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Householders are used to reaching for their oil burners to create a relaxing ambience – But how many give serious thought to the specific mood they are creating or whether its even the right mood for them at any given time ?


Someone who has much to say on the subject of aromatherapy is Simon Faure-Field, Southeast Asia’s leading expert in the creative application of behavioural science principles to the retail, hospitality and lifestyle industries – and he does so principally through music and fragrance. “People can be easily inf luenced by either high arousal or low arousal scents and fragrances,” says Faure-Field, who grew up in London and settled in Singapore more than a decade ago. “Our moods are often a direct result of external sensory stimuli, including the smells we experience, so people need to take great thought to the aromas they subject themselves to in the home.” In Singapore, Faure-Field’s consultancy Equal Strategy has styled high-end resorts such as Marina Bay Sands, Equarius Hotel, Pan Pacific and Moon Hotel; while in Hong Kong, the company has styled the privilege banking branch by Standard Chartered in Lan Kwai Fong. In the Phililppines, Simon is also styling a new integrated resort and casino called Solaire. “Dealing with five-star hotels and resorts is just one step away from advising homeowners really since hotels are a ‘home away from home’ and one’s stay is integral to the holistic brand experience,” he says. The retail industry has understood the concept of ‘high arousal’ and ‘low arousal’ for many years now. “There is direct correlation between customers’ time spent in a retail store and that store’s sales, so what brands try to do is increase the time customers spend in their store by creating the right mood and environment,” says Faure-Field. Different genres of music for example can create different experiences for customers. Fast tempo ambient music, labelled in the business ‘high arousal’ music will excite and energise a customer and this might be appropriate for electrical retail outlets. At the other extreme, more soothing and relaxed low-tempo music is used when a brand wants customers to slow down and spend more time relaxing in the environment. Such a strategy would get customers more in the mood for trying out sofas in a furniture store for instance, or impulse shopping in a supermarket. “You choose the right kind of ambience for the particular kind of customer and the type of products or services you are offering,” says Faure- Field. And getting the balance right is not only an art form, it’s also a real science, he says.

Traditionally, aromas are difused throughout a retail or hospitality environment via a dry vapour delivered by a central air-conditioning system. But the arrival of miniaturised technology and more compact scent diffusers, which are about the size and shape as a personal computer tower, has made home-based applications the next frontier for Faure-Field.

“We are looking seriously at the home environment,” says Faure-Field, “because above all our system of delivering fragrance is 100 per cent safe, unlike burning scented candles or oil burners where a naked f lame is involved. With our system there is also the possibility of placing the fragrancing system on a timer so that it begins difusing pleasant, low- arousal aromas just before you wake up or when you arrive home from work, for example.

Equal Strategy works with top fragrance houses from around the world which very often custom craft a particular client’s ambient aroma from scratch, so that the scent remains unique to their brand. One of them has created perfumes for Anna Sui, Gucci, Escada and Dunhill. Clients who do not go to the lengths of creating a unique ‘signature fragrance’ can also choose from a range of many different off-the-shelf scents and aromas from Simon Faure-Field’s repertoire. Take a whiff the next time you visit the Pan Pacific Hotel in Singapore and you will notice hints of musk and amber undertones, not to mention a suggestion of watermelon and cedar wood topped with cardamom, nutmeg and orange. In the same way that householders can mix different essential oils, Simon’s company can do the same to create ‘signature fragrances’ for his corporate clients fragrances that are often marketed to visitors to use in their own homes as brand-related products.

“We are all different and respond well to certain stimuli depending on age, gender, personality type and so on, so an individual’s choice of fragrance may differ for home-use,” he says. For instance, a swinging bachelor may opt for a ‘high-arousal’ fragrance in the home which underscores his activities, like house parties, listening to music, chilling out or having buddies round. Such a profile type may prefer a scent which elevates him to a receptive state to receive stimuli and enhances energy levels. Such a fragrance might contain elements of citrus, eucalyptus or mint and other peak stimuli. On the other hand, a family or more elderly couple might prefer ‘low arousal’ fragrances which place them in a more relaxing state conducive to family activities, such as lavender, vanilla or lily.

Add to the mix the additional factor of music and you effectively arrive at a powerful methodology by which to shape your personal space for maximum mood feedback. Says Faure-Field, “Music releases a chemical in the brain (dopamine) that has a role in setting good moods and how we feel as individuals. Dopamine is also associated with less tangible stimuli such as being in love.” Music and fragrance can therefore work together, hand in hand, to set moods and predispositions in the home.

Financial institutions have woken up to the possibilities of fragrancing and music and this means that your wait for counter service at your local bank branch may be a far more engaging experience than hitherto was the case. To impart a distinctively “Asian” appeal to its brand and support its dynamic, upmarket look and feel, UOB Privilege Reserve at Marina Bay Sands’ retail mall, The Shoppes, recently embarked on a bold foray into “sensory branding”. Designed like a First Class lounge on the upper deck of a Boeing Dream Liner in the year 2030, the bank branch brought in Equal Strategy to impart a unique set of sensory touch points to the branch environment. Simon Faure-Field decided that an integrated approach, incorporating both fragrance and also music styling, would help create a stylish statement with an understatement of elegance and quiet finesse. He therefore opted for a scent inspired by the essence of “bergamot and ginger” and a playlist of ambient music presenting a fusion of East and West. Another of Equal Strategy’s banking clients, Standard Chartered in Hong Kong, opted for a specially created fragrance to help reposition their new showcase Lan Kwai Fong branch. The branch’s captivating aroma can be described as an envelopment of oriental, citrus, woody and spicy notes, with softly blended white musk. The choice was based upon the bank brand’s heritage originating from Africa and India with branches having a desired upmarket, high quality, warm, customer-focused and comfortable feel. Equal Strategy’s ambient music selection for Standard Chartered Lan Kwai Fong was chosen to harmonise and compliment the three different public areas, whilst ref lecting the brand’s tone and feel. Unsurprisingly, with such powerful sensory sorcery able to stimulate customers into having an enduring relationship with a brand, companies are lining up to deploy these stealth methods of creating brand loyalty and the repeat business it brings. Brands find it increasingly difficult to differentiate and connect with their target market. With 83 per cent of marketing budgets 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 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 like they used to. “As humans, we are affected by the appeal of our surroundings, which tend to affect our behaviour,” says Faure-Field, “So, for example, a wine shop was comparing the effect of playing top 40s 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.” If we look at the application of fragrance, Nike once 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. This is a global trend which 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 standardizing 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’. So, this is a branding tactic that 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, as we’ve seen with clients like Standard Chartered in Lan Kwai Fong, where popular scents would include ginger f lower fragrance with notes of citrus, jasmine, violet and rose with vanilla bottom notes.” Faure-Field maintains that music and scent should ideally synergise beautifully to create a 360 degree sensory environment in which the brand, or householder, can live, breathe and function as a living, organic entity. “It’s not just about pumping sound or aromas into spaces,” says Faure-Field, “What we essentially do is give a living spirit to your brand or your living environment through these techniques!” text by Danny Chaplin

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