Thursday, January 28, 2010

Follow Your Nose

A few years back I sat next to Jean Paul Gaultier on a flight from Paris to Athens. Coincidentally we were en route to the same hotel... he invited me to a party he was holding that night and I found my favourite male fragrance... Le Male. Last year Jean Paul created a USB flash drive that perfumes the air with the unmistakable Le Male fragrance as it works. It’s great to see the over-looked sense of smell injecting some excitement into a product which is often bland and sold on functionality alone. And while this was only available as a gift-with-purchase of the fragrance, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before other makers of technology products move past the tablestakes faster/bigger/cheaper functional benefits and ‘wake up and smell the coffee’ when it comes to the power of scent.

It’s not news that smell is strongly linked to memory, but a recent piece of research has confirmed that it’s particularly useful for enhancing recall of all sorts of brand associations. And of course it’s a key Lovemarks ingredient. The olfactory sense has been making small inroads in the technology arena, with scent-strips being added to Sony cellphones in Japan and Asus’ fragrant laptops (also see my previous post on Smell of Books adding just that to emotionalize e-books), but so far nothing wildly original has made it to the mainstream marketplace. Why don’t Internet hotspots emit a fragrance to show where the signal is strongest – a whiff of wi-fi?

The arts, on the other hand, have thrown themselves into exploring the untapped opportunities of the nose. A ‘scent opera’ premiered at the Guggenheim last year, where music was accompanied by sequences of perfume ‘chords’ rather than singing. And I love designer Hyun Choi’s ‘Flavor of Time’ clock concept which assigns a scent to each hour for a unique new way to tell the time – providing a new contender in the old analogue-vs-digital debate!