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Q&A: Your Smell Affects Your Sales

Aromachologist Farah Abassi explains how the psychological power of scent can be harnessed to enhance the car-buying experience.

March 2018, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Tariq Kamal - Also by this author

Customers of JM Lexus in Margate, Fla., can enjoy the dealership’s custom scent in the showroom and take a bottle of it home. Photo courtesy Aroma360
Customers of JM Lexus in Margate, Fla., can enjoy the dealership’s custom scent in the showroom and take a bottle of it home. Photo courtesy Aroma360

Certain scents evoke powerful emotions. Harnessing that power can help auto dealers create a unique environment that welcomes and stimulates car buyers. That is the foundation upon which Farah Abassi, the founder of Aroma360, builds custom scents for dealers and other business owners. Auto Dealer Today met with Abassi to learn about the process and how the equipment works.

ADT: Farah, what is it you do, and how does it apply to auto dealers?

Abassi: I create fragrances using holistic blends of essential oils. I try to educate business owners about scent and the tremendous psychological impact it can have. That translated into the auto industry through connections who were inspired by the amazing feelings of luxury the right scents can evoke. Car-buying is stressful for many people, myself included. It was a no-brainer.

ADT: In layman’s terms, how does our sense of smell work?

Abassi: We have nasal receptors called the olfactory bulb. When odor molecules hit our olfactory receptors, that sends a signal to the limbic center of our brains. What makes the sense of smell so unique is that it has this direct path to the part of our brain that stores memories and emotions. Other senses require a cognitive process.

ADT: When you hear about a smell being “pumped into” a space, what is happening?

Abassi: I can’t speak for everyone, but we use cold-air diffusion equipment that works in conjunction with your central A/C system. It goes with the natural flow of cool and warm air. That produces an even and consistent scenting throughout large spaces. As for the smell itself, we pride ourselves on using healthy products — no chemicals, only essential oil blends.

ADT: Shouldn’t showrooms smell like new cars?

Abassi: Left to their own devices, many showrooms won’t smell like that. For example, at one of our dealerships, every day, they cook breakfast and lunch for their clients. It smelled like bacon every morning. It was not the luxurious, woodsy, leathery scent they needed.

ADT: Is that the type of scent you would pick for every dealer?

Abassi: No. It’s really dependent upon the dealership, their brand, their aesthetic, everything. We don’t have a “car dealership” scent we recommend. We find out what their car-buying process is all about, discuss their demographics, and check out the colors they use, all to create a sense of place that takes all those factors into consideration.

ADT: Do you approach highline stores in a different way than you would a mass-market brand?

Abassi: You could say Honda is different from Lexus, the same way Lexus is different from Lamborghini. But it’s more about the décor. Some showrooms are ultramodern and others are more traditional. We play to those elements and find a scent that complements them. The whole scenting experience should be congruent with the environment — specific colors and lighting. If it’s not working, it will seem too strong or not the right fit.

ADT: What does installation entail?

Abassi: The moment you mention “A/C scenting,” people get nervous. It sounds more intimidating than it is. I can’t change a lightbulb, but I can install one of our machines. You just drill a small hole in the ductwork and poke a small tube attached to the machine through the hole. The atomizer converts the essential oil blend into a dry mist, which travels though the tube and into the ductwork.

ADT: Some people are sensitive to strong smells. Does anyone ever complain?

Abassi: That’s the benefit of using essential oil blends. People tend to have sensitivities to highly synthetic scents. You control the intensity, and the equipment creates a very consistent and even experience without any highs or lows. It’s very subtle and unobtrusive.

ADT: Can you share a success story?

Abassi: We work with JM Lexus, and they did a great job integrating their new scent into their brand experience. It’s the same scent in the showroom and the service area. The excitement and happiness the customer gets from the purchase? When they go back to the service area, those positive memories are triggered again.

JM Lexus actually decided to retail their scent because they have received so many compliments. They sell little spray bottles in their gift shop, branded with their logo. Service staffers will spray cars. They’ve been very happy with it.

ADT: Do you ever walk into businesses and think, “They need my help”?  

Abassi: For sure. I just went to the dentist this morning. They do need some help. Obviously, I’ve become highly sensitive to it. And we’re in South Florida. With the humidity, over time, most places just don’t smell great. But you have to create a cohesive brand experience. We take it a step further than just smelling good.

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