“Selling smells” By Lisa Schmidt, CEO Omniaroma
5 years ago, back home, at Johannesburg airport, i bumped into one of my friends from university. We were so glad to see each other but hardly had anytime catching up with our lives. I did get to ask her if she was still working in law. She said no and that she was now “selling smells”. Then the boarding call came and we had to part ways. On my entire flight back to Spain, i kept wondering about what she meant with I´m selling “smells”. It sounded intriguing but at the same time also confusing. Smells are also unpleasant smells….does she also “sell” those?
Back in Barcelona, I couldn´t wait to get hold of her so that she could elaborate more regards the statement she had left me pondering about.
Turns out she had started an aroma marketing company a year back ( 2004 ) and that by selling smells, she actually meant aromas. After a couple of phone call exchanges across the atlantics in the weeks to follow I soon became hooked with the idea. Evoking emotions, moods, our entire disposition and attitude just by a smelling a certain scent. Soon i was comparing my own real life situations to what I had come across in the field of aromachology and aroma marketing.
………..and that´s when OMNIAROMA was born.
5 years later, the passion for discovering different ways and means to create and bring a smell, evoke an emotion or state of mind, mood, is what still drives us today.
Welcome to our world, the world of senses where without smell our life’s journey would be very flavourless.
En relación al marketing olfativo y a las posibilidades que éste tiene sobre el turismo he visto diferentes proyectos que me han parecido interesantes y que pueden aportar una visión sobre este campo que, aunque no es novedoso, sí que tiene mucho potencial y sigue evolucionando:
La profesora de la Universidad Christ Church en Canterbury del Reino Unido Kate McLean es la precusora de mapas olfativos abiertos. Ella comenta cómo las fragancias tienen historias y se conectan con los individuos a un nivel emocional, trayendo al presente recuerdos de lugares, eventos y gente. Kate pretende poner en entredicho una percepción basada en la visión del espacio e introducir nuevas maneras de recopilar las experiencias para entender y navegar en lugares urbanos. Aquí os dejamos el mapa olfativo de Amsterdam:
Robot explorers have found Mars to be a world of sulfur, acids, magnesium, iron and chlorine compounds, all of which are sunbaked and wrapped in a carbon-dioxide-rich atmosphere.
But what would this complex and exotic brew smell like?
It turns out that everyone — not just Mars explorers — might be able to find out, because there may be ways to recreate whiffs of the Red Planet here on Earth.
Related from Space.com: The 7 Biggest Mysteries of Mars Headspace tech
One relatively recent innovation in the perfume business is “Headspace” technology.
“It gathers the molecules, and then the sample is brought back to the lab to be analyzed by spectral analysis. The results are typically synthesized to create a scent that mimics the smell of those molecules,” said Jacquelyn Ford Morie, founder and chief scientist of the California-based company All These Worlds LLC, which uses virtual reality (VR) and other technology to create “immersive experiences” for a variety of applications.
Morie thinks Headspace, or something like it, could be used to decode the smell of Mars.
“I think that new artisan fragrance designers would love to design a series of scents that are their own, nonsampled interpretations of what Mars might smell like,” she told Space.com.
A future mission could take a spectroscopic reading of the Martian atmosphere, then beam that information back to Earth, where Headspace hardware could reconstruct (or evoke) the Red Planet scent, Morie added.
“That’s the cool thing about the artisan scent designers,” she said. “They can add the more stinky elements to make a scent that hints at the real Mars while still being cool to smell. Many top fragrances have small bits of those otherwise smelly elements in them.”
Eau de Red Planet
Morie suspects that the predominant Mars odor is a slightly acrid, gassy smell of sulfur compounds, with a chalky, sweet overtone punching through. This scent would become a big part of Red Planet settlers’ lives.
“Imagine 30 or 40 years from now, when we have established colonies on Mars, and the colonists have become not only accepting of the scented detritus they track into their habitats, but actually consider it the smell of home,” Morie said.
Future colonists could perhaps also use finely crafted habitat scents as harmonious counterpoints to the native smells of their adopted planet, she added.
Studies have shown repeatedly that smell is intimately tied to memory; whiffs of a familiar scent can trigger nostalgia and other strong feelings about times long past.
So, if Mars colonists “need to return to Earth, they would absolutely require a vial or two of ‘Eau de Red Planet’ to remind them of their life on this distant human outpost,” Morie said.
Decoding or replicating Mars’ scent would not be the first extraterrestrial encounter of the odor kind.
During the Apollo lunar landing program, for example, some of the moonwalkers noticed that they had brought back rock and dust particles into their lunar module. The material tainted their spacesuits. Once the astronauts took off their helmets, the moon’s smell — which was likened to wet ashes in a fireplace, or spent gunpowder from a just-fired shotgun — was evident.
Then, in 1998, scientists with New York-based International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. (IFF) sent a miniature rose plant aboard the space shuttle Discovery on its STS-95 mission, to study the effect of microgravity on scent.
Using proprietary technologies, the team, led by Braja Mookherjee, tracked radical shifts in the living flower’s scent over the course of the shuttle flight.
“Ultimately, they discovered and created new-to-world profiles that have since gone on to enormous commercial success,” IFF representatives wrote in a blog post late last year.
In addition, artisan Carrie Paterson has investigated making scents of life on Earth that can be embedded as olfactory information into multichannel interstellar messages. Then, there’s the work of designer Saskia Wilson-Brown, who’s interested in finding out what UFOs might smell like.
Originally published on Space.com.
Prof. Charles Spence, Head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at Oxford University’s Department of Experimental Psychology, explains how olfactory augmentation in food and beverage design can enhance our enjoyment of the taste of food.
While estimates vary, the majority of researchers seem to agree that smell contributes the majority of the sensory input when it comes to our experience, not to mention enjoyment, of eating and drinking. While, the taste buds on the tongue provide information about the basic tastes (e.g. sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami, metallic, fatty acid……and maybe a few more), it is the olfactory receptors in the nasal mucosa that tell us about fruity, meaty, floral, herbal, burnt aromas, etc. Ironically, though, most of the time, we are unaware of just how much of the information we think we taste (via the tongue) is actually transduced by the nose, in large part because of the phenomenon of oral referral: olfactory stimuli detected at the nasal mucosa are experienced as if coming from the mouth. While scientists used to believe that oral referral resulted from the tactile stimulation of the oral cavity that inevitably occurs whenever we eat and drink, the latest research now shows that the strength of oral referral depends primarily on the congruency between the retronasal olfactory and gustatory inputs. The aroma of vanilla, say, being mislocalised to the oral cavity far more frequently when there is a sweet tastant in the mouth rather than a salty one. We now know more about the factors modulating oral referral than ever before.
It is clear that the majority of our everyday food experiences are not optimised to deliver the best orthonasal aroma hit possible.”
However, it is clear that the majority of our everyday food experiences are not optimised to deliver the best orthonasal aroma hit possible. This is important because sniffing allows us (or rather our brains) to form rich multisensory flavour expectations concerning both what the experience of tasting will be like and how much we may enjoy the experience. Just take as an example of poor design, at least from an orthonasal olfactory perspective, all of those millions of plastic lids that are routinely placed over Styrofoam cups of hot coffee and tea each and every day around the world. While they undoubtedly allow consumers to drink their beverages without worrying about spillage, what these lids singly fail to do is to allow consumers to appreciate the orthonasal aroma of the contents. Unfortunate, really, given that the smell of freshlyground coffee is one of the most liked smells.
The same problem also occurs when we drink direct from the bottle or can (uncouth though it may be). The orthonasal olfactory component is simply missing. So, having identified the problem, what is to be done? In terms of design, simple solutions include reshaping the lid and adding a second opening in order to allow coffee (or tea) lovers to sniff the aroma of their hot beverage. Examples of this approach are the Viora enhanced orthonasal aroma delivery lid or the recently introduced 360 lid from Crown Packaging, in which the top lifts off allowing the drinker to see and orthonasally sniff the contents more easily than with a traditional can.
At the opposite extreme from the plastic lid, bottle or can that resolutely prevents the consumer from orthonasally enjoying the aroma of their drink, consider the traditional pint. Now, back when all beers seemed to taste the same (or when consumers were timeand- again shown to be unable to pick their favourite brand in the blind taste test), the lack of any headspace over the drink in the glass probably did not matter all that much. However, a craft beer revolution has in recent decades swept the nation and so now there are a host of beers that consumers are willing to pay a hefty premium for that really do taste distinctive. Perhaps, then, it is time to think again about the design of the glass in which so many pints are served.
In the case of wine, of course, the empty headspace over the liquid in a glass is meant to help to preserve the aroma and bouquet for the delight of the drinker’s nostrils. The better the wine, often, the larger the volume of headspace in the glass. But what of the aroma of craft beer? How much of it is lost to the atmosphere? If we value the flavour and aroma so much maybe it is really time to think a little more seriously about a redesign, ideally to leave room for the development of an aromatic headspace in the glass above the beer itself when it is served. Assuming, that is, that the customer does not immediately start thinking that they are being short-changed by a glass that is anything short of full to overflowing. Now, one might be tempted to argue that this does not really matter. After all, as soon as the drinker has had a swig of beer, an aromatic headspace will be created in the glass anyway. While this undoubtedly helps, the key point to stress here is that it is so often the first mouthful and even the initial sniff before tasting that sets our expectations about what is to come. It is these expectations that end up anchoring and hence disproportionately influencing the overall tasting experience (i.e. when compared to the influence of the last mouthful, say). An alternative solution here, of course, would simply be to dust off those old beer glasses, such as the stein, which have a lid to help retain the gases released from beer.
Many of the world’s top modernist chefs and molecular mixologists are currently thinking about how to deliver enhanced multisensory dining and drinking experiences”
Enhanced flavour delivery
Many of the world’s top modernist chefs and molecular mixologists are currently thinking about how to deliver enhanced multisensory dining and drinking experiences through the more intelligent delivery of aroma and scent,. At its simplest, some are adding aroma that they hope will be integrated into the flavour of the dish, for example, the use of the atomiser to deliver the aroma of vinegar over the fish and chips dish served at Heston Blumenthal’s The Perfectionist’s Café at Heathrow’s Terminal 2. London-based chef, Jozef Youssef, has also been experimenting with the atomiser to deliver aroma to a number of his dishes . Note here, though, that it was most probably the Italian Futurists who deserve the credit for first using atomisers at the dinner table, though, they were more likely to spray perfume (e.g. the smell of carnation) into the diners’ faces whenever they looked up from their plate. Quite what effect that had on the flavour of the food has sadly not been recorded for posterity. A growing number of chefs and mixologists are also using smoking guns and dry ice based cloud pourers to deliver smoked or especially concentrated aromas to a dish or drink, often with an added dash of theatricality.
Setting the olfactory scene
It is important to note that aromas that are not necessarily highly desirable in terms of their flavour, are being added to dishes, drinks, tables or even to an entire dining room with the aim of creating a particular atmosphere or mood, or else to trigger a specific memory in the mind of the drinker or diner. Examples of this include Blumenthal’s moss-scented dish served at his flagship The Fat Duck restaurant or the hot water poured over the hyacinths at Alinea, when the wild turbot, shellfish, water chestnuts and hyacinth vapour dish is served. Grant Achatz, the head chef at Alinea, is also well-known for releasing the scent of burning oak leaves with his pheasant served with shallot and cider gel dish in order to try and trigger pleasant childhood memories of an autumnal day,. Heston Blumenthal uses the scent of the sweet shop to help extend the dining experience and hopefully trigger positive emotions in the diner’s mind.
There is a danger for those trying to use both a non-food background scent together with the foreground aroma of the food itself that consumers the food itself that consumers may not always appreciate the scent and may even find it offputting. Those working in the cognitive neuroscience study of multisensory perception might well have a few suggestions here for the modernist chef/molecular mixologist concerning how better to segregate the smell of the dish (or setting) from the aroma of the food (assuming that is the aim). Top mixologist, Tony Conigliaro, of 69 Colbrooke Row, serves an innovative cocktail going by the name of ‘the rose’. Basically, a sugar cube containing a few drops of rose oil is dropped into a glass of champagne and handed to the customer. The idea here is that the smell of roses transports the customer to a pleasant (not to mention fragrant) summer afternoon somewhere in their memory. Here, one can think of scent and aroma as playing a role just like visual projections or music that one often finds these days accompanying each of the dishes on the tasting menu at top experiential restaurants like Ultraviolet in Shanghai and Sublimotion in Ibiza.
Conigliaro’s innovative cocktail design is, in some sense, analogous to Blumenthal’s use of sound in his ‘Sound of the sea’ seafood dish to transport the diner to reminisce about a pleasant childhood holiday. In a way, all of these culinary design solutions can be seen as attempts to capture the essence of the Provencal Rosé paradox – the name given to the experience that every one of us has likely had of wines that tasted better on the shores of the Mediterranean on a summer holiday than when the same bottle is tasted back at home on a cold winter’s night. The advantage of scent, though, being that it is meant to have a closer, more direct, connection with the emotional and memory circuits in the brain than any of the other senses.
Where the modernist chefs, molecular mixologists and culinary designers lead, though, food and beverage manufacturers are never far behind.”
Using s cent to extend the interaction
More futuristically, chef Andoni from Mugaritz in San Sebastian, which was recently voted one of the world’s top 50 restaurants, has been using the Scentee, a scent-enabled plug-in for mobile devices, to allow diners, who have made a booking at his 2 Michelin-starred restaurant, to experience the actions, aromas and sounds that accompany one of the dishes on the tasting menu by downloading the appropriate app. If smell is indeed such an important part of what we taste then any one of the innovations outlined here could certainly make sense from the gastrophysics perspective.
the hope, looking forward, has to be that these approaches can be used to help promote healthier eating behaviours as well.”
Aroma-enhanced design for the mass-market
Where the modernist chefs, molecular mixologists and culinary designers lead, though, food and beverage manufacturers are never far behind. Interesting in this regard are those companies which are starting to deliver aroma to the food and drink they provide through commercial packaging, glassware and cutlery. In 2013, for instance, PepsiCo submitted a patent application for the use of encapsulated aroma in the opening of its products and later this year, the Drink Right cup will be launched. This glass drinking vessel conta ins a colourful aromatic sleeve that gives off the aroma of apple, orange or lemon. The idea is that consumers pour water into the cup and have a tasting experience that approximates what might be expected when drinking fruit juice, or at least fruit-flavoured water. It will be interesting to see just how important the colour cues provided by the sleeve are to the tasting experience. Meanwhile, Molecule-R has developed an aroma fork, which aims to deliver flavour with every mouthful. There is a danger with these developments that the experience can end up feeling too synthetic. This is not to say that we can always distinguish synthetic from natural aromas, mostly we cannot. But the aromas included in some of these new devices can tend to smell cheap and artificial. The chances of such augmented aroma approaches succeeding in the long-term are obviously going to depend on the delivery of quality aromas at a reasonable price point – aromas that are indistinguishable from the real thing, or at least what consumer perceives as such. As soon as the consumers realise that the aroma that they are sniffing orthonasally does not originate from the food or beverage that they are tasting, but instead comes from the cutlery, glassware or packaging, they may be primed to think synthetic/artificial. It is that belief, as much as the evidence before their senses (i.e. nose), that will likely lead to reduced hedonic ratings (similar responses may result from beliefs regarding organic food, low-fat food, branding, etc.), despite the undoubted novelty of these approaches. It is interesting to note how often the modernist chefs stress, either explicitly or otherwise, the ‘natural’ origins of their off-theplate aromas. For example, the aroma released when hot water is poured over the all-too-real hyacinths in which the food sits at Alinea or the recently deceased Homaro Cantu’s use of fresh sprigs of herbs in the curly handles of his cutlery at Moto restaurant in Chicago. The natural source of the off-the-plate aroma in these cases is clear for all to see. Ultimately, though, we are just going to have to wait and see how the consumer of tomorrow responds to this new world of olfactorily-enhanced food and beverage packaging, not to mention multisensory experiential dining, drinking and cutlery. If anything, the chances of success in this space will space will likely be enhanced by the growing trend toward ‘sensploration’ that has apparently gripped many high-end consumers recently. The food and beverage companies, together with the flavour houses, need to take a leaf out of the chefs’ and mixologists’ book and figure out exactly how to stress the naturalness of their novel olfactorily-enhanced design propositions.
While it is altogether appropriate that the space of olfactory augmentation in food and beverage design is explored first by those wishing to deliver unusual/ enhanced multisensory tasting experiences (i.e. by the modernist chefs, molecular mixologists and culinary artists and designers), the hope, looking forward, has to be that these approaches can be used to help promote healthier eating behaviours as well. Could the enhanced delivery of aroma through food and beverage packaging or cutlery lead not only to greater enjoyment, for example, but also help the consumer to reach satiety sooner?
1. Spence, C. (2015). Just how much of what we taste derives from the sense of smell? Flavour, 4:30.
2. Spence, C. (2016). Oral referral: Mislocalizing odours to the mouth. Food Quality & Preference, 50, 117-128.
3. Piqueras-Fiszman, B., & Spence, C. (2015). Sensory expectations based on product-extrinsic food cues: An interdisciplinary review of the empirical evidence and theoretical accounts. Food Quality & Preference, 40, 165-179.
4. Spence, C. (2015). Leading the consumer by the nose: On the commercialization of olfactory-design for the food & beverage sector. Flavour, 4:31.
5. Spence, C., & Wan, I. (2015). Beverage perception & consumption: The influence of the container on the perception of the contents. Food Quality & Preference, 39, 131-140.
6. Anonymous (2011). Grant Achatz: The chef who couldn’t taste. NPR, 29th August. Downloaded from http://www.npr.org/2011/08/29/139786504/grant-achatz-the-chef-who-couldnt-taste
7. Spence, C., & Piqueras-Fiszman, B. (2014). The perfect meal: The multisensory science of food and dining. Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.
10. Spence, C., & Youssef, J. (2015). Olfactory dining: Designing for the dominant sense. Flavour, 4:32.
11. Braun, M. H., Pradana, G. A., Cheok, A. D., Buchanan, G., Velasco, C., Spence, C., & Aduriz, A. L., Gross, J., & Lasa, D. (2016). Emotional priming of digital images through mobile tele-smell and virtual food. International Journal of Food Design, 1, 29-45.
¿Se puede utilizar el olor para acabar con los mosquitos?
by Mary Jo Alberdi, Directora de Marketing de Omniaroma
Ahora que llega el veranito nos preocupa que también vengan nuestros amigos los mosquitos a aguarnos la fiesta.
De muchos es sabido que el olor a citronella, repele a este insecto tan fastidioso en verano.
El temor a mosquitos como el Zika, ha hecho que la mente humana idee nuevas formas de acabar con estas plagas que cada año resurgen de la nada.
¿Cómo se puede utilizar un olor para evitar que nos piquen estos pequeños insectos?
En Brasil están aplicando un sistema especial, que se basa en colocar unos paneles en las calles que emiten olor a “humano”.
Este aroma atrae al mosquito en su idea de buscar la sangre que le alimenta, y hace que se acerque al panel. Sin embargo, el pobre mosquito se llevará una sorpresa, ya que en lugar de sangre encontrará su fin.
La idea de matar al mosquito de esa forma no creo que sea la mejor solución, ya que me da la sensación de que otra vez nos cargamos la cadena de producción, y seguro que habrá una rana que se queje de que le quitemos su alimento. Preferiría un invento menos agresivo como la citronella repelente, pero me temo que no funcionaría para acabar con el temido Zika.
¿Qué opinas? Envíanos tu opinión a email@example.com
Aquí tienes el video de lo que están aplicando en Brasil
El trabajo realizado con alumnos de Ciencias de la Empresa demuestra que el olor es un estímulo positivo más efectivo en varones que en mujeres
Existe el marketing olfativo y, además, arroja datos sorprendentes sobre su influencia a la hora de realizar compras en hombres y mujeres.
La IX Jornada de Introducción a la Investigación, organizada por la Asociación de Jóvenes Investigadores de Cartagena (AJICT), celebrada ayer en la Facultad de Ciencias de la Empresa de la UPCT, permitió conocer resultados de trabajos realizados por universitarios.
Una de las ponencias más llamativas fue la que presentó el alumno de Administración y Dirección de Empresas (ADE) Mario Hernández Callejón, sobre marketing olfativo. Su conclusión es que los aromas incrementan más el recuerdo entre los hombres que entre las mujeres.
El joven investigador realizó para su Trabajo Final de Grado un experimento con 145 estudiantes de la Facultad y un grupo de control para verificar los resultados. Los alumnos vieron una presentación con una quincena de imágenes aleatorias mientras escuchaban noticias de radio y un ambientador perfumaba el aula. El recuerdo de las imágenes y noticias oídas se incrementó un 18% entre quienes realizaron la prueba con fragancias aromáticas, pero más entre los chicos (un 27%) que entre las chicas (un 12%).
El alumno concluye que el aroma es un estímulo positivo que ayuda a retener información y a relacionar olores con marcas, por lo que recomienda especialmente su uso en tiendas para hombres, según informó la UPCT. «Se piensa que somos más cavernícolas, pero también nos afectan los olores a la hora de comprar», destacó el investigador.
La vicerrectora de Investigación, Beatriz Miguel, animó a los estudiantes a seguir esforzándose para incrementar la producción científica. El presidente de la AJICT, Francisco Mateo, destacó la importancia de la divulgación para los investigadores, recordando las talleres que realiza la asociación en ferias científicas y visitando centros educativos. A la jornada asistió el coordinador de la Unidad de Cultura Científica de la Politécnica, José Luis Serrano.
Link de la noticia:
Artículo de LA VERDAD de Cartagena (España)
Los departamentos de Marketing ya están incorporando el marketing olfativo en sus estrategias de marketing.
Un ejemplo lo tenemos en la última campaña que hizo de forma muy creativa Dunkin Donuts en Corea del Sur.
La acción consistió en colocar en el autobús un dispensador que pulverizaba el aroma a café cada vez que sonaba el anuncio de la marca. Al terminar la cuña, la siguiente parada del autobús tenía un “Dunkin’ Donuts” justo enfrente.
La marca quería que la gente supiera que en Dunkin Donuts también pueden tomar un buen café.
Aumento de los consumidores en un 16%
Incremento del 29% de las ventas
Aquí tienes el link de cómo funcionó la campaña:
En este video (hacer click en el link de abajo) de la cadena alemana en inglés “The Science Magazine” podemos ver un reportaje de cómo crear una fragancia para un banco.
Ups, el video ya no esta disponible. Disculpen las molestias
Retailers have discovered the power of scent to improve sales. And most of the time we aren’t even aware of these subliminal messages. Neuromarketing focuses on the subconscious.
Scent designers work with seven primary odors to create thousands of variants that, for example, convey elegance, simplicity or even “Swissness”.
The problem is, no one is certain exactly how much effect the “right” scent really has.
Omniaroma participó en el Congreso “Abre el Azahar” que se celebró en Cordoba.
En este link veras lo que sucedió:
CONCEPTO DEL PROYECTO
Abre el azahar es un proyecto de ciudad que busca en un hecho tan inseparable de la identidad de la ciudad y provincia de Córdoba, como es la apertura del azahar, un argumento para definir un evento participado por todos. Nos es tan propio este momento, que se nos ha olvidado celebrarlo. La idea de abrir, en la que subyace también un vínculo simbólico con los patios, trata sobre algo que está dentro, o que está cerrado y que desea ser abierto, compartido con el mundo. El nombre azahar procede del árabe hispánico azzahár, y éste, del árabe clásico az-zahr (que significa flores).
CÓRDOBA COMO DESTINO DE FLOR
El evento pretende contribuir a situar Córdoba como destino de cultura de flor, donde por supuesto, se inscriben los Patios, la Semana Santa, las Cruces de Mayo y la ancestral sensibilidad de la población cordobesa a este tema, a la vez que se intenta tender lazos a otros lugares especialmente ligados a esta cultura, especialmente Japón (Kioto), pero también Holanda (Amsterdam), Bélgica (Bruselas, Gante), Francia (Nantes), Reino Unido (Londres (Chelsea)), Colombia (Medellín), etc.
Mary Jo Alberdi, directora de marketing de Omniaroma, dará una conferencia de Marketing Olfativo dentro del congreso, el viernes 22 de abril de 2016 en los jardines botánicos de Córdoba a las 12h
¿A qué huele tu ciudad? será el tema principal de la conferencia, en la que se hablará entre otras cosas de la importancia de esta herramienta de marketing para crear experiencias emocionales con los clientes.
Podéis ver el programa en el siguiente enlace:
by Adam Epstein @aepstein
Last week, I attended a “4D” screening of Batman v Superman at a brand new theater in New York City. It was not the immersive experience that it claimed it would be. And while its technology—including artificial wind and rain, moving seats, smoke, and smells—might seem new to many moviegoers, similar gimmicks have existed in theaters for a half-century.
Perhaps the most infamous of these gimmicks was “Smell-O-Vision,” first available to olfactory-intrigued cinema attendees in 1959. Since then, dozens of other sensory innovations (if you can call them that) have entered theaters. Most of them have not been successful, as audiences find that they prefer a more straightforward movie experience. But others undeniably made their marks on the history of film, and today we still see their effects on the industry.
Below is timeline of cinema’s most wacky sensory gimmicks, from old-world Smell-O-Vision to today’s 4DX.
Movie theater gimmicks, 1958-present
Following World War II, the film industry faced new competition from television, which was rapidly gaining popularity in the US and around the world. On top of that, a 1948 landmark US Supreme Court antitrust case, United States v. Paramount Pictures, led to higher theater costs and fewer movies being produced. Film directors and industry marketers decided to come up with some patently absurd gimmicks to lure audiences back to the theater.
1958: Pioneering horror director William Castle starts making a number of low-budget thrillers that each incorporate some kind of physical, in-theater gimmick.
Macabre (1958): Attendees are guaranteed $1,000 in compensation if they literally die of fright during a screening. No one does.
House on Haunted Hill (1959): A skeleton flies over the audience, mimicking the ending of the movie.
The Tingler (1959): Audience members’ seats are rigged with electric buzzers.
1959: “AromaRama,” a technology that sends scents through a movie theater’s air conditioning system, is used for the first time for the film Behind the Great Wall. The New York Times gives the experiment a scathing review.
1959: Only a few weeks later, “Smell-O-Vision,” a similar technology, is used for the film Scent of Mystery. Instead of employing the theater’s AC system, Smell-O-Vision pumps smells out of a series of vents beneath the seats. It doesn’t work very well and soon fades into oblivion.
1959: A hypnotist tries to hypnotize moviegoers before a screening of Horrors of the Black Museum (video). It’s used only once.
1974: “Sensurround,” which added massive low-range speakers to movie theaters, debuts with the film Earthquake. The vibrations caused by the bass sound effects attempt to recreate the feeling of being in an earthquake. The film is a success, but Sensurround is only used in four more movies thereafter.
1981: Director John Waters releases Polyester, a black comedy featuring a new sensory experience he calls “Odorama,” inspired by Smell-O-Vision. Moviegoers are given scratch and sniff cards that correspond with moments in the film. On the film’s DVD commentary (released in 2004), Waters boasts that he “actually got the audience to pay to smell shit.”
1984: The “Sensorium” opens at a Six Flags theme park in Baltimore and is called the first true 4D movie theater. It’s complete with rumbling seats and various theater-filling scents.
1991: Muppet Vision 3D debuts at Disney World’s Hollywood Studios in Florida. The show features in-theater Muppet animatronics and soap bubbles.
1994: Honey, I Shrunk the Audience! opens at Epcot, also at Disney World. Based on the popular Disney film Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, the 4D movie “shrinks” the audience, who are on a moving platform.
2009: The first 4DX theater debuts in South Korea. In 2010, after the theater screens James Cameron’s Avatar in 4D, the technology expands throughout Asia, and later into Mexico and Brazil.
2011: D-Box vibrating, motion chairs are installed in several theaters around the world.
2011: Merlin Entertainments, the company behind Legoland theme parks, opens a 4D cinema at the Sydney Tower Eye, which incorporates a number of physical effects including actual fire.
2011: Spy Kids: All the Time in the World is released, one of the first mainstream Hollywood movies to be billed as “4D.” It is critically panned.
2014: 4DX debuts in the US (Los Angeles) and outperforms traditional movie theaters.