What function does an air freshener system fulfil in a washroom, hospital, restaurant or leisure facility? We ask manufacturers about the value that fragrancing systems can add to specific environments.
Most people would agree the main role of an air freshener system is to mask bad smells. And for obvious reasons, they are are most commonly used in the washroom. However, fragrancing systems are becoming increasingly widely used in other environments as well such as leisure centres, hotels, gyms, shops and spas. And rather than simply being a means of covering up unpleasant aromas they are being deployed to add an ambience and promote a sense of well-being among customers and guests.
But how far does this picture alter from facility to facility? And how important are air freshener systems in each environment?
The fragrance of a hotel, restaurant, café or spa is key in creating an atmosphere for customers according to Prodifa commercial director Rémi Peretti. “The smell is often the first thing we perceive, even before we notice the décor,” he said. “It stimulates the memory and reminds us of pleasant moments, perhaps from our childhood. Marketing specialists understand this and focus heavily on olfactory marketing as a result.”
However in some environments, the number one objective is to hide bad smells, he says. “This may be the case in hospitals, retirement homes, washrooms and changing rooms for example,” he said. “In retirement homes it may be necessary to destroy bad odours and create a pleasant olfactory atmosphere to prevent the facility from smelling like a hospital. So the choice of perfumes here is pivotal.”
According to Peretti the scope of fragrances is limitless. “Some are designed to encourage relaxation while others evoke an efficient working atmosphere,” he said. “There are even amusement parks that use different fragrances to reflect the ‘universes’ through which the visitor passes. And brochures and magazines are now sometimes scented to influence our buying decisions.”
Olfactory marketing can have a major impact on consumer behaviour, he says. “The smell of warm bread or pizza might make our mouths water, but those fragrances that the customer doesn’t actually notice can have an even more powerful impact,” he said. “More and more retailers are contacting us to create personalised fragrances such as the scent of clean laundry or the smell of cinema popcorn.”
According to Peretti the presence of a fragrance creates the impression of cleanliness. “Most cleaning companies use effective products, but the smell of these will only linger for a few minutes after application,” he said. “Automatic fragrance delivery systems, on the other hand, will create a scent that remains in place throughout the day.”
Hyprom marketing and communications director Dorothee Dinner agrees that fragrances can have a major impact on customer behaviour. “Multiple sensory marketing studies have shown how businesses can create a particular atmosphere by means of music or a pleasant perfume,” she said.
“The customer will then spend longer at the point of sale and be more inclined to buy.”
In a washroom scenario, air freshening should be the final step in any cleaning routine, she says. “Even though the premises may have been thoroughly cleaned there could be some residual malodours, as often happens with toilets,” she said. “The cleanliness of the environment may therefore be called into question and complaints will ensue unless a fragrancing system is used.”
Aircare products also have an important role to play in hospitality and leisure facilities, she says. “Fragrances can have a stimulating, calming, soothing or cocooning effect – one that has long been understood in aromatherapy,” she said. “So a subtle fragrance will evoke a sense of well-being in environments such as a restaurant, hotel or spa.”
However, she says care must be taken when choosing a fragrance for a hospital or care home. “If you use a scent that has not been designed to treat malodours it could have a disastrous effect,” she explained. “Instead of being masked, the odour could become more present and embarrassing, so here it is not a question of being subtle and evocative but of being effective.”
Eliminate, not mask
A bad odour creates a negative first impression of any facility according to Airdri marketing manager Trudi Osborne. “Fresh, clean air reaffirms the fact the premises are sanitary and safe, whereas a bad smell will leave visitors with a poor perception of the cleanliness of the environment,” she said. “And if a customer walks into a hotel or leisure facility and is met with an unpleasant smell, they may not return again,”
However, it is vital the root cause of the odour is eliminated rather than simply masking it with a fragranced spray, she adds. “Air fresheners may hide bad smells but if the source isn’t fully removed, those smells may return at any point,” she said. “The only way to prevent that from occurring is to kill the bacteria that has caused the odour in the first place.”
According to Osborne an air purifier will kill any surface or airborne bacteria and viruses along with the odours they create. “Purifiers can deliver real health benefits by removing harmful bacteria and viruses from the air, reducing the risk of picking up an infection,” she said.
In a healthcare setting, the role of an air freshener is all about infection control, she says. “Anything that makes a healthcare setting more welcoming is a bonus - but ensuring the bacteria and viruses that cause unpleasant smells are eradicated will also help to prevent the transmission of illnesses and keep staff, patients and visitors safe.”
Hagleitner’s junior washroom hygiene product manager Dominik Hadjiyski agrees air freshening systems play a significant role in improving customer experience. “Satisfied clients are key to the success of any business and an attractive room with a pleasant fragrance can make all the difference,” he said. “Smells can trigger emotions and memories and a pleasant-smelling room will create a positive impression. And a smart air freshener will help to eliminate unpleasant odours.”
The role of a fragrancing system in leisure facilities such as hotels, restaurants and spas is to enhance the feel-good factor, he says. “Soothing scents can help a guest to relax in a spa, for instance.” Hagleitner’s Magicus system is an automated scent column that diffuses fragrances to create a pleasant ambience in leisure settings.
According to Hadjiyski, healthcare settings present a greater challenge. “Creating a friendly and welcoming atmosphere is particularly difficult in hospitals and care homes because these environments evoke a sensation of discomfort and even anxiety for many people,” he said.
“Eliminating that distinctive hospital or care home smell will definitely help to improve the customer’s sense of well-being.”
Marketing and purchasing manager of Insider Facility Services Thor Nielsen downplays the role of air freshening systems in facilities cleaning. “The most important factor is that cleaning is being carried out effectively - and that process itself should be enough to create a pleasant smell,” he said.
Most of his customers prefer fragrance-free systems in any case, he adds. “We particularly recommend using these in compact washrooms because strong smells could be an issue for migraine sufferers,” he said.
However according to Nielsen, fragrances form an important part of the marketing strategy for many businesses. “This is particularly the case in retail centres, restaurants and coffee houses where fragrances are used to evoke positive memories or favourable impressions,” he said. “If a scent can be found to match the product on sale it can have a positive influence on the purchasing behaviour of the customer.”
Vectair’s managing director Paul Wonnacott backs up this view. “During one study in a Las Vegas casino it emerged that a pleasant scent could be linked to a 45 per cent rise in slot machine revenue compared with an equivalent non-scented area,” he said. “And another study in a shoe shop revealed that 84 per cent of people were more likely to buy shoes when trying them on in a scented room.”
Air freshening systems have been an integral part of the washroom environment for many years – but they are now becoming increasingly important in other facilities as well, according to Wonnacott.
“Customers are seeking new fragrances beyond the usual citrus-associated washroom aromas and are beginning to understand they can connect with their audiences via scent,” he said. “As a result there has been a shift towards lifestyle-based scents that conjure up memories and emotions in environments such as shops, lobbies, meeting rooms and spas.”
The sense of smell has a greater influence on behaviour than most people realise, according to Wonnacott. “The memory and scent are connected, so as an aircare company we are always looking at ways to utilise this for maximum impact,” he said. “Companies are increasingly using scents to influence their customer’s decisions whether they are buying something in a shop or returning to a hotel.”
A fragrance can evoke a sense of nostalgia and transport the recipient to another time or place, he says. “Scents such as our Marine Musk and Ocean Spray take you to the seashore while fruit-based scents transport you to an exotic haven.” And according to Wonnacott, certain fragrances can help to increase alertness and reduce stress among staff in the workplace.
However, a fine balance needs to be struck when creating a fragrance, says Wonnacott. “A too-powerful scent could turn customers away from your brand, while a scent that is too weak would be unmemorable,” he said.
“But as air freshener systems become increasingly sophisticated and environmentally-friendly I believe they will continue to make a positive impact on the market.”