Human noses can detect 1 trillion scents

Girl sniffing yellow flowerAccording to a recent groundbreaking study, human noses can differentiate an average of a trillion scents, rather than the approximate 10,000 thought by scientists for the past several decades. This far exceeds the several million colors thought to be detectable by the human eye, and shows that the human sense of smell far outperforms the other senses.

The study, led by geneticists at Rockefeller University and published in the journal Science, performed 264 trials with 26 people and scent mixtures created from 128 odor molecules, testing the subjects’ abilities to distinguish which scent was different in batches of three, where two vials were the same and one was different. Scents had varying levels of similarity; for most participants it was easy to detect a difference in scents that share 50% molecular similarity, and for most participants it was difficult to tell the difference between scents that shared 90% molecular similarity. Still, the number of scents the average participant could distinguish was over 1 trillion, and for some participants the number was far greater. Even those with the least able noses could detect 80 million different scents, still vastly greater than previously thought.

Prior studies had already indicated that the sense of smell has played a huge part in evolution — humans have 400 genes that code for odor-sensing molecules. Other animals have yet to be studied in the level of detail done with people in this study, however it is known that mice have approximately 1000 odor-sensing genes.


Article: “Human noses know more than 1 trillion odors,” published in Science News

Abstract of Study: “Humans Can Discriminate More Than 1 Trillion Olfactory Stimuli,” published in the journal Science

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The smell of chocolates boosts lingerie sales by 20%

A Netherlands-based lingerie retailer has found that when the scent of chocolate is pumped through its stores, average spending increases by 20%.

‘Psychology tells us that if you give something to someone, they’re likely to give you something back, and if you feel in a good mood, you’re going to be less cautious about what you’re buying,’ says Orlando Wood of BrainJuicer Labs, the behavioral agency that worked with lingerie retailer Hunkemöller to perform the study. ‘Intuitively, marketers or people in retail know you have to make people feel at ease to make them spend more. Music is a very old trick. Scent is the new one…We can see that not only is it adding to the experience, it’s increasing sales,’ says Ashwien Bisnajak, market intelligence manager at Hunkemöller.

From POPAI‘s Dec. 2013 Global Retail Trends Report

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Crafting the perfect ambient scent for your stores via the “six scent families”

child.smelling.flower.closeup.150By Richard Weening, CEO, Prolitec.

Published March 11, 2014 in Retail Customer Experience

Some of us are a bit skeptical about the notion that specific smells can change human behavior. But scientists say otherwise. Consider a paper published a couple of years ago in the Journal of Social Psychology. Repeated 400 times, the experiment proved that the pleasant scent of fresh-baked bread made shoppers more likely to help a “stranger” (played by a researcher) who had dropped a personal item and walked away. Another study showed people were more likely to clean crumbs off a conference table if citrus wafted through the air.

Altruistic or tidy behavior as a function of scent? It might seem hard to believe. But these findings are part of a large body of scientific literature on the ability of fragrances to influence mood and cognitive function. In one Duke University study, the scent of lavender relaxed study participants every bit as much as a physical massage.

From a physiological standpoint, this is no surprise. After all, smell is our most primal sense. It is processed in the same part of the brain that handles our emotions, memory and creativity — the limbic system. The acuity of our sense of smell, moreover, is remarkable: it is widely believed that humans can distinguish over 10,000 different scents.

Little wonder more retail designers — who already think carefully about the potential effects of sights, sounds, textures and traffic-flow patterns on the environments they create — are now contemplating the role of scent in the customer experience. Over the past few years, a growing number of retail chains — Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister, Giorgio Armani and Ben Bridge Jewelers, to name a few — have launched ambient-scenting programs in their stores to good effect.

But just as certain colors are energizing and others soothing, different fragrances have different effects on shoppers’ moods. It follows that retail execs and store designers should take some time to educate themselves about the basics of olfaction as a sense and about ambient scenting. Generally speaking, ambient scenting is the automated diffusion and maintenance of a scent throughout a space. This can be used for scent marketing (i.e., to sell a particular scented product) or scent branding (i.e., to associate a particular scent with a brand, experience, décor, product or service). In tandem with this, the fragrance effect can accomplish goals such as remediating malodors or influencing cognition, emotion and behavior.

Read the rest of the article at Retail Customer Experience

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Fragrance should come first in ambient scenting

When it comes to ambient scenting, the fragrance should come first. It might sound obvious, but it is not always so, says renowned fragrance designer Raymond Matts. In the ambient scenting industry, many companies focus on their appliances, with little attention to the quality of the fragrances. In a talk given to Ambius Ireland, Matts discusses the importance of putting the “scent” back in “ambient scenting.”

Voyage With Fragrance

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The fine art of ambient scenting

From the Irish Examiner

Raymond MattsFragrance designer Raymond Matts is the creative mind behind some of the world’s most successful perfumes, including Clinique Happy, Tommy Girl and Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds. The former Estée Lauder VP for fragrance development visited Dublin last week on behalf of Ambius, an ambience, landscaping and interiors firm for which he now consults.

“Ambience scenting is about creating an emotional appeal to your location, something that’s distinctive and will be remembered in a positive way,” he says.

Matts stresses that this technique is far more subtle than the “aromatic billboard” of freshly-baked goods.

“We’re seeing studies that show when a space is not overtly but pleasantly scented, customers tend to linger longer and are more apt to communicate with staff. People looking to sell something have their attention for a greater time-span and are more likely to return.”

The limbic system (the structures of the brain that process smells) is closely linked to memory and emotion. “At least 35% of what we recall about an environment in the short-term is scent-based, compared with about 15% of what we see. Yet marketing campaigns still tend to be sight-led. I’m not suggesting scent is a marketing “silver bullet” but it is certainly a potent part of mix,” says Matts.

Unlike the “come and get it” scent marketing employed by the hospitality industry, ambience scenting does not affect what we buy so much as how long we mill about deliberating. Somewhat alarmingly, it seems to alter the way we perceive time.

In his 2005 book Brand Sense: Sensory Secrets Behind the Stuff We Buy, Martin Lindstrom reveals customers surveyed at the Galeries Lafayette in Paris claimed they’d spent 25 minutes in stores where they’d spent 40, while customers in unscented areas made far more accurate estimations. Fragrance Foundation president Elizabeth Musmanno says “the length of time a consumer spends in a store is directly proportional to the average unit sale per customer,” further weighting the theory that scent impacts on our wallets.

Fashion and luxury brands have been in on the act on for years, using fragrance not just as a marketing tool but as an entry product for mass-market consumption. Giorgio Armani mists a version of his bestselling personal scents through his boutiques. Abercrombie & Fitch (which also utilises Matts’ talents) wafts its signature Fierce fragrance through stores all over the world. The brand’s communications head goes so far as to attribute A&F’s commercial success to “what you see, what you hear and what you smell.”

Concrete figures showing that ambient scenting boosts profits are thin on the ground. Ambius points to a 2006 study that found ambient scenting of a casino resulted in a bar sales increase of 17.5% over a 14-week period.

“I’m often asked about the ambient scenting’s return on investment and I respond by asking what the ROI on the artwork in your lobby or your exterior landscaping is,” says Matts. “It’s about creating an environment customers want to stay in, enhancing brand identity and encouraging repeat business.”

Read the full article at the Irish Examiner

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Irish businesses use power of scent to drive sales

Irish businesses can drive revenue levels by up to 17.5 per cent by harnessing the power of smell, through premium scent marketing. In trials by Holland America Cruise Line in 2006, consumer spending increased by 17.5 per cent in locations using Ambius premium scenting.

The global expert in premium scenting, Ambius’ Irish customers include five-star hotels, car showrooms, supermarkets, beauty salons, and funeral homes, spread throughout the country from Dublin to Cork, Kerry and Galway.

Hotels that use premium scenting create a more memorable customer experience; achieve higher occupancy rates and better feedback on TripAdvisor. Gyms boost their membership and reputation and differentiate themselves from the
competition by using their own fragrances. In the retail environment, customers stay in shops for longer, and are more likely to make a purchase and return again. Premium scenting increases brand awareness, demonstrates innovation, and makes businesses stand out.

Visiting Dublin recently, Ambius scent designer Raymond Matts said: “Out of our five senses, smell is the sense we rely on most. However, most marketing campaigns are built around creating visual appeal. Recognising that the power of scent plays such a big role in our lives, it makes sense to incorporate this into a brand’s marketing strategy. This is now a key element of what is
known as ambient marketing.”

Matts has designed some of the world’s most iconic fragrances, including Abercrombie’s perfume and cologne, Clinique Happy, Tommy Girl, White Diamonds, and Cerruti 1881. He has now turned his talents to working with Ambius to provide a host of benefits for clients across the corporate, hospitality, leisure, and retail sectors.

Dermot Gallagher, Volkswagen brand manager at MSL Park Motors said: “Premium scenting adds to the overall atmosphere in our showroom. When a customer walks into a car dealership we want them to feel welcome and Ambius scenting does just this. Ambius scenting makes the dealership an attractive place to visit, and the more visitors we attract, the more cars we can sell.” Lorraine Carey, MD, Colours Hair Salon, Rochestown, Co Cork said: “Customers get the feel-good factor when they walk in the door. It gives the feeling of being in a spa and a sense of wellbeing to customers. I wouldn’t go without ambient scenting.”

Raymond Matts was in Dublin to speak about the power of scent with staff, customers, and the media.

From the Advertiser

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Global Services Company Teams With Prolitec to Offer Ambient-Scenting Services

Deal With Global Services Leader Rentokil Initial to Bring Air/Q’s Patented Scenting Technology to New Customers Across the Globe

MILWAUKEE, WI–(Marketwired – Oct 23, 2013) – Rentokil Initial plc, one of the world’s largest business services companies, will now offer and support Air/Q ambient scenting and odor remediation solutions to customers across Europe, North America, South Africa and the Asia Pacific region. The service will be called Premium Scenting by Air/Q. Air/Q is a division of U.S.-based Prolitec Inc.

The new Certified Service Provider (CSP) agreement represents a major extension of global sales, service and support capability for Milwaukee-based Air/Q, and expands an existing strong relationship with Ambius, a division of Rentokil Initial, which has served as a CSP for North America and Europe since 2006.

With approximately 50,000 employees in more than 60 countries, the UK-based Rentokil Initial is a global leader in such fields as facilities services, pest control, hygiene services and interior landscaping.

“Thanks to this agreement, our global reach has significantly strengthened,” said Richard Weening, Chairman and CEO of Prolitec. “Rentokil Initial’s customers around the world will now have access to Air/Q’s patented ambient-scenting technology and services — already widely used in retail stores, hotels, casinos, assisted living communities, offices and other environments across the globe. Importantly, we have been working with the Ambius subsidiary for many years, serving thousands of clients. Over the past year, we’ve been working with Rentokil Initial’s global business units to refine the processes and systems needed to provide excellent service to customers. This is not an experiment. We are ready to go.”

“The relationship with Rentokil Initial substantially expands Air/Q’s capabilities around the world,” said Roger Bensinger, Prolitec Executive Vice President. “Among other things, this means Rentokil Initial’s customers, whether they are in Thailand or Canada, will be treated to the same patented technology and high-level of customer service that Prolitec and its partners are known for.”

Premium Scenting by Air/Q units offer an on-board computer that can be used to control both the intensity and the duration of custom scent effects, up to and including programmable start and stop times. The company’s micro-droplet technology uniformly treats the air throughout large and small spaces using ultra-low concentrations of liquid.

This technology has enabled commercial customers to take a safe and sustainable approach to enhancing the olfactory environment. Indeed, Prolitec’s products meet and exceed all consumer product safety standards and use no propellants or any other harmful, volatile organic compounds.

About Prolitec-Air/Q

Prolitec, Inc. is a global provider of ambient scenting technology and services under the Air/Q brand to retail stores, hotels, casinos, assisted living communities, offices and other locations. Headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisc., Prolitec provides scent marketing services in the U.S. directly to major brands such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister and Hard Rock Casinos. Air/Q also provides products and services in more than 70 countries around the world through certified service provider partners. The company was featured on an NBC-TV Today Show segment on ambient scenting. To learn more, visit

About Rentokil Initial, plc

Rentokil Initial is one of the largest business services companies in the world, operating in all the major economies of Europe, North America, Asia Pacific and Africa. It employs some 50,000 colleagues providing a range of services in over 60 countries.

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