Scent & The Most Hated Retailer

Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) has often been portrayed as an iconic case of scent marketing.  It was one of the first brands to make scent a crucial part of its identity.  Even Charles Spence, head of the Crossmodal Research Lab at Oxford, referred to A&F’s dominant multisensory experience as “very popular among younger shoppers“.  In fact, following the opening of its flagship store in Tokyo, A&F employees reported in online discussions that trucks drove around the area and sprayed the streets with its signature fragrance, ”Fierce”.

ILLUSTRATION : Universal Studios - Los Angeles - 14/04/2014

However, among critical consumers A&F has already long been discussed as a negative example of how retailers manipulate sight, smell, and sound to trigger purchase behavior in consumers. The secret power of subliminal forces backfired as a perception of manipulation. Even Time magazine popularized a study, which argues that the cologne sprayed throughout the stores actually causes consumer anxiety.  Building on the same study, a Fast Co. magazine even concluded that A&F should simply change its store signature scent.

This week, business media published the results of the most recent American Customer Satisfaction Index. A&F scored the lowest out of 22 specialty retailers. Forbes speaks of A&F as the most hated retailer in the US.  Much has been written about the brand’s problematic overtly sexual advertising. But what Forbes and other media do not talk about is the role of the prominent use of scent and its promotion in a large part of the business community. It is high time to get beyond gut feelings and naive beliefs about the use of scent in service settings.

Further Reading:

Spence, C., Puccinelli, N. M., Grewal, D., & Roggeveen, A. L. (2014). “Store Atmospherics: A Multisensory Perspective.” Psychology & Marketing, 31(7), 472–488.


In the Exhibition “AETHER”, Smell is Required

Art and culture have already received many responsibilities in their long tradition: they are to serve as an expression of the people, fascinate, inspire, and form their identity. But above all, they are to remind people of their sensual and aesthetic essence. Neither sensuality nor aesthetics stop at national borders, religious differences or political motivations. Sensuality and aesthetics are essential components that lie hidden in every human being and distinguish us as individuals.
Our time is especially marked through its mediality. Vision and hearing are well supported; but what about our sense of smell?


Sebastian Pralle, master student of Prof. Ulrich Eller at the Braunschweig University of Art, has just devoted in his exhibition “AETHER” to this question. In a light, poetic, almost filigree type, the artist calls on the viewers to engage their sense of smell, to train and rediscover it. The artworks consists of smell tones (ash, curry, earth and pine wood) laid into pieces of paper.  Pralle developed the concept in close coordination with the architecture of the exhibition space of the Young Art Association. In this artistic installation based on the sense of smell perception, the audience is conceived as multi-sensory beings and ​​the aesthetics of the odor are experienced as material product.

Read more (in German) at:

Why Google Maps Shouldn’t Forget About Smell

Researchers find that humans can navigate through smell alone—so why are we so dependent on screens?


Rats can create rich smell maps to find their way around the environment. Researchers have long known that. Less obvious: Humans, too, can navigate their world through smell alone, as a new study from UC Berkeley shows. So why aren’t more of our user interfaces tapped into our noses?

Read more at:

Paper Passion

07_paper_passionby Geza Schoen, Steidl, Wallpaper* and Karl Lagerfeld

The Paper Passion perfume conceived for Handmade 2011, which bottles the seductive scent of a freshly printed books, was inspired by a throwaway line by German publisher Gerhard Steidl in the film How to Make a Book with Steidl, which suggested his favourite scent was a ‘freshly printed book’. Wallpaper* asked him to work with avant-garde perfumer Geza Schoen to try and bottle that scent. Into the mix came Steidl’s friend and long-time collaborator Karl Lagerfeld, who designed the packaging and chose the name Paper Passion.


Garden of Wonders


11_gardenofwondersGarden of Wonders creates a feast for the nose and eyes in Milan’s Botanical Gardens

If the wisteria waterfalls of Brera’s Botanical Garden (or the charming spread of gleaming, golden Laviani animal statues dotted around) don’t get to you first, Be Open‘s Garden of Wonders will.

The international foundation of design and creativity has taken the world of fragrance to heady new heights with its latest project, a threefold approach to the world of fragrance. ‘It is our way of proposing an alternative way – through design – to preserve traditions by adapting them to contemporary challenges and eventually explore new possibilities for small brands,’ explains Be Open founder Yelena Baturina.


Great Idea: Mood Boards For Smells

Scents can be tough to describe in words, which makes them perfect for mood boards.


For Haus Interior’s candle collection, the boutique interior design firm wanted a way to describe smells to online shoppers beyond mere words. So the company hired photographer Sully Sullivan to produce a collection of scent mood boards. Carefully curated, cleanly arranged objects fill in the emotions and contexts of a smell that words might miss.


This article nicely resonates with a recent paper on the use of moodboards in perfumery:

Endrissat, N., Islam, G., & Noppeney, C. (2016). Visual organizing: Balancing coordination and creative freedom via mood boards. Journal of Business Research, 69(7), 2353–2362.

Colour as a Narrative

05_cardilloPerfume brand Illuminum explores realm of scent through architecture

The Illuminum perfume gallery in London has unveiled a new installation by the architect Antonino Cardillo, which suggests a whole new way that fragrance is communicated to an inquisitive public.


These Futuristic Perfumes Smell Like Things That Will Be Destroyed By Climate Change

Artist Catherine Young figured she better bottle up her favorite natural smells before they disappear.


As climate change worsens, so will our collective sense of loss. Coastlines, cities, crops, and entire species will disappear. Artist Catherine Young has created a perfume line that bottles up the scents of things we enjoy today, but will be diminished—or gone—soon enough.


Scents with Stories

blisshome-takahashi-hiroko-home-fragrance-collection-from-c2a360-hi-resJapanese artist Takahashi Hiroko releases personal home fragrances

Certain scents have a Proustian appeal, taking us back to a certain time, person or place, triggering buried memories. Now, Tokyo-based artist Takahashi Hiroko has channeled this notion in a series of five home fragrances – called ‘Japanese Stories’ – which are inspired by past experiences from her



An Architectural Time Machine That Fires Scented Smoke Rings


Young London designer Hee Park manipulates space using smell, sound, and touch.

In a 1967, J.G. Ballard published The Cloud Sculptures of Choral D, a short story about a retired pilot who pioneers the art of sculpting clouds. The story resonated with young architect Hee Park, who believes that architecture is performative – heavily reliant upon time, motion, and rhythm.