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Technology08 April 2016

Take a deep breath, what do you feel?

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People often undervalued the sense of smell. The same do the marketers. Quite wrongly, because according to Millward Brown’s study, smell right after sight is the second most important human sense. What’s more almost 40% of those surveyed feel better, when they are exposed to the effects of a pleasant odor. Despite this, we have a tendency to downplay the impact of smell on our daily lives. We pay no attention to the fact that we are their living absorbers, inhaling 20 000 breaths every single day and then processing the information about the scents in the oldest structures of our brain.

Perhaps, the matter of smell saves a little gratitude that we have for it, for what it gives us every day and what causes in us. Worth knowing is the fact, that the list of merit of smell is quite long. First of all, the memories which odors can very accurately store and recall – from the smell of freshly baked bread at a local bakery to the characteristic smells of our childhood. They still evoke in us a huge sentiment and positive emotions. This scheme works (unfortunately) also in the case of those less exciting memories, like the one of an unpleasant odor of hospital rooms where we had to stay in our youth. This ease in evoking vivid memories for emotional effect is called Proust effect (yes that’s him, this famous French novelist).

The sense of smell is also our private monitoring. On the one hand, it provides information about sources of satisfaction- the smell of novelty sprayed in our newly purchased car induces in us feeling of accomplishment and achievement of the intended goal. The smell of popcorn at the movies is a sign that the time for relaxation and a bit of excitement has come. On the other hand, the sense of smell provides us access to key information on our overall safety (starting with warnings in the form of a smell of stale food, at an alarming whiff of smoke in our surroundings ending).

In the end, the smell is also responsible for shaping our perceptions about brands or their products. Olfactory stimuli stay in our memory for a long time and activate while we do shopping and struggle with product selection. Frequently, we reach for products that we are better associate with (when we do not see the difference between products we simply choose the one that we consider to be more known to us). That’s why the characteristic smell in Massimo Dutti shops is so hard to mistake with any other. As well as very intensive and hated by many Fierce, fragrance strongly promoted by Abercrombie&Fitch. And finally Singapore Airlines which allows their crew to use only one perfume line – their own. That was also the reason for Magnum (the leading ice cream company) and BCBGMAXAZRIA (clothing brand) to create fragranced clothing accessories with a scent of Belgian chocolate. On the other hand, BMW in order to wean the drivers away from using popular air fresheners soaked with too sophisticated aroma, in the latest model of the 7 Series offers an optional set of The Ambient Air, which allows the driver and passengers to freely mix scents, each time creating a unique sensory experiences.

The smell is able to literally stop us running and intrigue. It’s something that rarely goes to the sense of sight which is overloaded with excessive visual messages distributed in our environment. Visual stimuli lose their power of communication. Quite often we are simply indifferent to them. So why the smell is so underrated? Perhaps because it is invisible or its promotion hasn’t been supported by technology?

Soon it may change. oPhone (what a sophisticated name!) is a device that has recently appeared on the market. Its creator David Edwards, a Harvard professor and exactly the same man who in 2014 sent an email with the scent from New York to Paris, ensures that this product is the first platform which can transmit messages in the form of odors. Using special cartridges the machine is able to mix more than 300 000 unique fragrance notes, then send one of them to the recipient also equipped with OPhone platform. Perfume market should have an eye on this technology though, so far, its oSnap application users usually send only … the smells of food consumed.

If today I see no practical need to spend several hundred dollars on a device, the usefulness of which requires the popularization of smartphones, it is worth noting that more and more starts to happen in the topic of technology transferring odors. When it comes to phones, much more I believe in the development of technologies related to Scentee (any additions to smartphones, which allow odors transmission) than in the creation of autonomous, costly and not fully defined in terms of wider application solutions like oPhone.

It is encouraging that next (and so vital!) sense begins to be noticed by the technology industry, although in my opinion the future of such solutions is associated more with phones, enabling odors transmission, rather than with devices which dimensions resemble the printer. The aspect of sending and receiving odors from anywhere cannot be stressed enough. in the future, we’ll want to use this feature the same was as today we use texting. Why would we want that? Because, in the words of valued deafblind American writer Helen Keller, the smell is a powerful wizard who takes us on a long distance in time and space.

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