NUSA DUA – Bali boasts some of the world’s most exotic resorts and a suite of famously atmospheric lounges and restaurants featuring stunning design, spectacular views, luxurious materials and excellent food. These properties are renowned for stimulating our senses of sight, touch and taste.

Now, when the island’s tourism industry is bracing for the impact of the global financial crisis, Bali’s hospitality providers are learning how to gain a long-term market advantage by further enhancing the sensory experience of their clients to promote customer satisfaction and loyalty – and company profit.

Singapore-based branding specialist Simon Faure-Field, CEO of Equal Strategy, says marketers have traditionally overlooked the significant sensory triggers of scent and sound. He offers personalized and integrated use of music and fragrance to make “people fall deeply in love with your brand.”

“Branding is multi sensory. It’s not just a logo or a string of ads in the mainstream media,” he told Bali Times.

In Bali to meet clients The Westin and Club Med, and talk to potentials such as Ku De Ta restaurant and The Samaya in Seminyak, he sees Bali as “a very creative, resilient and dynamic market ready to embrace the new wave of how business is operating in hospitality.”

Big names already using Equal Strategy’s sensory methodology and technology include Mercedes Benz, Citroen, Microsoft, Changi Airport, several banks, retailer Courts (Singapore), Raffles, Marriott, Shangri-La, Millennium & Copthorne and Pan Pacific resorts and a string of boutique hotels.

Equal Strategy uses a collaborative approach with its clients to find out about corporate culture and the purpose of an environment – what the client wants to create and what it wants its guests to do. Simon says it’s a bonus if he can work with a client at the design of premises stage to influence details such as placement of speakers.

His substantial research shows the power of music to subconsciously influence customers – and staff. Too many operators rely on staff to select music, which is often inappropriate and can alienate customers. “Sound should work for you and be conducive to its space, rather than work against it.”

In a retail environment, all components of music such as relevant content, tempo and volume may change, automatically and subtly, tens of times each day to reflect branding as well as desired activity and outcomes. Simon takes responsibility for the whole package, including any licensing requirements, and can adjust the music remotely from anywhere in the world.

In a resort, music can be consistent with overall branding but adjusted for individual areas to create the right atmosphere and guest environment. Light music on guest floors can mask sounds from guest rooms and give privacy.

Simon is passionate about the importance of “on hold” telephone messages. “Businesses can spend millions of dollars on advertising to make people pick up the phone and call them, only to be put through a chamber of torture. Time on hold needs to be engaging and comfortable for the caller and it needs to work for our client.”

Equal Strategy has developed a systematic approach to creating and managing on-hold content which includes script writing and recording, sourcing voice talent and music, mixing and recording and managing the product. Important considerations include details such as oral accent. “It may be counterproductive for young Asian investors in a British-owned bank in Hong Kong to be addressed on-hold by a plum-in-mouth Englishman,” said Simon.

In a quest for maximum flexibility and efficiency, Equal Strategy partners with quality specialists around the world. “If you need a New York voice, you will get a recording in New York, from a talented New Yorker at a reputable studio,” Simon said.

There’s little doubt the sounds you are tuned into in any environment can be a turn-off or turn-on. Sound and smell together, says Simon, make a really powerful marketing tool.

“Smell is the only sense directly connected to the brain cells. Around 80 percent of our decisions are based on smell, which can evoke emotions and memories.”

Equal Strategy says it applies research, technology and its partnerships with fragrance companies to offer a “bespoke approach to fragrance” that gives clients an infinite choice from existing fragrances and a capacity to create their own aromas.

Many businesses, says Simon, recognizing the power of scent, have been using centuries-old aromatherapy candles and press-button fragrance dispensers that may present safety issues and don’t service large spaces.

By turning a liquid fragrance into a dry vapor and introducing it into air-conditioning ducts, an environment can be evenly fragranced all day, he says. Intensity and delivery can be controlled. A client may choose to adopt, say, a pine scent for the Christmas period.

A unique ginger and lime scent was developed for a boutique Singapore hotel, Naumi, to reflect the ultra-hip property’s cool vibe. “Like music, scents must be appropriate to the environment and audience. In a sports store, the fragrance should be refreshing and vitalizing, with a citrus base. Peppermint has high arousal, which is great for productivity. Lavender is calming.”

Simon Faure-Field, 38, founded Equal Strategy in the middle of the Asian crisis in 1998 and now, during a global financial melt down, wants more Bali operators to develop sensory plans within their branding strategies.

“I really loved those first years,” he says. “They were a challenge, which gives me a buzz, and they were a real test of our service, support and pricing. In challenging times you can really identify the market leaders who are open-minded about branding disciplines and who want to prepare for the future.”

“Good-times clients may not be all that committed but we enjoy 98-percent client loyalty.” In Bali, where many hospitality areas are open to the air, portable units can be developed to deliver scent and sound.