Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Uncommon scents

Hearing of my newfound love for the Kindle, someone sent me (or should that be scent me?) to Smell of Books. The site purports to be a source for aerosol fragrances that you can scent your e-books with for that old book mustiness or new book tang. It’s not the best gag in the world, but it did make me smile and started me thinking.

I posted before about the amazing power of scent to make emotional connections and bring back deep memories. It can virtually transport us in an instant to other times and other places. Of course, retailers have been onto this for ever. Remember the 1990s when walking through a department store was like running the gauntlet of spritzers and scent-sodden paper testers? Thankfully the use of fragrance has become more sophisticated as inventors struggle to respond to the idiosyncrasies and richly personal dimensions of the sense of smell.

Take a simple sensory idea like ‘clean’. What smells clean? Once you get past the functional attributes of ammonia and soap and want to flavor your cleaning products, the skies open. ‘Clean’ is a personal experience and fragrance is its key marker. It can take you anywhere from the simplicities of lemon and pine to the complexities of a Moroccan bazaar (and yes, Moroccan Bazaar is in fact the fragrance of a new Febreze air freshener. According to Mintel, more than 3,000 cleaning products were launched last year (more than twice as many as in 2004) and 93 percent of them were imbued with fragrance. All this is happening when apparently Americans are spending far less time cleaning. The University of Michigan Institute for Social Research reports 40 percent fewer cleaning hours in 2005 than in 1965.

As for Smell of Books' handy aerosol idea, that new car fragrance has been available for some time now. There is obviously room for car scents that reflect a renewed interest in the environment and reduced fuel emissions. A slight waft of nature combined with a new car might be in order. How about specific model scents to differentiate a brand’s different offerings from one another? Perhaps the idea of a book scent for e-books is an idea for the time. I’m sure if Smell of Books wanted to push their idea, the perfect partner would be the fragrance house Demeter. Demeter’s inspired range of scents includes such gems as vinyl, dirt, and funeral homes, so books would be a snap. As the Demeter people say, “Fragrance should make you smile every time you smell it”. So why not a small pad on every new generation Kindle for a dab of ‘new book’ as required? Want to find a good e-book to read? Just follow your nose.