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The Sweet Smell of Success

At Kit & Caboodle, we like to look at serving ALL the senses. This reflects in how keen we are to incorporate a scent or specific fragrance into the event experiences we develop for clients. 

Understanding that complex emotion and memory can be triggered by a simple sensory cue, or smell, is something that we all know, but not enough creatives in our sector incorporate strategically.

From a retail perspective, Middlesex University lecturer Neil Martin explains how people spend longer looking at a product when they shop in the presence of chocolate aroma. Good news for Hotel Chocolat stores? We had fun when asked to create a multi-sensory experience for Baileys, the popular liqueur drink. Part exhibition, part theatre and part exclusive supper club, the primary essence of cacao was the fragrance at Bar Chocolat, setting the scene.

Not only does the scent of chocolate help learners to recall what they’ve learned more easily, but it even improves the performance of athletes. Cyclists cycle 49% - 51% longer after eating chocolate – another good reason to slip a bar of Galaxy into your gym bag.

Theatre is an intrinsic part of some experiential events but performances often neglect the sense of smell. In the 1960s, the Mermaid Theatre in London’s performance of Edward II had audiences fainting in the aisles when a particularly unpleasant scene of a red hot poker being plunged into the monarch’s anus was supplemented by the sound and smell of a steak being thrown onto a sizzling griddle backstage.

Now there’s talk of incorporating sensory experience into Virtual Reality events or gaming, in recognition of the significance of smells triggering strong emotions and memories. How and why?  The olfactory bulb i.e. your nose has direct connections to two key areas of the brain  that are strongly implicated in emotion and memory: the amygdala and hippocampus. Interestingly, visual, auditory (sound), and tactile (touch) information do not pass through these brain areas. This may be why olfaction, more than any other sense, is so successful at triggering emotions and memories. 

Whilst our own human sense of smell lags behind that of animals – we have 5 million receptor cells in our nose compared to 200 million in a dog’s nose (or 238 million if you happen to be a Beagle) … smell is still critical to influencing not only memory but current behaviour.

For example, peppermint, strawberry and lavender have all been found to help with concentration. Spraying the scent of lavender during factory tea breaks in Japan has been shown to improve post-break production. Athletes who sniffed peppermint ran faster and had better concentration than those who had no smell, while children performed better at tests when exposed to the aroma of fresh strawberries.

At Kit & Caboodle, we ensure our offices keep smelling fragrant with scented candles created cruelty-free, palm-oil free and environmentally friendly from ethically-sourced providers, a favourite being Potters Crouch farm in St Albans and the hand scented and filled porcelain vessels from Ana Bridgewater @abalonuk. Anyone visiting our offices will inhale the sweet scent of vanilla, rose or French lilac which we hope will trigger their memory in a good way. 

One of our projects, for the Bahrain Royal Family, required us to perfume the oriental carpets at a “majlis” or presentation installation that we created so that a newborn member of their family could be introduced to relations and retainers. Every leading Gulf family prides themselves on perfuming their home environment with a bespoke perfume from a world-class parfumier, that is unique to their tribe or clan. Sense relates to identity and emotion in ways that we don’t fully understand.

But we are losing this most sensitive of our senses. Research suggests that this loss probably stems from brain development giving greater emphasis to human vision, the ability to distinguish colours and identify individuals by facial appearance rather than by smell.  Although we have around 1,000 genes for smell detection, as in other primates, in humans more than half of these no longer function. 

In these days of lockdown, those who contract Covid-19 often mention the loss of smell and taste as one of the most disconcerting of potential symptoms. Far from the sweet smell of success, we find ourselves working remotely inhaling the comforting chemical smells of Dettol or Clorox, as if this means safety. 

But while we are all planning for the time when experiential events will once again be on the social agenda, there has never been a better opportunity to incorporate a consideration of fragrance to create greater impact at your next event.  Make sure that you harness the power of fragrance to create a comfortable, welcoming ambiance for your guests, even though, or perhaps even more importantly BECAUSE  they might still be socially distancing.

The sweet smell of success is only a phone call away …

Whilst we were discussing this topic this week and the impact that it can have on your day to day, the team shared some of their 'Scents At Home'...


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