There's no doubt, our sense of smell is powerfully tied to memory recall. Now more than ever, scent technology is being used to reinforce the customer experience environment. But what happens when the experience fundamentals are missing and scent technology actually works to reinforce a bad customer experience...?
I had an experience recently that made me think on this topic. It serves as a great follow up to this week's MarketingProf's article on scent marketing.
Two weeks ago, I stayed in San Francisco at the Four Points by Sheraton at the SFO Airport while commuting between downtown and San Jose. Upon entering my hotel, I immediately noticed the scent of pie wafting from the lobby...
In fact, the pie scent was pervasive in every corridor, inside my room, even outside the hotel. It didn't take long to suspect scent technology at work, but first, I had to ask if they had pie at the restaurant. Sadly, my waiter answered "Only sometimes ma'am." Bummer. No pie.
Interested in the pervasive pie odor, I inquired about the scent with the manager. He reluctantly admitted that Four Points is using scent technology to create a more home-like and welcoming atmosphere.
Oooh. Okay. Home-like and welcoming. I like that! But here's what I noticed after four days...
Okay, so good for Sheraton for wanting to create a more "home like and welcoming" environment. The pie scent is a nice idea. However, the observations above go to show that a comforting smell itself isn't without some drawbacks.
Most importantly, the smell alone isn't going to create the home like experience - it should be used to reinforce a home-like and welcoming atmosphere, and that's where the Four Points failed to deliver.
How about a cold, clammy bath?
Comnecting by phone.
And what to eat?
The point is that customers don't like to go through hoops - we don't have them in our home environment, and we'd rather not have to jump through them at a hotel. In fact, hoops are actually contrary to creating a home-like and welcoming experience.
For the marketers that dreamed up the Four Points experience, I would ask the following: Is the scent of Fresh Baked Pie is going to make me feel positive when so many other aspects of the hotel experience were simply annoying? Did the company do any experience testing whatsoever with real customers - travel weary people, families, etc.?
Either Four Points is trying to create a more home-like experience that drives brand affinity and loyalty, or it is not. If you visit the Four Points website, there's a lot of marketing hype around the hotel experience, but what I saw was failed execution.
Ultimately, this can happen to any business. The question for Four Points is whether or not what I experienced is a limited set up hiccups related to this hotel only, or whether these problems are widespread.
Take the first step (it's free).
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