Video: Sweet smell of success

By Bertha Coombs Reporter
CNBC
updated 7/24/2006 1:04:10 PM ET 2006-07-24T17:04:10

The multi-billion-dollar hotel industry can be a fickle business. Managers are learning fast that it's no longer enough to provide just a good night’s sleep -- guests want more. They’re upping the ante, which is leading to an amenities arms race, as premiere hotels pile on the pillows and provide the plasma TV's. Now, they’re looking for the sweet smell of success.

Now that every hotel has a signature bed, a great bath, luxury amenities and high-end electronics, there's a new push in the industry to create lifestyle experience. The strategy includes sensory branding -- where the sense of smell plays an important part in winning loyal consumers.

“If you ask people, they tell you that sight is the most important sense,” said Michael  Deitemeyer, president of Omni Hotels. “But what we found that just the subtle scent really creates are memory and really brings it all together for them.”

Smelling an opportunity to make an impact and gain customer loyalty, Omni Hotels is trying out its own scent strategies as a part of a larger sensory branding campaign. Using small vaporizers in discreet places, each hotel is able to disperse subtle scents such as lemongrass and green tea in the lobbies, Mochachino in coffee shops and coconut around the pools.

“Our guest satisfaction scores have gone up dramatically since we started these initiatives,” said Deitemeyer. “Our repeat business has doubled. Clearly, we believe there is a correlation.”

Starwood Hotels also smells success; the company has been rolling out signature scents for each of its brands over the year. A recent advertising campaign highlights the importance of the white tea, geranium, and freesia mix for Westin.           

The key -- keep it subtle.

“It has to be very subtle,” said Javier Benito, Starwood Hotel’s chief marketing officer. “It's almost hard to people -- you ask them right now (if they) have a specific scent -- they probably won't be able to tell you. But there is something that is in the ambiance.

It’s a strategy that casino's have been using for years. Aromasys co-founder Mark Pelitier is a pioneer in the industry -- working early on with Las Vegas magnate Steven Wynn to design one of a kind scents for The Mirage. And his business has expanded now including the sprawling casinos of Mohegan Sun.

“We've designed strategies to compliment the architecture -- which we believe enhances the overall guest experience,” said Jeff Hartmann, Mohegan Sun’s chief operating officer.

Thirteen different aromas flow through the heating and ventilating systems of Mohegan Sun to disperse the scents -- a blend of citrus for the sky casino, pine, spruce, fur and cedar for the earth casino, distinct scents for entrances and exits and even different aromas for spaces with in spaces.

“as soon as you step in the scent immediately changes from the zest a few feet away,” said Peltier.

While the systems can be costly, Peltier says feedback makes it worth every penny.

“The ultimate bottom line for a hospitality property is that there must be unsolicited, positive guest comment,” he said. “That is ultimately the basis for our success and the justification of the expenditure.

And it's becoming a necessary expenditure for hotels fighting to set themselves apart and leave a lasting impression on consumers.

“What is a huge opportunity we think is differentiating those brands and building those connections with people,” said Benito. “There's no reason why you should have stronger connection with a pair of sneakers than you do with a hotel.”         

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