“Think of it as painting a smelly picture,” says Jon Clark of his new olfactory branding project, SensoryLab.
Keen to investigate how a truly sensual experience could change the way consumers engage with a product, branding agency Boldinc tried to capture the unique scent of four different cities where the company has offices; Sydney, Singapore, Hong Kong and London. “The point was to prove to us and our clients that we had an understanding of those cities and their cultural nuances,” explains Clark, Boldinc’s creative director.
To Clark’s mind, smell is the most under-utilised sense in the marketplace: “People go to extraordinary lengths to package goods to look amazing, to have great names, to be interactive and to have tactility,” he says. “But do consumers feel like they’re truly engaging with a product? Are all five of their senses truly engaged?”
Collaborating with perfumery and cosmetics manufacturer, New Directions, Boldinc came up with a smell-kit. The kit includes a laboratory-inspired burning-flask with a bespoke cast-aluminium flask-holder, a candle and a foil-stamped box holding the four individual scents. The scents themselves try to represent the essence of a city (rather than replicate the actual pong on the street). “We weren’t going to create something that smelled of rotten eggs, or the sewers of the back streets of Hong Kong,” says Clark. “We started breaking down the cultural nuances in the different locations. The Singaporean smell has more spicy characteristics, with the marketplace. London is for me is leather, musk and those types of smells.”
Sydney provided the biggest challenge for Clark and the BoldInc team. “Because of the eclectic-ness of the Eastern Suburbs and its sea-spray, versus the flora and fauna of the Blue Mountains,” he explains. “The guys spent a day hunting around Sydney, really absorbing the culture using their noses rather than their eyes to see what Sydney smells like. The notes we found were citrus-y, with the freshness of sea-spray, but also native plants [such as] wattle.”
Clark believes there’s a real opportunity for companies to use scent in marketing their product. “I remember buying Reebok trainers and the first thing I did when I got them home was put my nose in them, and smell that new, fresh smell,” he recalls. “What can you do for other products that aren’t inherently sensorial? What’s to stop phone manufacturers or technology-based products engaging people through a particular smell?”
While the SensoryLab kits aren’t currently commercially available, BoldInc’s working on it. “If people are interested and intrigued by it, they can, without hesitation, contact BoldInc and we’ll do our best to give them one.”