Scent Marketing, Las Vegas Style

by | Jul 18, 2019 | Branding, Marketing

Have you ever caught a whiff of something, and it took you back to another time or place?

Maybe the smell of baking cookies reminds you of afternoons at grandma’s house. Or an ocean breeze brings up memories of past beach vacations. Smart marketers have used scent since the dawn of time:  Cleopatra actually perfumed the sails of her royal barge to announce her arrival.

Much more recently, what was largely based on intuition has been verified through research. For example, when the scent of freshly cut grass was diffused throughout parts of a home improvement store, shoppers in the scented parts rated staff as more expert than in the non-scented parts. In another study, a pleasing scent in and around a shelf section of shampoos increased sales by double digits. The number of studies demonstrating these effects are so plentiful that it now constitutes a marketing principle.

Casino operators have started to understand this effect. Today, casinos are capitalizing on our sense of smell and marketing their properties using fragrance. Every casino on the Las Vegas Strip pumps a unique scent into their properties, hoping to evoke an emotional reaction.

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This trend was started by Mark Peltier in the early nineties with his company AromaSys. Mark installed his first aroma defuser system into the Mirage in 1991. This system consisted of large metal devices attached to the ventilation system. These devices pumped fragrant oils into the ducts where the airflow diluted and distributed them. The scent was called “Tropical Coco Mango”; a blend of Orange, Pineapple and tropical Jasmine with sweet Coconut and Musk. This gave the Mirage a unique scent that aligned with its Polynesian-themed property. After that, Mark Peltier started blending scents for casinos up and down the strip. Today, it is a standard element in casino branding.

Scent marketing is a wise branding strategy. Our sense of smell is most closely tied to mood and memory. Studies have shown that certain smells can link us to an event or a place. This is beneficial to the casinos in several ways. We tend to linger longer in places that have pleasant smells. If a casino smells inviting, we are more likely to stay, and they can capitalize on that. In fact, one study found gamblers spent 45% more money when a floral scent filled the casino compared with the absence of that scent. If all you smell is smoke and musty air, you are more likely to leave. It’s also a powerful branding play. If done correctly, it can enhance the casino’s identity. Mandalay Bay’s “Coconut Spice” fragrance includes; Coconut, banana & pineapple with cinnamon spices and finished with a vanilla base. This scent enhances the feeling of being at a tropical beach and has been well received.

In general, the concept of scent marketing is that certain scents evoke specific feelings. For example;

Citrus = refreshing

Floral = relaxing

Mint = invigorating

Wood = soothing

The trick is to blend them together to evoke a recognizable mood. While Mandalay Bay’s scent is designed to awaken a tropical feel, the Venetian takes a different approach. Their signature scent is called “Seduction”. This scent is a predominant blend of Cove Leaf, Bitter Orange and White Rose Bloom with a Cedarwood base. “Seduction” is a bold and musky scent, which give a romantic feel to the property. This serves as the perfect complement to the Venetian’s northern Italian inspired brand.

The casinos are capitalizing even further by selling their scents. Do you love the way the Aria smells when you walk into the lobby? That fragrance is called “Asian Garden” and you can now purchase it online or at the property. But it’s not just the lobby and casino scents that they are selling. You can purchase Spa fragrances as well. In case you were wondering, the Aria spa uses a completely different scent and that one is called “Pink Grapefruit”.

Our sense of smell is a powerful gateway into our memories and emotions. Las Vegas casinos have harnessed that power by mastering the art of scent marketing. Next time you are in Vegas, stop by a casino on the strip and see if you can tell what scent they are using. Does it align with the theme of the property? Does it evoke any feelings? If done correctly, you might not even notice it. Just don’t be surprised if you end up spending more time and money in the casino.

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Melissa Hayden
Melissa has more than a decade of marketing and account management experience, including strategy development, brand development, integrated marketing communications, program management and account service. She has a diverse personal roster of client experience with both B2B and B2C for industries such as grocery, retail, consumer package goods, hospitality and medical device. Melissa holds a bachelor’s degree in law and sociology from American University in Washington, D.C.

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