Robb Report


Of all the senses, smell triggers the most intense associations. Smell according to Simon Faure Field of Singapore based consultancy Equal Strategy, is a key to making client spend more time in commercial, retail, and hospitality environments.

Inspired by the work of Danish brand guru Martins Lindstrom, Faure Field decided to combine sound n smell to set cooperate entities from each other when he moved to Asia in the late 1900’s. It’s this practice of scent that makes Equal Strategy uncommon. “Most marketing budgets focus on communication to appeal to our eyes, yet often our decision is based on what we smell,” says Faure Field.

Concocting the right smell for a property can take several weeks. “We meet with the general manager and his management team to discuss and refine how the hotel’s brand can be translated into music and fragrance”.

Equal Strategy then formulate s an identity statement: potential scent and genre of music are developed on the basis, and before long, the hotel has a “sensory identity”, as Faure Field calls it.

Equal Strategy offers off the shelf fragrances and can also craft a client’s bespoken aroma from the scratch. The company works with a German fragrance company called Drom to customize the scent.

Smell serves as geographic touchstones and Equal Strategy is sensitive to ensuring its offering create a sense of place and welcoming environment. 

While scent branding isn’t new – Westin Hotels and Resorts started introducing its White tea scent in its properties a decade ago- its importance is beginning to gain traction.  ”We hope businesses realize that sensory branding is every bit as effective as more conventional marketing” Faure Field declares.

South China Morning Post

Companies are using ‘signature smells’ in a bid to win customers, writes Charmaine Chan


Simon Faure-Field talks brands. He tosses into conversation such terms as “brand extension”, “brand values”, “brand positioning”, “brand standards” and “brand- aligned experiences”.

A nose for profit led the Singapore-based, British-born businessman initially to provide music and voice-recorded messages for clients wanting a “consistent” image. That led to music styling and, since 2005, the related field of scent branding.

So convinced is he of gaining customer loyalty by aural and olfactory means that he plans to open a sensory-brand consultancy this month in Hong Kong, his second after one in the Lion City. “We’re the only business in Asia that provides music and fragrance to businesses based upon scientific research and in a branding context,” he says.

Once was a time when branding meant searing a mark onto the rump of cattle. Then came trademarks, then jingles, mascots, and slogans. With manufacturers recognising how consumers formed bonds with their products the practice turned quickly into shaping personality and building identity. What formerly revolved around backside burns thus came to shape the bottom lines of business.

This is where Faure-Field, 38, hopes to prove the power of, for one thing, our sense of smell. Hotels, supermarkets, and even airports have started in recent years experimenting with fragrances, hoping to trigger emotions and affect customer behaviour.

A leader in the hospitality industry was Westin Hotels & Resorts, whose custom-designed white-tea scent was so well-received the fragrance soon became part of its retail line. “They were doing quite well globally but they had an identity crisis because guests couldn’t remember why they chose Westin,” says Faure-Field, whose company, Equal Strategy, works with Westin and its parent company Starwood Hotels & Resorts. An emotional connection was needed, “and they wanted to achieve that through a multi-sensory approach to their brand”, he says.

The relationship between smells and emotions is well known, as is the ability of certain aromas to boost consumption. Avery Gilbert, author of What the Nose Knows: The Science of Scent in Everyday Life, says: “Scents can speak of brand attributes like ‘luxury’ or ‘masculine’ and they can reinforce a message like ‘safe, nurturing and caring’. Because it is so richly evocative, scent is an excellent way to reinforce brand awareness and thereby build consumer loyalty.”

It can also induce impulse buying, which is why supermarkets may position fans near their bakeries or infuse the air in the fruit section with the scent of green apples. “So many products are vacuum-sealed or frozen that supermarket shopping can be an exercise in smell deprivation,” says Gilbert. Some coffee shops now pull customers not with the real thing but with a facsimile scent.

Plucking “coffee” from a sleek briefcase full of small glass bottles, Faure-Field says, “When people smell this, it creates a craving.” He cites the case of BP, which apparently quadrupled sales of coffee at its petrol stations by spritizing the interiors with a freshly brewed scent.

That sensory branding can lift sales has won Equal Strategy clients not just in Asia but also in the Middle East and North America. Rather than imprinting an olfactory stamp, two hotels, Raffles Dubai and Pan Pacific in Seattle, had the company style their music to create different moods in different public spaces. “When I embark on a music project with a client, it isn’t ‘Tell me what music you want and I’ll give it to you,” says Faure-Field. “It’s ‘Tell me about the hotel, about the customers, about your brand and how you want people to behave and what sort of mood you want.’”

With the information he needs, Faure-Field then creates a palette of music from a library of five million tracks. For the Naumi, a boutique hotel in Singapore, he mixed chill-out, down-tempo playlists with a ginger and lime scent created from a collection of more than 3,500 fragrances.

“I worked with the owner before it was on the drawing board,” says Faure-Field. “When I saw the glass, chrome, very minimal, very uncluttered design I knew it had to be clean and fresh with an Asian dimension. This wasn’t going to be a family hotel. This was going to be for the 25 to mid-40s travelling businessman who wants personalised service.”

Faure-Field’s enthusiasm for his product is as heady as the ShangriLa fragrance that is part of his collection. A sometime DJ and an interior designer by training, he moved from Britain to Singapore in 1995 to work for a company providing telephone messaging. In 1998 he branched out on his own.

“Generally when you phoned a number, what you heard when you were put on hold wasn’t as 
impressive as the actual advertisement that made you call,” he says. “That didn’t make sense, so we started helping people get the right sort of music on the phone system and interlace messages. If everything was in a branded context, then callers’ time on hold would be more engaging and this would reduce the number of people abandoning the call or calling someone else.”

Sending the right message persuaded a Singapore branch of DBS Bank to approach Faure-Field for an “environmental branding solution” that concentrated on music and scent. Shanghai Tang customers may swoon at its use of ginger lily, a distinctive scent that also wafts through Club Feather Boa, but some may wonder how appropriate it is for a bank to perfume its branches, in the case of DBS, with ginger flower.

Gilbert has no problem with the concept. “A bank scent might communicate starchy formality and security, or it might try to reinforce a friendly and relaxed atmosphere,” he says, adding that banks could also consider impregnating their ATM cards with perfume. “Voila – a logo-scent that ties together every facet of a bank’s brand,” he says. While the ginger lily at Feather Boa “goes well with their most popular sweet drink, daiquiri”, according to in-house designer Vivien Fung there’s always the danger of over-egging the pudding. 
In the sensitive world of scent that means introducing something that attracts attention to itself rather than to the products and services, says Gilbert. Then there are problems, say, with introducing low- arousal scents in an area that needs the opposite. Combinations, however, can produce the desired effect, according to Faure-Field, who whips out a vanilla/grapefruit vial for effect. The stimulating high- arousal citrus scent counters the calming qualities of vanilla, he says.

But the soothing effect of vanilla fragrance is not the only reason it is popular. Fung says of The Candle Company’s most popular scent, French vanilla, “It’s a nostalgic scent associated with childhood memories because it is used in the first foods we tasted, like baby formula, puddings, and ice cream.”

The “safest” perfumes, however, are those “a consumer naturally associates with the imagery of the retail brand”, says Gilbert, citing feminine scents for boutiques, masculine ones for auto-parts shops or “abstract” smells for electronics stores. “It’s not so much about ingredients — it’s about how the consumer interprets the scent and whether it makes ‘sense’ in a given commercial environment,” he says.

Once an appropriate scent has been chosen to help brand a business it is probably wise to stick to it. The same applies to humans. Consistency is key, Faure-Field stresses, which is why he wears only Bulgari Soir cologne. “I am my own brand,” he says.

Of course, the luxury Italian company might argue otherwise.


Hope you can answer the following questions so that I can write a snip to recommend Equal Strategy to our readers.

– What makes Equal Strategy’s services stand out from other companies?

One word covers this – Quality. This is reflected through our consultative approach and everything we do. Quality comes first before price.

Equal Strategy is first and only business in Asia to help brands differentiate themselves through the use of music and scent based upon decades of scientific behavioural research and applied in a brand context. Our fragrances are not mid range “walls of scent”, but beautiful fine fragrances designed by perfumers who have designed perfumes and aftershaves for Bulgari, Chanel, Escada and Dunhill. Our music library has over eight million tracks and is significantly larger than what others. Our service model is client centric, so we do all the hard work.

– What kinds of events does Equal Strategy specialise in?

Helping brand leverage two of the most under valued senses – olfactory and auditory stimuli.

– What events, specifically parties (whether private or not), has Equal Strategy curated music+scent for? Please list a handful of small to large-scale events, whether for well-known brands or personalities. 

Several of our Private Bank clients have asked us to help with their high nett worth client events. Most asked us to curate the music to set the tone and feel, provide the audio system and ensure everything runs smoothly throughout the event. All deployed their brand signature scent as part of their integrated sensory experience – for small events we use a range of portable units to suit each of the different environments. This builds consistency in the brand experience, and strengthens their brand equity in the clients’ mind.

In 2011, We had an interesting small event for Capitaland at the black and white bungalow located at the Botanical Gardens – the event was visited by President Tony Tan and his wife. The scent was designed to capture the essence of Capitaland’ two hybridised orchid species, Cattleya CapitaLand and Phalaenopsis CapitaLand, and was diffused throughout the bungalow and across the garden to the guest arrival point.

From eight years ago, Luxury bespoke jeweller, The Jewel Box, wanted to do something special different for their small client gatherings. It’s Managing Director Vinod Moore contacted us and got us involved – no more than twelve people per gathering, so to create a sophisticated, modern and intimate setting, an amber twist with sparkling citrus top notes and an oriental lounge theme was curated to set the mood.

Podium Lounge is a high nett worth event for the A-list jet set formula 1 – For the past three years we’ve diffused a range of fine fragrances, for 2016 we used another one off scent, a beautiful floral green lily with twists of bergamot and ginger, coupled with curated music over the three days for its CEO & founder, Robbie Hoye-Cock.

UOB worked with us to create a unique sensory experience at their Privilege Banking suite at Marina Bay Sands – the branch was used test new service concepts with food and beverage playing a key role in service delivery. A signature scent and curated playlist reflect the minimalistic design concept with an Asian undertone.

Also for Singapore Formula 1, we scent the outdoor concert area of the Padang. Scenting outdoor areas is a lot more challenging than indoors, due to the dynamics of mother nature, but using high output equipment designed specifically for large areas, makes it a breeze.

Fine Palate is a leading gourmet catering company in Singapore, with a spectacular track record of high end events. I work closely with its founder and conceptualiser, Heather Berrie, and created the scent and music dimensions to several of her events.

– When curating music+scent for an event, is the project undertaken by a single person at Equal Strategy, or a team of people? May I know what you call the ‘curators’ at your company?

I own the creative role and oversee the project, from conceptualisation through to delivery and post project reviews.

Within our team, our “Sensory Managers” account managers work with clients on the finer details. Fulfilment is overlooked by our “Client Services” team who ensures the technical aspects (coordination of engineers, equipment, manufacturing of fragrance, configuration and replenishing) all happen exactly when they should.

– How can our readers get in touch with Equal Strategy should they require your music+scent curation services?

They contact us through our website or reach me directly by email

– What are your hire rates like?

For elements that have such a high touch and memorable impact with guests for an event, our fees are often single digit percentages of the actual project cost.

Additionally, if you can share any high-resolution photos of past events where Equal Strategy curated the music+scent, that would be helpful too.

Hope you can get back to me soon, thank you!

Business Times Weekend

Good business scents – Combine ambient music, cosy interiors and even a hint of bergamot or citrus in the air and you invoke sensorial sorcery that is tailor-made to get the cash tills ringing

Multinational brands find it increasingly difficult to differentiate and connect with their target market because that have forgotten that human beings make decisions based on all five senses, not just one.

For example, 83% of marketing budgets today are spent on advertising, communications, which basically appeal to a single sense – that of sight.

But scientific research has found that a whopping 75% of our decisions are based on what we smell. And there is a 65% chance of a complete mood change when we are exposed to positive music.

Because brands and retailers have forgotten – or perhaps, never knew – about these findings from the world of behavioral science, they are falling short in crucial sales and business objectives in this competitive globalized world.

Bland service centers, uninspiring bank branches, plain vanilla retail outlets, traditional passive merchandising displays, bright lights, and one-off price promotions are just not setting cash registers ringing like they used to.
For more than a decade now, I’ve been in a relatively new industry which employs techniques that make our customer, retail, and hospitality environments more attractive to spend time in. I call this sector the “sensory branding” industry, the aggressive new kid on the block in the advertising and branding world.

What “sensory branding” does is showing local and regional businesses, such as hotels, banks, and retailers how to increase customer interaction and brand loyalty through a multi-sensory, experimental approach to marketing, thereby differentiating themselves from the pack in game-changing ways. For now, these techniques work best in the arena of applied sound and fragrance.

In the industry, for instance, there is a direct correlation between customers’ time spent in a store and a store’s sales, so what stores need to do is increase the time customers are in the store by creating the right environment which resonates with the kinds of products on sale.

Different genres of music can create different kinds of experiences for customers. Fast tempo ambient music which we call “high arousal” music, will excite and energize a customer, this might be appropriate for electrical retail outlets like Courts of Harvey Norman. On the other extreme, more soothing and relaxed low tempo music is used when a brand wants customers to slow down and relax in the environment. Such a strategy will get a customer more in the mood for trying out sofas in a furniture store, for instance.

You are chosen the right kind of ambiance for the particular kind of customer and the kind of product or services being offered, by getting the balance right is not only an art form, it’s also a real science.

As humans, we are affected by the appeal of our surroundings which tend to affect our behavior. A wine retailer who compared the effect of playing Top 40s music against classical and jazz found that the volume of sales was not appreciably different for either genre. However, it was found that when classical music was piped in, people tended to pick more pricey wines.

Music realizes a chemical in the brain called dopamine, which has a role in sending one into a good mood and affects how people feel as individuals. Dopamine is also associated with less tangible stimuli, such as being in love.

The science we are all talking about is all about making customers fall in love with your brand, and doing so in a benign-yet scientific-way through behavioral and sensory psychology.

If we turn from music and look at the application of fragrance, Nike once found from a study it did that a light fragranced room displaying a pair of trainers prompted consumer test subjects to want to spend $10 to $20 more than they would when shown the trainers in a non-fragrance room.

Banks-usually thought of as restrained and conservative – have been notable early adopters of these sense based techniques. Last year, Standard Chartered LanKwai Fong in Hong Kong created a sound field designed to harmonise and complement three distinct public areas while reflecting the tone and feel of its brand.

The bank opted for specially created fragrance, one with oriental, citrus, woody and spicy notes, with softly blended white musk. The choice was based on the bank brand’s heritage originating in Africa and India, with branches having an upmarket, warm, customer-focused and comfortable feel.

“Nike once found from a study, that a lightly fragranced room displaying a pair of trainers prompted test subjects to want to spend $10 to $20 more than they would when shown the trainers in a non-fragranced room.”

In Singapore, UOB Privileged Reserve in Marina Bay Sands retail mall, The Shoppers, recently embarked on a bold foray to impact a distinctively “Asian” appeal to its brand and support its dynamic, upmarket look and feel. The place is designed like a first class lounge on the upper deck of a Bowing Dream Liner in the year 2030, and offers soundscapes and fragrances – East-West fusion music and a bergamot-based scent – in an integrated way, creating a stylish but understated air of elegance and quiet finesses.

Environmental styling, as is used in the banking industry, transcends customers’ financial needs and extends into various facets of their “privileged banking lifestyle”.

Entire retail malls, such as Marina Bay Sands have taken these leads and adopted a more systematic and integrated approach to music programming on their premises. We call this soundscaping by its technical name “music styling”. This takes into account factors such as visitor and tenant profiles, the varieties of usage of the space, the way in which the space is “branded” and different levels of music “arousal” for different times of the day, depending on the natural bioreadings of the shoppers.

This global trend started in the hospitality industry and is rapidly spreading to other sectors. Some years ago, Westin, part of the Starwood Group, started diffusing his signature fragrance and standardizing the music in all its hotel lobbies. This meant Westin properties anywhere delivered a consistent brand from a sensory perspective.

Unsurprisingly, with such powerful sensory sorcery at work, companies are lining up to deploy these stealth methods of creating brand loyalty and the repeat business it brings. Client lists include iconic brands such as Marina Bay Sands hotel, Straits Bullion, Banyan Tree Fitness Club, CUT stake restaurant and Courts.

The Business Times Weekend. From The Desk Of Simon Faure-Field.

Founder and CEO of visionary customer experience consultancy, Equal Strategy


Out to lunch with… Simon Faure-Field (CEO of Equal Strategy)
Interview Sheryl Quek photography Matthew Lee


You can’t see it, you can’t touch it. But Simon Faure-Field‘s chosen field is one that will affect how you feel through your sense of hearing and smell.

His job is to create signature fragrances and customized music soundtracks, especially for restaurants and hotels, to ‘create an imprint on customer sensibility and brand the overall experience.’

Sounds a little out there? We can assure you, quite truly, that his work is real and practical. It’s all to do with a new, niche area of business called brand atmospherics, now a hot trend in the United States and Europe. And, according to the 37-year-old Englishman, Asia is hopping on the bandwagon as more hotels and restaurants pay attention to the aural and olfactory aspects of their place of business.

Notably, Simon’s fragrance solutions can effectively neutralize residual cooking smells at the molecular level, which can make them quite ideal for hotels with cafes adjacent to the lobby or guest reception area. Locally, M Hotel, Naumi Hotel and Pan Pacific Hotel are just some of his clients.

Appetite finds out just what Simon has to say on the business of smelling good.

In a nutshell, explain ‘brand atmospherics’ consistency. It’s about the customer having a consistent experience that reflects what the brand is about. Take Naumi Hotel, an upmarket 44-room hotel. The music we provide in the lobby and bar area has a fresh, modern feel that reflects the hotel’s positioning. Even the music you hear on the phone when you call the hotel is customized. It’s all sends a powerful subconscious message.

How did you get into this business? We started Equal Strategy in 1998 in the middle of the Asian economic crises. I realized that a lot of businesses do not practice consistent branding and neglect sensory branding. The music you play n the phone affects how the customer reacts, especially when it comes to the perception of waiting time. With high tempo music, they don’t feel like they are waiting as long as when low tempo music is played. The telephone hotline is a key customer touch point and that is an aspect that is often overlooked.

Sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing- which do you value most? The sense of smell. Walk into some place and if it doesn’t smell nice, you won’t want to stay there.

How do you create fragrances for your clients? You have to connect the fragrance to the relevant business. Three things you have to consider are: the business, the brand and the environment. What is the concept behind the business and how do they want people to behave? Do they want people to slow down and relax or movie quickly and be refreshed? Take a sports shop – it should smell energizing and refreshing. In this case, a citrus-based scent is ideal. In a restaurant environment, however, a lavender scent is best. It’s been proven too, the guests stay longer, drink more and spend more time in restaurant that use lavender scents, compared to those that use citrus-based ones.

We all know that music and smells can shape our perceptions. But isn’t it all subjective and not as quite an exact science? Yes, general aspects are subjective – such as music genre. But understanding the arousal aspect of sound and scent is quite scientific.

So what is the first thing that you notice when you step into a restaurant? The ‘mood’ of the restaurant.

What are your favorite cuisines? I enjoy Italian. But I go through phases – each lasts at least six months. These days, we have been doing dim sum virtually every weekend. So Shanghai dim sum is my No.1 favorite.

What are some of the most common requests by your clients? No two clients are the same. For each client, we start with a blank canvas. The most requests is: ‘Our music is awful- the staff keeps meddling with the CDs and we have no control over what’s being played. Please help us!

What brought you out to Asia? I was offered an exciting role in a growing communications company in Singapore, and I was attracted by the vibrancy and opportunities of the Asian markets.

When did you get your first taste of Asia? My grandmother used to live in Burma, so Asian food is very much part of my life. It left a very deep impression on me. I first visited Singapore and Malaysia when I was 10, as my Dad worked for Pearl and Dean.

What’s your favorite dish at Blu? The Maine lobster, it’s fantastic.

Fine dining restaurant or hawker centre? Hawker centres are not so good because you get sweaty. I don’t like to go for meetings with someone who reeks of the hawker centres so I don’t do it to them.

What dish can’t you live without in Asia? Nasi padang. There’s only one place I go for it in Singapore: Sinar Nasi Padang at Circular Road.

Rate yourself as foodie. Eight out of 10. I enjoy my food and when I find a place I like, I am a really loyal customer. I am not as adventurous as I used to be – but that’s because I tend to get upset when I am disappointed by the food.