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Odor-able

Consider the five senses — our gateway to the physical world. (However, I believe most of us have a sixth sense — our sense of humor!)

We don’t usually think about the power of the olfactory sense in terms of business, but it is worth considering as a key element to generate loyalty and distinction. Smell matters. The olfactory bulb is part of the brain’s limbic system, which is associated with memory and feeling. It is often referred to as the “emotional brain.” A simple odor may elicit a flood of memories, influence moods and condition emotional responses over the long term.

This phenomenon is everywhere — stores, hotels, schools and (ugh) dental offices. Walk into a school and smell the eraser dust — memory will be elicited, whether positive or negative. I walk through Thomas Pink stores just to sniff the divine scent of linen pumped through their HVAC system. On a recent trip to New York, I noticed the signature scent at the W Times Square that greets you when you cross from the humid outdoors into the hotel. It smells like relief to me. Scents matter.

Amber Jones, concierge at W Times Square, gets this.

Amber recently published a “scratch and sniff adventure book” called “New York, Phew York.” It is a book that contains 23 whiffs of the city — some great and some, well, some that give the true meaning to “phew.” While the odors of New York are as varied as they are pervasive, they could easily escape conscious awareness unless pointed out.

Most tourists ask the concierge, “What should we see?” Amber points to what you should smell. Amber and I first met when I took over a hotel in New York in 2001. I must have smelled talent. I pulled Amber from the front desk and offered her a concierge role. Today, she continues to bring distinction to visitors, and they remember her and the hotel as “odor-able.” 

How your business “smells” give you distinction, whether it’s a conscious effort or a default odor. It’s worth investigating and considering. Hotels that smell of plastic and cleaning fluids can neutralize even the best of visits. How do you define your business? Could you then associate a particularly wonderful olfactory perception with it?

And when the sommelier points out the bouquet on that glass of Barolo — yum, I am coming back for more. The nose knows …

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