The mere mention of orange groves, cinnamon apple pie and sugary confections instantly transports a Walt Disney World fan to Soarin’, Mickey’s PhilharMagic and Main Street U.S.A. respectively. Thanks to years of aroma marketing research, The Walt Disney Company is literally putting stock in that reaction. In the late 20th century, a Walt Disney World Imagineer (and former Lockheed Martin Rocket Scientist) invented a “Scent Blitzer” delivery system to introduce aromas into attractions and special events at that Park. Since that time, scent branding has exploded around the globe. Though not as keen as Pluto’s or Goofy’s, the human sense of smell is about 10,000 times more sensitive than any of the other four senses, and is physically linked to the part of the brain that controls and connects emotions and memories- the limbic system. It’s no wonder that this sense is called our “emotional time machine”. (True confessions time: How many vacationers have returned home from Walt Disney World, only to seek out some Resort trademark H2O+’s bath products in order to recreate some magical memories with each shampooing of their hair?) The scent designing industry attracts retailers, airlines, casinos, and especially hotels that are looking to develop, and then patent, a signature scent logo that will drive loyalty and attach deep emotional connections to their brands. Case in point, “l’ambience de l’hotel” at the Disneyland Hotel in Paris:
This Resort’s infamous signature vanilla-based scent welcomes you immediately as you enter the front door, (I first thought that they had just finished cleaning the carpets), follows you along the expansive corridors and into your room. While it is noticeably strong in the lobby, the fragrance seemed to taper off in other public spaces, especially around the Hotel’s main eating areas. That aroma became imprinted into our 2 week long experience at Disneyland Resort Paris, so we didn’t have to think twice when we saw this notice in our room:
The Disneyland Hotel offers these sachets for purchase at their front desk, and I only wish I had bought more than a single set! On a cold day in Vermont, it takes but one deep whiff, and we are at once delivered to summertime in France, and the romantic luxury of that Resort. Fancy that!
Other companies that use sensory welcoming include Sheraton, Ritz-Carlton, Hyatt and Starwood, and their scent logos vary from the simple milk and cookies varieties to the intriguing; Le Meridien Hotels commissioned a New York parfumer to replicate the smell of an antique, leather-bound version of Le Petit Prince for their signature fragrance. Still others, such as New York’s Plaza Hotel, are choosing “inspired by” scents that are sold, but not used, at their properties at all. Disney may have chosen this path with the introduction of The Disney Store’s personal and home fragrance line last spring; Imagination, Imagination Winter,Magic, and Pixie Dust were developed with inspiration from Disney Characters and themes.
Of course, hospitality scenting is not completely embraced by all guests. Concerns over the safety of fragrance elements have led to voluntary oversight by the International Fragrance Association, and independent marketers have spent millions of dollars researching and creating sophisticated scent delivery systems that eliminate residue and scent oil contaminants. (These units are not remotely similar to the commonly advertised aerosols or plug-ins that you see on TV.) However, with the steep increase in the number of individuals diagnosed with asthma, allergies and sensory integration disorders, scent branding may not appeal to all consumers equally. Disney has long been commended for responding to requests for Resort rooms that have been cleaned with baking soda and vinegar only, and have a supply of fresh bed linens that are chemical and fragrance free at the ready. This ultimate guest friendly organization has a proven regard for those with special needs. While I doubt Disney would ever endorse an across the Parks scent branding for this reason, I swear the aroma wafting from the sachet in my sock drawer makes me want to hop on a plane to Paris- now! (Pavlov’s dog has nothing on me.) Be forewarned, a visceral Disney addiction is in the air…