When it comes to our sense of smell, it’s quite easy to immediately recall a time or place where a certain smell had an impact on us. Maybe it’s the experience of smelling fresh coffee first thing in the morning, or the scent of flowers in the garden or herbs wafting from a pizza. Or maybe we think of a specific event held at Christmas or in a special location, and the smells that were there on the day.
Incorporating scent into an event gives us the opportunity to elevate the event and enhance the experience of attendees and participants. Let’s look at some of the evidence around the power of this sense and just how effective it can be.
A lot of research exists on the benefits of an aromatic experience. A study by Nike revealed that scent affected the desirability of a pair of shoes in 84% of subjects, and people were willing to spend 10-20% more in scented environments. Other studies showed that lavender and jasmine soothed the stress of data entry operators in Japan, while a lemon scent increased their productivity by up to 54%. Vanilla reduced claustrophobia for patients undergoing an MRI, with those exposed to a vanilla-like scent reporting 63% less overall anxiety. Peppermint has been demonstrated to stimulate the brain and disturb sleep, while heliotropin (a vanilla-like scent) can relax the brain and encourage sleep. As for mood, studies have shown a 40% improvement in mood after being exposed to pleasant scents.1
It’s no wonder, then, that the concept of sensory branding is an emerging area, particularly on the back of the boom in the aromatherapy industry in recent years. The Sense of Smell Institute2 found that visual recall of an event falls to around 50% three months later, but a smell can be accurately recalled 65% of the time a whole year later.
Fetching’s Chief Engagement Officer Georgie Stayches utilised rosemary at a recent graduation event, since rosemary is said to improve concentration and the purpose of the event was to celebrate the students who had diligently concentrated on their areas of study and achieved graduation.
How is the impact of scent assessed? Research measures the psychometric effects of fragrance upon mood and emotion as well as physiological responses, measuring the electrical activity in the brain, heart rate, and cortisol levels. Studies have found eight factors of mood that are affected by fragrance – irritation, stress, depression, apathy, enhancement of happiness, sensuality, relaxation and stimulation1. There have also been studies that reveal a positive effect on physiological restoration.3 Exposure to the smell of herbs and phytoncides (essential oils from trees) is shown to have a positive effect on the physiological healing process and immune function (Li, et al 2012; Kim, et al, 2007).
Given that our olfactory nerve is directly linked to the part of the brain that monitors memory and emotion, it follows that scent has the impact it does on memory recall and emotional regulation. Leveraging the power of our sense of smell to create a more memorable, special, and enjoyable experience can be done in so many ways and the benefits are clear. How might smell feature in your next event, or be introduced as an element that can add to the overall theme or purpose of the event?
Often when we think about smell, we think about food. And the sense of taste is the sensory experience we’ll explore in our next blog.
1. Mood:Scent, Scent Research, https://moodmedia.com.au/industry/scent-research-2/
2. Stuckey, Barb. The Sense of Smell Institute, 2021 http://barbstuckey.com/research/the-sense-of-smell-institute/
3. Terrapin Bright Green LLC Study, 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design,
Li, Q., M. Kobayashi, H. Inagaki, Y. Wakayama, M. Katsumata, Y. Hirata, Y. Li, K. Hirata, T. Shimizu, A. Nakadai, & T. Kawada (2012). Effect of Phytoncides from Forest Environments on Immune Function. In Q. Li (Ed.). Forest Medicine (157-167). ebook: Nova Science Publishers. 39
Kim, J.T., C.J. Ren, G.A. Fielding, A. Pitti, T. Kasumi, M. Wajda, A. Lebovits, & A. Bekker (2007). Treatment with Lavender Aromatherapy in the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit Reduces Opioid Requirements of Morbidly Obese Patients Undergoing Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding. Obesity Surgery, 17 (7), 920-925. 42
Fetching Events & Communications is a boutique agency that works with the community, for the community, specialising in project management, event management, communications and volunteer engagement. Combining our international event experience in media with our communications knowledge and skills, Fetching Events & Communications provides a fully integrated events, volunteer engagement and communications service.