nothing in the oven, or when the supermarket doesn't even have

in-store baking facilities.96 In the produce departments, strawberry, melon, and citrus tell

customers that the goods are fresh.97 Floral departments are artificially enhanced with

smells as well, making up for the loss in fragrance caused by refrigeration and breeding

93
Hunter, "The Sales Appeal of Scents," 8.
94
ScentAir, Inc.
95
ScentAir, Inc.
96
Lee, "Dollars and Scents."
97
Harper, Roseanne. "Bi-Lo, BJ's Test Scents in Produce, Other Areas." Supermarket
News. May 3, 2004.

28
techniques.98 ScentAir even has a special machine for individualized scent-sampling for

various products that it has used in promotions within grocery stores for Post Banana Nut

Crunch Cereal and Pillsbury Cookie Dough.99 Although the reality of a connection with

the product and a true evaluation of its quality based on smell has been lost in the modern

supermarket, a sensory connection has been reestablished between shoppers and goods

through the use of artificially enhancing scent machines.

While food-related stores use artificial scent machines to simulate the experience

of the pre-sealed food market, stores that are not so directly tied to scent use aromas of

nostalgia to put shoppers in the mood for buying. In the baby department at FAO

Schwartz in New York, as well as at several other department stores, the odor of baby

powder reminds customers about the pleasant, sweet-smelling side of babies.100 At the

entrance to the same store, the smell of birthday cake invites shoppers to relive the

excitement of shiny new toys.101 The swimwear department at Bloomingdale's exudes a

coconut smell reminiscent of suntan lotion, making swimsuit shopping seem appropriate

and fun even in the middle of winter.102 Saks Fifth Avenue, Marshall Field's, and Toys

"R" Us use scent in different departments to similar effect.103 Sporting goods stores waft

smells of freshly cut grass throughout, reminding shoppers of the playing field. The

appliance store H.H. Gregg sent the aromas of home cooking drifting through their

98
Lee, "Dollars and Scents."
99
Higgins, "Surround Sound, Meet Surround Smell."
100
Hall, "Making Dollars From Senses."
101
Hall, "Making Dollars From Senses."
102
Hall, "Making Dollars From Senses."
103
Hall, "Making Dollars From Senses."

29
kitchen appliance areas.104 The smells of warm apple pie and sugar cookies were so

enticing that some customers wanted to get the machines for themselves.105

Retailers use evocative scenting to recreate the ambiance of special experiences

that are connected with their brand. This may be as direct as the smell of the experience

of eating the food that is packaged and inaccessible. It may be the lost experience of

smelling food in a store, which through simulation is made accessible to the shopper. It

may also be some smell that is connected to the use of the product, which enhances an

atmosphere that encourages shoppers to fantasize. These smell environments replace

some of the realism that was lost in the process of deodorization and environmental

conditioning with a simulation of what was once there, or with a projection of what could

be.

Aura and Authenticity

With the deodorization trend of the eighteenth century, much of the aura of the

city and of the retail environment seemed to be lost in a whitewashed odorlessness.106

Instead of having the scents that characterized the marketplace or the shop-lined street,

there was nothing but whiteness and odor-free zones. All smell was bad smell, and all of

it was sought to be eliminated. While this led to vast improvements in the hygiene and

sanitizing of the city, it annihilated the indescribable aromas that imbued each place with

a unique identity. With advances in refrigeration techniques, the smells of fresh produce

104
Tischler, "Smells Like Brand Spirit," 59.
105
Lee, "Dollars and Scents."
106
El-Khoury, Rodolphe. "In Visible Environments: Architecture and the Senses in
Eighteenth-Century France." Diss. Princeton University, 1996.

30
or fish was replaced by a smell of deodorized chill, a lack of sensory stimulation.107 The

traces left by the users of the place, the materials it was made of and that it housed, and

the realities of its environment, were erased through whitewashing, paving, and

refrigeration. This obliteration of olfactory stimulation, while initially perceived as

wholesome and as freedom from the inescapable stench of the old city, at the same time

eliminated much of the uniqueness of place that distinguished each space from every

other by the information conveyed through the nose.

To recapture the pleasant side of what was lost with deodorization while

disallowing the foul stenches that used to accompany the sweet fragrances, scent

machines were employed to reodorize space. The re-scenting of deodorized objects and

spaces calls into question the perception of authenticity of this manufactured aura. Since

the former requirements of a unique scent source that was subject to the transformations

of time and had a particular existence in a specific place and context were eliminated by

the implementation of machine-smells, the unique nature of the aura of a place became

reproducible indefinitely. Flowers that bloomed only in one place at one time a year

could be smelled year round at an even level of intensity throughout the air of a space.

Reading into this phenomenon through the lens of Walter Benjamin's analysis of aura and

authenticity in the age of mechanical reproduction illuminates some of the issues that this

recreation of scent stirs up.

Benjamin writes, "The presence of the original is the prerequisite to the concept

of authenticity." The "unique existence" of the original, with the chemical and physical

markings of its unique history, as well as the changes in ownership and position in space,

107
Mayo, James M. The American Grocery Store: The Business Evolution of an
Architectural Space. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1993.

31
keeps it separate from any copies made, and is the source of the view that other instances

are merely copies or forgeries.108 This existence of some more "real" or "original" object

is necessary for the idea that another type of object is less real, or unoriginal, since it does

not share the unique identity of the original.

Similarly, the perception of machine-smell as artificial, simulated, or inauthentic

seems to stem from the nature of its source. The existence of an original scent source, a

"natural" source such as a flower, a fruit, or a cookie, is the prerequisite to the idea that

machine-smells are somehow forgeries, a kind of inferior or dishonest approximation of

the original scent source. The concept is similar to the idea of a recorded sound versus an

"original" sound. With the technological improvements of recording media and improved

quality of recorded sound (eliminating the identifying scratchy sounds of the vinyl record

of previous decades), it is possible for there to be little essential difference between the

"live" sound coming from the original source, whether it is the voice of a speaker or an

instrument, and the sound coming from the recorded sound-machine. With new

technologies of scent-atmosphere or "headspace" sampling, in which a smell is

effectively recorded, the smell coming out of an advanced scent-machine could be

essentially (chemically) the same smell that surrounds a plant, a slice of cake, or even a

person. This smell would still be perceived as somehow inauthentic. This is not because

of what it is, but because of the nature of its source. The idea that the scent machine is

approximating the smell of something that exists outside of it, in a particular

environment, with particular temporal qualities that affect it, makes the machine-scent

somehow less authentic than the originally emitted odor of the "natural" source.

108
Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," II.

32
The temporal disconnect that the scent-machines effect is one aspect of the

perceived inauthenticity of their smells. In the "real" world, smells are not static. An even

number of parts per million of a particular combination of chemicals does not sit in the

air smelling the same for an indefinite period of time. Only the scent machines make this

at all possible. Smells shift with changing weather and winds, and with the inevitable

changes over time that occur in their sources. As scent molecules are emitted from a

source, the source must change as it loses these volatile pieces of itself to the atmosphere.

Flowers wilt, fruits ripen and rot, cookies cool off and harden. The floral smell that

comes from scent-machines does not take on a sickly-sweet smell of decay as time

passes. Citrus machine-smells never become overripe and putrid. The machine-smells are

carefully crafted to smell consistently the same every time they are activated. Changes

occur only in the intensity, in the parts per million of the smell in the atmosphere. In

smelling a rose, part of the uniqueness of the experience is in knowing that as each day

passes, the scent of the rose will slowly change as it loses vitality and begins to wilt. The

transitory nature of the experience of smelling a flower, and the knowledge that

tomorrow the smell may fade, heightens the experience of smelling as we try to take in

all that we can and connect the smell with a unique moment in time. The smell of a tray

of cookies baking in the oven is to be savored, and also has a unique place in time. The

smell of baking cookies can follow the work of mixing dough and following a recipe, and

the smell contains the anticipation of eating the cookies once they come out and cool off.

A spatial disconnect separates the machine-smells from their originals. The

originals are dependent upon a particular environment to support them and by which they

are affected. Benjamin points out this aspect of the reproduction of a work of art, writing,

33
"technical reproduction can put the copy of the original into situations which would be

out of reach for the original itself."109 Certain plants may only grow a certain way and

smell a certain way in an obscure part of the rainforest. Certain food smells might be

impossible without a full kitchen with an activated oven releasing volatile odor particles

into the air. Scent machines disconnect smells from their usual required environments

and place them in surroundings that they might never be found. Smells of cooking

emanate from places with no kitchens, a store in winter smells like the ocean in summer,

and a dressing room smells like a grassy meadow. The spatial impossibilities of the

presence of the original smell add to the perceived distinction between the original smell

source and the reproduction of the scent machine. The machine-smell can bring a faraway

environment, the air of a distant place, into the breath of a customer in a store or a person

in their home.

Benjamin writes, "The situations into which the product of mechanical

reproduction can be brought may not touch the actual work of art, yet the quality of its

presence is always depreciated."110 With smells, the effect of taking them out of their

normal surroundings and allowing them to "meet the beholder halfway" by reproducing

them elsewhere is that smells that once were unique to a certain place or to the presence

of a certain object are disassociated from that prerequisite. While this allows the sensual

experience of places and things that are inaccessible, it destroys the intensity of the

unique bond that previously was activated only in the presence of the original. Its aura is

reproduced through the scent machines, but it is placed in a distanced context. The

original emotional bonds to the aura of the original are weakened since the sensory

109
Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction."
110
Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction."

34
qualities that trigger that bond are experienced in a situation separated from the original.

The experience of everyday life is made richer and multilayered with sensory triggers to

emotions and memories that would normally lie dormant for long periods of time. The

overall sensational level is heightened, but the unique aura of "original" places and things

is diluted as more and more disparate, disjointed associations are made to the original

smells. Certain flowers begin to smell like baby powder, and pine forests take on the

smell of cleaning solution.

Benjamin defines the aura of natural objects as "the unique phenomenon of a

distance, however close it may be."111 In experiencing visually natural objects, you are

always in a relationship to them of position and distance that makes your particular

experience of them unique. Your position and distance relative to them makes your

experience of them special, and something you would never be able to bottle up or

recreate in quite the same way. Benjamin sees a desire in society to bring things ever

closer, and to destroy the uniqueness of experience by accepting the reproduction in place

of the original. In a Benjaminian view, by accepting the reproductions of scent machines

in our desire to bring everything closer to us, we destroy the uniqueness of a special

experience of a natural smell.

As Benjamin realizes with regards to the photograph, "the work of art reproduced

becomes the work of art designed for reproducibility."112 With the growing use of scent

machines and scenting techniques, more and more scents are created instead of being

recreated. As retail stores attempt to create unique aromas to mark their territory and to

define a sense of place in their branded environments, some begin to use "artificially"

111
Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction."
112
Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction."

35
created scents instead of mimicries of natural odors. The growing impact that these

artificial auras have on our collective consciousness is indicated by the results of the

study by Alan Hirsch on the generational differences in smells that evoked nostalgic

sentiments.113 While those of an older generation were nostalgic for the smell of tree, hay,

and horses, the younger generations had stronger nostalgic associations with the smell of

artificial scents such as Play-Doh, Pez, and jet fuel.114 To search for the authentic

"original" for an artificial smell is nonsensical. There is no original that Play-Doh is

mimicking, it is just Play-Doh, and it smells like Play-Doh. Even though the scent is

entirely artificial, in that it was intentionally created to smell that way by people, the

concept of authenticity does not come into play because it is not pretending to be

something it is not. For many members of the younger generations, Play-Doh has a

powerful aura, even though that aura is entirely man-made.

The question then becomes: just as the photograph arguably transformed the

entire perception of the work of art, has the scent machine changed the way that we

smell? When smell no longer conveys information inherent to an object close at hand or

to the nature of the environment we are in, but instead carries man-made messages to our

nose and indicates the presence of created aura, is the entire way we use our noses

changed?

Optimized Air

Along with all the findings on the ways in which certain scents affected consumer

behavior, researchers discovered that there were dramatic differences between the scent

113
Barrie-Anthony, Steven. "On the Radar: On Scent, We've Barely Scratched the
Surface." Los Angeles Times 4 Nov. 2004: F.1.
114
Barrie-Anthony, "On the Radar; On Scent, We've Barely Scratched the Surface."

36
perceptions and responses between different consumers. Internationally there were

dramatic differences in smell sensitivities and preferences, and even regionally within the

United States, people waxed nostalgic in response to different aromas. Generation played

a role in preference for artificial or natural odors. Gender was a major factor in tests on

consumer response to certain smells and their effects on spending behaviors. When stores

were trying to influence their customers to feel a certain way by counting on their having

certain associations and emotions tied to particular aromas, it was important that their

target customers actually did have these desired emotional ties. More and more,

businesses realized that scent architecture must be tailored to the target audience each

store was trying to attract.

Dr. Alan Hirsch's study analyzing generational differences in the perception of

odors indicated that there was a striking difference between different age groups in which

smells made them feel nostalgic, with older generations preferring natural smells, and the

young preferring the artificial. Different scent preferences by country have also become

apparent. According to Martin Lindstrom, author of BRAND sense and leader of a study

on multisensory approaches to branding, people in Moscow are partial to "freshly washed

clothes, hanging on a line in subzero weather."115 Those in Japan prefer apples, while

Hispanics like vanilla.116 Those in the United States seem to enjoy the smell of a brand

new car more than those in other countries.117

Dr. Eric Spangenberg discovered in his study that there were dramatic gender

differences in consumer responses to scent. In a clothing store, he infused the women's

115
Tischler, "Smells Like Brand Spirit," 58.
116
Tischler, "Smells Like Brand Spirit," 58.
117
Lindstrom, BRAND sense, 93.

37
department with a subtle vanilla smell, and the men's department with the aroma of rose

maroc, a sweetly spicy scent.118 Receipts almost doubled the days that the departments

were scented.119 However, when he reversed the smells, customers spent less than when

the departments were unscented.120 The gender differences in smell preference have huge

implications for retailers who redesign their store environments to optimize sales through

smell control. Not only do different genders have different preferences in fashion, but

they even need to breathe different air to be in the optimal mood to spend.

With all of the work on analyzing the differences between countries, generations,

and genders and their effects on scent perception, it seems that the end result is a world in

which everyone has optimized air. When companies are calculating the scent that will

have the optimal effect on their target audience, they take into consideration the

demographic effects of generation, gender, and nationality, plug that into the formula of

their more specific target audience and the perception of their product that they wish to

promote, and out of the formula comes pre-calculated scented air. Air that is optimized to

deliver the most favorable financial returns is targeted at demographic segments of the

population. Those who may not appreciate the air they must breathe being used as a

marketing device, or those who are allergic to fragrance, cannot avoid being advertised

to.

Optimized air is necessarily simulated air. With scent machine technology, there

is no longer a connection between perceived scent and an underlying reality. The world

of scent architecture is a world of simulation. Inauthenticity is no longer possible,

118
Tischler, "Smells Like Brand Spirit," 57.
119
Tischler, "Smells Like Brand Spirit," 57.
120
Tischler, "Smells Like Brand Spirit," 57.

38
because in a world where scent can be created, and can no longer be accepted as a fact of

nature indicating the presence of a natural scent source, then the line between true scents

and artificial scents disappears, and the distinction becomes meaningless.121 We can

infuse our offices with the scent of "holiday", or take in "summer" scents in the midst of a

blizzard. The reference to an underlying reality has been taken away, and instead we have

a simulated atmosphere of scent.

With the advances of new directed scent technologies, the air that each person is

smelling could potentially be totally different. Isolated individualized simulated

environments could be created for each and every customer in the store. Undesirable

customers could be shot with unattractive scents to drive them away. A young woman

could be blasted with eau de vanilla and crayon, while her father would be fired at with

sandalwood and hay. Each person could live in their own little reality created by the all-

simulating new retail environments. Through nationality detection the scent recipes could

be tweaked as well. No longer would shoppers have to smell odors that were more

preferable to others. No longer would aura have to be a shared experience. While the age

of the automobile made it possible to enter into the public sphere and travel through it

while remaining in the private bubbles of our cars, as Margaret Morse notes in her essay

"An Ontology of Everyday Distraction: The Freeway, The Mall, and Television," the age

of optimized air eliminates the need for the bubble.122 We can exist in our own private

sensory worlds without the need for bulky barriers such as the windows of an automobile,

the ideal of privatized mobility.123 With the new scent control technologies, and

121
Poster, Mark, ed. Jean Beaudrillard, Selected Writings. Stanford: Stanford University
Press, 1988, p. 166-184.

39
optimized targeting, everyone has the potential to coexist side by side in completely

different sensory worlds, infused with an eternal scent invulnerable to decay.

Increasingly, we are able to escape into sensory closets within our world. These

closets of perception are becoming portable, so that when we are forced to travel through

the public environment we can carry our own micro-environment with us, totally private

and utterly controlled. With an ipod, we have total control over the sound of this micro-

place. With micro-scenting, we soon may exist in isolated scent-worlds. We are now able

to play CD's of scent in our homes with Febreze ScentStories machines, infusing our

personal world with a selected narrative in odor. We are no longer susceptible to the

constraints of time, which alters smells and forces us to confront mortality through the

odors of decay. We may exist in a world where these unpleasantries are eliminated,

replaced by an eternal scent optimized to our demographic characteristics to create

maximal sensory pleasure. The eternal scent will never wilt, cool off, overripen, rot, or

fade, but accompanies us in our isolated world ever arousing memories of imagined aura.

122
Morse, Margaret. "The Ontology of Everyday Distraction: The Freeway, the Mall and
Television," in Patricia Mellencamp, ed., Logics of Television (Bloomington, 1990) 193-
221.
123
Morse, 212.

40
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