On Meiji Dori, between Harajuku and Shibuya, I recently came across a tall futuristic titanium-silver contraption staring down at the street with what looked like six portholes. When I got closer, I found it had a window display of small bottles with three signs below saying “touch here!”
Being the tragically curious Alice in Wonderland type, I did.
As soon as my hand passed over a sensor, a cool fragrant mist drifted out from a blower above and descended over my head. Naturally, I touched the other two panels . . . And then the first one again . . . and then the other ones again . . . then the first one yet again — and I was just considering doing it all again, despite how daft I looked with my nose in the air, when it happened . . .
I discovered how scent-marketing works: I saw the store behind the silver machine and walked straight in.
This is how @aroma, an aromatherapy and scent-marketing company, is enticing customers into its first Tokyo store. And once you’ve been lured you in, there’s a whole range of essential oils for you to explore — this time invoked by 15 buttons.
Japan has no shortage of retailers selling essential oils, but @aroma has a few things that puts it notch above.
First is its gadgetry — the outdoors Aroma Shower mega diffuser is a novelty and staff will also let you test the store’s range of sleek personal diffusers (battery and USB powered). But most impressive is its Aroma Oil Blender. Hooked up to 15 different bottles of essential oils, you can push a few buttons of your choice to create your own blend and it will be dispersed in a mist above your head. If you like your custom scent, the staff will make it on the spot for you to purchase (allow for a 30-minute wait, though).
@aroma products are marketed with a design-conscious consumer in mind; no flower-child or pot-pourri aesthetics going on here. The packaging is simple and brightly color-coded, while the naming of the essential-oil ranges is no nonsense — Design Air, Clean Air, Botanical Air or Eco Air.
And, as a Japanese company, it also focuses on native fragrances with three of its lineups. Botanical Air Japan includes a woody Mount Koya scent, a Kyoto cedar one and a Japanese citrus yuzu one. Sense of Japan uses fragrances associated with the country — including hinoki wood, perilla and sandalwood — and is named with words associated with Japanese tradition, such as Sei (purity) Miyabi (Kyoto aesthetics) and Iki (Edo aesthetics). The Message Aroma range uses Japanese phrases as names, including the virtually untranslatable Otsukaresama (the thing you say when you finish work — a concoction of hinoki, pine, marjoram, sandalwood, clary sage, and kopa iba) and Gambate (try hard! — spearmint, rosemary, niaouli, tea tree and lime).
But what about the aromas that lured me in the first place? It started with a floral Stylish Glamour, followed by an original blend called Scent of Tokyo. And when the real smell of Tokyo returned, the minty Eco Air -2 Cool Feel was enough to make me want to follow my nose into the store.
A whiff of scent marketing in Japan
Japan, it appears, is at the forefront of scent marketing. At least, plenty of scent marketers like to quote Japanese companies on the subject.
Skyword Scent Strategy states research carried out by fragrance producer Takasago. When computer users worked with different fragrances, it found the following:
- 20% fewer typing errors with lavender-scented air
- 33% fewer errors with jasmine-scented air
- 54% fewer errors with lemon-scented air
Micro Fragrance is rolling out Japan’s largest-ever scenting program and using thousands of Prolitec diffusion systems to pump a Pomegranate Fusion fragrance into possibly the smelliest places in country — every single Maruhan pachinko parlor.
Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology announced in April that it’s working on a Smelling Screen display system, which will release different odors depending on what is being shown on the screen.
Japan’s household goods market is seeing a boost in scented goods, particularly fabric-softeners, which some people are preferring to the smell of perfume. Lenor is even suggesting you mix laundry scent boosters to create your own personal aroma.