Wicked – Something’s In The Air

Equal Strategy’s versatile approach to critiquing their client’s businesses means that they are also able to explore other avenues to get brand messages across to the consumers.

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Equal Strategy’s Ambient Atmospherics Tap into Consumers’ Auditory and Olfactory Senses. Imagine What it Can Do For Homes.

Brands find it increasingly difficult to differentiate and connect with their target market.

Eighty-three per cent of marketing budgets are spent on commercial communication that appeals to one sense — our eyes — yet 75 per cent of our decisions are based upon what we smell and there’s a 65 per cent chance of a mood change when exposed to positive background music.

Bland service centres, uninspiring bank branches, plain vanilla retailer outlets, traditional passive merchandising displays, jazzy colour palettes, bright lights, and one-off price promotions just aren’t ringing the cash registers as they used to, says a British brand consultant Equal Strategy, Asia’s only ‘brand atmospherics’ guru. 

Based in Singapore, Equal Strategy’s mission is to introduce environmental multi-sensory marketing — a 360 degree marketing experience – to the region’s businesses, brands and retailers.

Sound Investment - Background Music

For a long time visitors to places of businesses have been treated to business-designed music to appeal to consumers but Equal Strategy is taking that still further with fragrance and ambient atmospherics.

“It’s the first time that any brand consultant in Asia has explored combining the two through a scientific and systematic approach: As humans, we are affected by the appeal of our surroundings, which tend to affect our behaviour,” says Equal Strategy CEO Simon Faure-Field.

“So, for example, a wine shop was comparing the effect of playing top 40’s music versus classical and jazz, and they actually found that the volume of sales didn’t increase between the two, but they did find that when people listen to classical music they tend to select more expensive wines.”

“There is another study of supermarkets where they compared using no music, low-tempo music, and high-tempo background music. Well, the summary of that was if you’re using low-tempo music the customers actually slowed down, became more relaxed, and more impulsive. 

So by using low-tempo background music in the supermarket, they found that sales increase by 38.2 percent,” adds Faure-Field.

Dollars and Scents

If we look at the application of ambient fragrance (often referred as aroma or scent marketing), Nike conducted a study where they have two identical sets of trainers, one pair was located in a room that had been lightly fragranced, and the other room had not. They would send consumers in to look at each of those two pairs of trainers and when they came out they asked them which trainers they had a preference for. 

It was found that the consumers actually preferred the trainers from the scented room. They were even prepared to spend 10 to 15 to 20 dollars more as compared to trainers in the un-fragranced room. So that gives you some research as to how background music and ambient fragrance can really help improve customer experience and increase the bottom line.

This is a global trend that all started in the hospitality industry. Seven years ago, Westin, part of the Starwood Group, started diffusing a signature fragrance in all of their hotel lobbies and they coupled that by standardising the music in all the lobbies too, so whenever you went from a Westin property anywhere in the world you actually have a consistent ‘brand experience’.

Asian Ambiance - Background Music & Ambient Scent

This branding tactic is already very much in use throughout the world, but how is it being used in Asia? 

According to Faure-Field, “What we’re finding in Asia is that brands want to express more of their Asian brand elements. Our client Standard Chartered in Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong, has used music and scent to reposition itself within the banking and lifestyle segment of the market, as effectively the most expensive branch in the history of the brand.”

Part of this is done through choice of ambient scent, which the bank describes in its marketing literature as ‘a captivating scent, embracing Standard Chartered’s heritage and vision, enveloping oriental, citrus, woody, and spicy notes, with softly blended white musk. The outlet is furthermore, ‘Based upon the brands heritage originating from Africa and India with branches having a desired up market, high quality, original, warm, comfortable, customer focus, customer centric feel’.

Other financial companies are tagging onto these methods, such as Jakarta- based Straits Bullion, whose guest lounge is situated in one of Jakarta’s most prestigious offices and fitted out to the same standards as a six-star hotel — plush and luxurious. Contemporary music and an Asian inspired modern floral and green tea fragrance is diffused in the air conditioning to the guest reception area.

Air of Hospitality

Faure-Field is also working with the new generation of boutique and five star luxury hotels, who have become early adopters of these brand atmospherics practices.

In Singapore, Equal Strategy has recently advised both Marina Bay Sands (MBS) and Equarius Hotel at Resorts World Sentosa. At MBS, guests are offered a choice of 3 signature fragrances for their suites — masculine, feminine and neutral and portable scent machines are used by housekeeping to neutralize tobacco smells and other foul odours.

Equarius meanwhile required a signature fragrance reminiscent of rainforest infused with floral and green top and mid notes, perfectly balanced with woody lower notes to compliment the design and bring out the elements of the resort’s lush tropical greenery.

Restaurant brands and fitness centres are also prime candidates for this kind of atmospheric treatment.

Banyan Tree Fitness Club for example and the Brozeit chain of restaurants are good examples of forward-thinking businesses keen to embrace the new 360-degree branding protocols of sound, smell, and ambiance.

Equal Strategy’s versatile approach to critiquing their client’s businesses means that they are also able to explore other avenues to get brand messages across to the consumers. According to Faure-Field, “We found brands are needing to use an integrated approach across their various touch points.

So for example you can have a creative advertisement in print or on television yet when the customer actually calls that business, it’s crucial that they have an experience that’s consistent with when they actually go to the property or even to match the perception that the advertisement has created.”

In this case, Equal Strategy would not only look at using the right music that’s going to soothe the caller, so that it reflects the brand values. The consultancy would also integrate interlaced brand and service messages as a way to inform, inspire and entertain callers when they are on hold.

Says Faure-Field, “This top-down, total integration of all brand and atmospheric messages in an immersive, coherent touch point strategy is really where we see this industry moving forward”.

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