Did you know, women have a better sense of smell than men?
I was reminded of this the other day walking through Heathrow T3, when I noticed they are using scent machines in their ancient and very looooooong walkways to and from the aircraft stands.
The scent itself is barely noticeable. But the latest research suggests this isn’t that important.
You see, in the early days of investigating scent, it was thought you could dlal up a distinct scent (for example, Lavender) and that it would have a particular impact. A bit like “aromatherapy” which turns out to be pretty much bollocks.
Turns out, the impact of scent is much more about making your brain feel “safe” in a second visit. This effect happens at barely detectable levels of scent. As we get more used to an environment, we tend to relax as our “threat detection” is turned down. And scent travels directly to the emotional part of the brain, the amygdala. So it is a very good way of relaxing people through signalling familiarity.
This is why you take your dog’s blanket on holiday, of course.
So in the context of Heathrow, the most likely impact on the passenger’s experience will be on repeat visits, when the passenger feels more relaxed and familiar than they otherwise would have.
This is quite clever, as airports are pretty high-stress places for most people.
The benefits for Heathrow of relaxing the passengers…. Less aggro? Higher customer satisfaction ratings? More compliance for boarding and customs? Greater turnover in stores? All are possible.
In other airport ideas, how about this one from Hong Kong?
We know that ‘mirror neurons’ fire in your brain when someone smiles at you. It’s hard to believe… but someone smiling at you really does make you feel happier.
So if you own an airport and you want happy passengers, having airport and retail staff smiling a lot is a really big deal.
Which is why Hong Kong have the smile reward competition.
I put my money on Scent and Smiles over “Big Data” – any day.