The Five Senses of Your Brand: Smell

Have you ever walked into an event and been overwhelmed by a smell? Whether good or bad, this is a game-changer for your guests.

I’ll never forget a couple years ago, when the host of an event requested a particular cheese on the cheeseboard display. Myself and my team could not, for the life of us, figure out what the smell was that was permeating throughout the event space. Let’s just say we eliminated that pungent cheese as an option on the displays from then on. (For the record, the cheese is delicious - but, if you don’t know where the smell is coming from, wouldn’t you lose your appetite?) 

The same goes for serving certain types of seafood or sides at events. Most chefs and planners should know which ones to avoid, but there have been many occasions where a certain entree or side (saurkraut, anyone?) ruined a perfectly good menu.

Similarly, if a host picks florals that have a strong aroma, it can absolutely change the dynamic in the venue and at the tables. Gardenia, Freesia or Hyacinth may be the best for your event visually or seasonally, but if someone isn’t fond of the fragrance, your event could lose its luster quickly. Not to mention, some of the strongest scented flowers tend to cause the most allergies—that’s not a memory you want to create!

Hydrangeas, Tulips, Roses—these flowers are not only visually beautiful, they’re some of the most minimally fragranced out of all of them. Consider utilizing these if you are looking for florals for events, especially on the tables.

Another mistake that I’ve seen made is event hosts purchasing scented candles without knowing it, creating an overwhelming feeling that have caused guests to develop headaches and, in some cases, leave the event altogether. Plan on purchasing unscented tea lights or battery-operated candles, rather than overwhelming the room.

All caterers and restaurants should know this, but staff that handles food wearing overwhelming perfumes or colognes is a serious distraction and should be avoided. After all, do you want your guests remembering the experience of the chef’s famous Short Rib Mac & Cheese, or the memory being tied to Chanel No. 5?

Lastly, If you are having a wine or beer tasting, keep the scents to a minimum to allow the full experience of this special aspect of your event to shine.

So, what are the dos of event scents? If you’re launching a new flavor or scent, is there a new and interesting way to incorporate it into your event? Maybe you have a sampling room where guests can take it all in (complete with coffee beans to neutralize the scent post-sniff), or you pump in one of the essential oils in the recipe into the room.

To play with scent further, what if you had guests create their own essential oil blend, complete with cards, information or an interactive ‘action station’ that discusses the benefits of each oil? The same can be done with perfume oils, if it makes sense for your brand.

As with everything else, what makes sense for one brand may not make scents (see what I did there?) for others. Ultimately, it’s up to your team to decide what is best. What are some good (or bad) applications of this scent that you’ve seen at events? Tell me in the comments below!