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What’s for dinner? Smell this screen.

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

There’s more than meets the eye to this digital signage system being tested in a mall in Japan. Think Smell-O-Vision, only for advertising.

The “Scent-emitting LCD Display System” emits scents that correspond to the material shown on the 42-inch LCD display. Although the system has the capability to emit a variety of scents, it’s currently being used to share “appetizing” aromas meant to draw mall shoppers to the unit. The hope is that they’ll then grab one of the coupon books at the kiosk and head into the restaurant being advertised–or should we say “Smell-O-Vised”? How about “Smellvertised”?

It seems that NTT Communications, the makers of this system could be on to something here. According to Martin Lindstrom, ex-CEO to numerous marketing agencies, author, and all-around branding expert, “marketers can no longer rely only on a consumer’s senses of sight and sound to make their products stand out.” Lindstrom asserts that in order to create “buzz and long-term customer loyalty, marketers will also need to promote their products through touch, taste and especially smell.” He goes on to say that scent is the sense most directly tied to human emotion.

There are endless possibilities and implications to the use of this gadget. Here are a few:

1. Unmanned demos: No longer having to pay a person to give in-store demos means a more cost efficient option for manufacturers. Could the perfume ladies at Nordstrom be out of a job?
2. Reduced product breakage/spillage: Now, shoppers won’t need to open the top of that laundry detergent to see whether they like that new scent. Which means less cleanups on aisle three.
3. Experiential Marketing: Adding that extra sensory experience gives a manufacturer that much more opportunity to create a brand experience. In the retail world of stop/hold/close, adding the sense of smell will help encourage the shopper to do all three.

The big watch-out here is that the scent emitted, especially in the case of food, must truly be appetizing and true to the product it’s advertising. If it isn’t, the advertiser risks losing the sale—or even worse, the shopper buys the product and is disappointed.

We’ll keep an eye on this technology as it develops. For one, we hope to see it get smaller—as of now it’s not really applicable to many uses outside of a large shopping mall due to its size.

– Contributed by Amanda Moorhouse

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