Since the smoking ban has been introduced in the UK, pubs are beginning to face the issue of introducing scent into their customer experience. According to an article in today’s Sunday Telegraph, this is due to the ‘smell of old carpets and body odour … no longer masked by cigarette smoke’. One pub group, Mitchells & Butlers (http://www.mbplc.com/) are experimenting with scented air conditioning to mask the aromas in all its smoke free pubs, using Ocean Breeze and Freshly Cut Grass.Scents are an largely neglected in designing great customer experiences.
Smell is a sense which evokes a powerful emotional response in us because it doesn’t get interpreted by the thalamus – the area of the brain which interprets all our other senses. This direct connection from the nose to the cortex is responsible for the strong memories which are relived when smelling a familiar scent, most of us can associate with passing someone in the street wearing an old girlfriend or boyfriends aftershave or perfume.
How these pubs integrate an extremely personal and powerful sense into a consistent customer experience is an interesting problem and one which would be good to research further. My feeling, without the benefit of research, is that I’m not sure if the experience of sitting in your local on a Friday night with the smell of freshly cut grass is going to feel right. Many of us associate these smells with more healthy outdoor pursuits rather than having a few beers chatting with friends. It seems to me that the real customer experience issue here is smelly old pubs needing to refurbish rather than trying to mask the smells left behind from years of beer, food and smoke.