Why Scenting Your Events Should Be on Your Radar
Inside the Be Well Lounge at IMEX America 2022
It all started with a few cupcakes.
In 2011, Tiffany Rose Goodyear founded a dessert catering company, Yours Truly Cupcake, with her background in marketing and advertising and passion for sweets. During a time when many businesses struggled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Goodyear’s Yours Truly Cupcake took off as a full-service dessert catering company, but Goodyear wanted to deliver more than just sweet treats.
She emphasized the desire to create interactive, immersive dessert experiences that told a story, and she had one thing on her side that many others often overlooked: scents. Her experience with Yours Truly Cupcake led Goodyear down the path of founding a second company, Scent-Ex, an event services company that curates and orchestrates custom fragrances for events.
Today, Goodyear’s fragrances are being used to scent events as big as IMEX America 2022, where attendees can experience Scent-Ex firsthand by visiting the show’s Be Well Lounge, an area in which Goodyear’s fragrances fill the air.
“In order to create a truly immersive experience,” Goodyear said, “scent has to at least be considered.”
An Entrepreneurial Experiment
In planning events and experiences, Goodyear’s background in marketing and advertising involved working with audiovisual elements and appealing to attendees’ senses of sight and sound, while the senses of taste and touch were often taken care of through elaborate dining experiences. But with Yours Truly Cupcake, Goodyear began to see how powerful it could be to prioritize the sense of smell, too.
“I really started drilling down on fragrance and scent and our sense of smell, and then I started scenting places,” Goodyear said. “I did some work with local artists. I was able to scent Denver International Airport to pair with a sculpture. I did some work at the Denver Art Museum and brought scents to audiovisual atmospheres. Doing this work taught me how to scent dynamic environments.”
Goodyear has made it her mission to create sensory experiences for events using fragrance, something typically forgotten or overlooked by most experienced creators, she said.
“It’s not even considered. It’s not on the event checklist,” Goodyear said. “And historically, it’s not unique at all. If you look at events in the Roman Empire, they were often scented, just like religious events or even weddings. My goal is to just get planners to think about what their venue smells like, because every single space you walk into has a scent, but you’re not even thinking about it.”
Benefits of Incorporating Scents into Meetings and Events
Currently, Goodyear immerses event attendees in her fragrances by using commercial diffusers available in the market. The problem with them, she said, is they typically aren’t big or powerful enough to scent an entire event. She is in the process of designing her own technology specifically made for the event environment, with capabilities of being attached to rigging and holding larger amounts of fragrance.
“I think this is one of the reasons why people don’t [scent their events],” she said. “It’s hard. It’s easy to think about, and the first step is getting people to think about it. The second step is getting people to actually appeal to the idea, and it’s possible to do, but our mission is to make it easier.”
Goodyear views her company as an invitation to think about scent as a part of the event experience in the meetings and events industry. She believes incorporating fragrance into events isn’t just one more additional element to consider, but an initiative toward active inclusion.
“All bodies have different physical abilities. Not all bodies and all people experience the world in the same way,” Goodyear said. “Incorporating fragrance can really add an element of inclusivity in the sense that, if somebody really does shape their world based on scent, you’re inviting them to be a greater part of the environment than they may have otherwise been.”
In addition to making events more inclusive, scents and fragrances can trigger different emotions, awaken memories and help make new experiences more memorable and engaging. The reason, Goodyear said, is because memory and sense of smell are physically close in the brain and body, as they are both part of the limbic system, or the part of our brain responsible for our behavioral and emotional responses.
“That’s why, when you smell something, it can literally snap you back to a time and place of many years past,” Goodyear said. “Scents cause that reaction, whether it’s your grandma’s perfume or a smell that reminds you of your childhood. It’s even more powerful than language, sometimes.”
Which is why, Goodyear emphasized, using fragrances for events can help to create a moment in which guests are stimulated in a way that makes them more likely to remember what they’ve experienced—educational sessions, new information and the event in general.
If people continue to attend the same event year after year, like IMEX America, for example, tying a fragrance in again and again can strengthen an attendee’s memory and emotional bond to the event, creating an emotional connection that can cause them to think of the event whenever they experience a similar smell or fragrance, Goodyear said.
“By using fragrances for events, you’re creating something in the moment to stimulate guests,” Goodyear said. “Giving planners and attendees a moment where they truly breathe in the event space and consider the scent is another tool in your toolkit to really transport guests into events in a new way.”
As Goodyear mentioned, scents not only can create a more immersive experience for meeting and event attendees, but also awaken feelings and emotions that can help make an event more memorable.
The sense of smell begins with the olfactory bulb, or structure in the front of the brain responsible for sending information to other areas of the brain for further processing. Like Goodyear said, sense of smell is part of the limbic system, and the olfactory bulb sends scents on a path to areas of the brain like the amygdala and hippocampus, regions related to emotion and memory. It’s because of this proximity that our brains learn to associate smells with certain emotions and memories, according to Scientific American, and we begin making those associations earlier than you may expect.
In fact, smell is the only fully developed sense a fetus has in the womb, according to Harvard University, and the one that most quickly develops through the age of around 10. Because of this, childhood tends to be when people find the scents they like—as well as those they don’t—most frequently, and those likes and aversions typically last for life.
Because a person’s sense of smell is developed at such a young age, their memories and emotions surrounding individual scents and fragrances often evoke nostalgic feelings or moments that remind them of their childhood, when they were exposed to a scent for the first time. Oftentimes, it’s difficult for most people to remember specifics from their childhood, but scents have the ability to bring back memories that might otherwise never be recalled, according to Live Science, and the effect can be almost immediate.
This is one of the reasons why Goodyear emphasizes the importance of scenting events—to make them memorable within seconds. But there are even more benefits to scenting your events, including promoting brain activity, increasing alertness and even creating a calming and relaxing atmosphere.
For example, it's no secret that scents such as jasmine and lavender are helpful in reducing stress and anxiety and improving sleeping patterns. Companies such as Bath & Body Works even has its own line of aromatherapy products, including lotions promoting stress relief and body washes for sleep and relaxation, and Goodyear scented IMEX America’s 2022 Be Well Lounge with fragrances to decrease stress and anxiety.
While making event attendees sleepy isn’t a goal of most planners, other fragrances can be beneficial in different ways. Using citrus- or peppermint-based fragrances during lectures or educational sessions, for example, can increase attendee focus and attentiveness.
One study found participants made 54% less typos when exposed to a lemon scent, and grapefruit reduced overall mental fatigue, aroused senses and decreased errors. Lemon also has antiviral and antibacterial properties that can make it beneficial to incorporate into larger meetings and events to fight colds and boost the body’s immune system. Other citrus-based scents have been linked to increasing alertness and shortening an individual’s response time.
Similarly, according to FragranceX, cinnamon can help heighten attention and increases motor response, while peppermint and rosemary enhance memory accuracy and improve performance on vigilance tasks.
While scenting events may not be on many planners’ radars, using aromatherapy and fragrances at meetings and events is a trend to consider looking into.
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