Friday, March 02, 2007

Subliminal messages

I'm always amazed at the power of scent and fragrance, the huge impact it has on us, and new ways in which it is being used to manipulate us.

For example, I just read an article in a travel magazine about the Park Hyatt Hotel in Washington, D.C. which just finished a $24 million makeover. In addition to all the decorating and renovating, they hired the Parisian perfumer, Blaise Mautin to design a custom signature fragrance for their property. Atomizers pump what is described as a warm, woodsy scent into the sleek hotel lobby in order to create an environment that is unique and recognizable as soon as a guest arrives.

Other luxury properties are doing the same thing - using scent to invoke a particular feeling or produce memories out of the guest's imaginations by using scent signals. Omni Hotels have hidden machines which spray a green tea and lemongrass scent in the lobby, and a coconut fragrance around the pool areas for a tropical feel. They are also experimenting with specific aromatherapy blends in meeting rooms this year -- lavender and sandalwood to reduce stress, citrus combinations for energy.

And in Las Vegas, the cutting edge place for manipulating guest's experiences (their lighting tricks and pumping oxygen into the casinos are legendary), many of the chicest properties also use subliminal scenting. The company, AromaSys, the so-called "world leader of environmental aroma systems" creates customized aromatic experiences that extend the emotional impacts of interiors. They see it as just another tool in designing the ideal guest environment, like color, lights, plants and all other design elements. Kind of like music - an inviting "scent" is similar to an enjoyable background soundtrack of classical music, or jazz crooners. It adds that extra something which people identify with - not quite subconsciouly, but not overtly obvious either. Unless of course, you really hate that particular scent . . . or song in the elevator.

I remember walking into a hotel bathroom which smelled exactly like my grandmother always did. I couldn't tell if it was the hand soap, the cleaning products used, the flower bouquet on the counter or a combination of the whole thing. It was so completely captivating and compelling, yet I couldn't identify even slightly what the elements were. I think it reminded me of the face cream she used, but was it some kind of floral? Who knows. All I know is that I wanted to stay in there for hours.