Stepping into numerous hotel lobbies and hotel rooms are familiar scenarios for travellers, as is shop and mall hopping for the retail enthusiast. But just how much do they pay attention to their surroundings and which of their senses remain on high alert?

WHILE PIPED MUSIC MAY be nothing new in the retail world, it seems that many more businesses in Asia are following the US and European route by taking it to another level. This translates to incorporating different genres of music with messaging as well as a relatively new ‘fragrancing’, offering to calm or stimulate the consumer through their subconscious and, more importantly for the business, make them spend more.

Research has proven that the combination of smell and music makes consumers want to buy more, according to Simon Faure-Field (pictured), founder and CEO of visionary customer experience consultancy, Equal Strategy. “There’s been research which has been carried out over the last decade into consumer behavioural patterns and they’ve found that by stimulating the senses with sound and smell, it’s a great way to engage people within the customer environment and they spend more money in the shops, and it also creates an environment which they want to go to.”

With clients like Microsoft, Courts, Mercedes-Benz, OCBC, Sentosa Spa & Resort and Changi Airport, Equal Strategy is deploying cutting edge, Internet-based technology to deliver music, telephone and now also “fragrancing” solutions (through Brandaroma) to retail and business premises.


Before working on creating music or a fragrance for the business, Simon, a 36-year-old Briton, says that they first look at how the brand is positioning itself. “First, we need to look at the brand (e.g. Changi Airport, Mercedes Benz etc) and then select the right sort of fragrances.”

A global trend for retailers, according to Simon, is the search for a fresh and revitalizing fragrance. “Fragrances can be used to stimulate the control and behaviour of your consumers.” And, depending on whether you want to create a low or high-energy environment for one’s customers, it’s important to think about the fragrance base. “Vanilla has a calming affect and slows people down while a grapefruit or citrus one stimulates people.”

How it works is that the fragrance is converted into a dry vapour and then pumped into the air-conditioning system, which enables the control and direction of the fragrance to different areas to create the right mood and atmosphere.

“The hotels are focusing more on the lobby area as a point where guests arrive and leave the property, and that has the most amount of traffic so it’s important to create an impression with an environment which is going to be memorable,” says Simon. “What we need to remember is that the sense of smell is the only sense connected directly to the brain centres for memory and emotions, and that’s why we can smell something and you can have a memory recall from 20-30 years ago. You’ll find that the sense of smell will overpower every other sense.” He continues, “You create that impact and that creates differentiation if you’re using a signature fragrance, but also what happens is that customers become accustomed to that smell and they associate it with that hotel and that brand.”

THE RIGHT MUSIC The selection of high and low tempo music is also important and Simon cites a supermarket study, “They compared low tempo, high tempo and no music to see the affect on sales. By playing the low tempo music they increased sales by 38 percent.”

Aside from programming music for business premises, on-hold music is another area that Equal Strategy is involved in. “Some companies were neglecting the way they were portraying themselves on the telephone,” he says. “When you were put on hold there was Kenny G or Greensleeves music and we thought it was a great opportunity for businesses to get the right sort of music and view that as a timeframe to engage customers and talk about who and what they are and how they are different to their competitors.” There’s little chance, fortunately, of duplication when it comes to the music, with Equal Strategy having access to around 2.5 million copyrighted musical works. “There’s a lot of good music out there, and really what we’re looking for is music which has the right feel and fi t for the brand.”

To complement the music, there is a range of messages, which can also be incorporated, and this combination is called ‘enhancer’. “It’s looking at the two working in tandem together,” Simon explains. “There’s something very interesting we’re doing with Starwood Hotels and they are very much leading the hospitality industry in the sense of being brand-centric. Their Singapore reservations centre supports the whole of Asia-Pacific so when you call from Hong Kong everything you hear when you’re on-hold is in Hong Kong Cantonese, when you call from China it’s in mainland Chinese Mandarin, and when you call from the other countries it’s in English.”

He adds, “We’re now in the process of cementing each of the languages by brand so that now means that when you call the Westin in China, you will experience the music, the voiceover, how the words are spoken etc, which are all built on Westin’s brand positioning and brand values. Starwood [the owner of Westin, Sheraton, St Regis and Meridien amongst others] won the best call centre in Asia Pacific award in 2006.”It’s a clever concept, which many consumers take for granted. Imagine boarding an airplane with no boarding music playing? We don’t necessarily listen out for it, but we would know if wasn’t being piped in the background somewhere. It’s the same with fragrancing, music and message selection. Take the time to listen and smell (the roses) next time you’re in a retail or hotel environment.