You’re a “brand atmospherics” consultant for shops and hotels in Asia — what does that mean exactly?
I help companies connect with their customers at both conscious and subconscious levels in ways which develop customer and brand loyalty. Next time you visit your favorite shop or restaurant, try to observe all those non-visual cues that make you enjoy the whole experience. Lighting, mood, ambiance, sounds and smells — these are the aspects of the experience that will make you return.
We’ve never heard of using sound and smell for branding before. Don’t fancy logos and slogans work anymore?
As consumers become better-traveled arid more sophisticated, those traditional marketing methods are getting less effective. Shoppers don’t just want to know how a brand looks but also how it smells and sounds.
How persuasive would you say environmental branding is?
Extremely. One scientific study found that playing low tempo music in a supermarket caused shoppers to slow down, relax and increased sales by 38 percent. Another study compared the effect of playing top 40 hits and classical and jazz in a wine shop and found that while sales volume did not increase, the net value of each sale increased when classical or jazz music was played.
You’re from the UK, and have a background in interior design and management – so how did you end up doing a job like this in Asia anyway?
Fortunately, my passion for music and DJ-ing collided with my interest in marketing. I came to Asia in 1995 and found myself in a market hungry for new ideas. I also love the food here.
Tell us about some of the projects your company Equal Strategy has done.
Naumi Hotel came to us for a cool modem, chill-out ambiance. We also styled several restaurants and public areas of me new Rallies Dubai Hotel. Courts also work with us extensively, and we’ve styled most of their stores. Their living and bedroom departments require a different more laid-back ambiance from their electronics department, in which we’ve rendered high arousal techno music. Oh, and we recently earned out an exciting music and fragrance project for the largest bank in South-east Asia.
Wait. Did you say high arousal?
I know this is FHM but in behavioural parlance, when we talk about ‘arousal levels’ we mean the physiologic and psychological state of being awake, not anything else, okay! It’s been proven that sensory input influences perhaps 80 percent of our decision-making processes as distinct from the purely logical and rational part. Therefore if a retailer or a hotel, for instance, reach out to you across many different senses, it follows that the decision to buy is reinforced much more strongly.
How do you prescribe the scents?
It depends on the clients’ objectives, whether they want to wake people up with a zesty citrus-based fragrance or make them more relaxed through a low arousal scent like vanilla.
What do you think FHM should smell like?
It should be fruity, zesty and very refreshing. You’re not a boring magazine — it’s exciting, new. and interesting – in that context, FHM should smell very refreshing, sporty and something that makes the heart pulse increase.
So how many scents do you have?
We have an infinite selection. There are about 3,500 scents in the standard library. I have a scent box that has around 60 samples — ranging from high arousal, dynamic ones like coffee to more subtle ones.
What’s the difference between your fragrances and perfumes or home fragrances?
Home fragrances have cheaper ingredients and generally smell more like kitchen or bathroom cleaners. We use fragrances that smell more like perfumes. Fine fragrances, such as CK One and Channel No.5, have around 65 ingredients. Ours have around 45. If you go to public lavatories, the squirt machines you see on the wails use about three or four economical ingredients – that’s why they tend to smell a bit raw basic and not too… pleasing.
Have you come up with any better toilet fragrances?
Well, we use Ginger Lime in a gym in Singapore. Here, you have people working up a good sweat and may not always smell so nice. The fragrance is blended into our odour neutraliser, which changes the structure of body odour so you cannot smell it (or do not recognise it). We have not yet implemented it in any lavatories, but it would work really wet.
We haven’t done the laundry lately. How can we still smell good?
We provide clients with an odour neutralizer that eliminates bad smell from body odour to tobacco smoke. But it’s not meant to be an alternative to good persona hygiene.
Give us a tip on using scent to improve our chances with the ladies?
Some people say that the musky smell is attractive to the opposite sex. The market trend at the moment is that fragrances tend to be very citrusy, green and fruity. But it you’re trying to increase your likelihood of scoring, basic hygiene comes in — make yourself smell good without trying too hard because that’s a turn-off, isn’t it?
How about music — what do you usually encourage retailers to play and how does it influence shoppers?
Depends on their business requirements. How do they want their customers to behave? What sort of emotional connection do they want to achieve? Demographic and psycho-graphic profits need to be considered.
Okay, so what shouldn’t it do?
Playing techno music in Mother-care is an outright no no. And nothing offensive, so generally, I don’t recommend rap music because of the obscene lyrics. I once encountered a sports store in Singapore which was paying R&B with so many expletives. As I was with my wife and child, I didn’t find it appropriate. They really need my help!
So if I’m bringing a girl back to my pad on a date, what sort of “environmental branding would you recommend to improve the chances of scoring?
Let’s say you returned from clubbing and both enjoyed the music.. I’d recommend
something of a lower tempo to create a relaxed atmosphere whilst retaining the same music tone, so put on something from Thievery Corporation. For scent, it has to be extremely light almost to the point of being unnoticeable and not too masculine or feminine; otherwise you’d look like you are trying too hard.
You also use telephone-on-hold and in-store messaging to stimulate people to buy. So what’s the recorded message on your voicemail?
Just “leave your name and message and I’ll get back to you”, I didn’t want to go over the top; I don’t think I need to try that hard!
You advise others for a living – what’s the best advice you’ve ever had?
Follow your heart and gut instinct, and do what you love. That is from my mum.