Imagine watching a TV commercial for a big, fat, Rib-Eye steak. As a shining stainless knife slices through the beef to reveal it’s pink interior, juices pour out and steam rises into the air. The imagery alone is enough to force you to make the drive to the nearest steakhouse.
Now imagine the overwhelming aroma of steaks grilling over charcoal engulfing your room. Did someone light the grill? No, your TV is now equipped with the technology to emit thousands of different synthetic aromas just by receiving a digital signal from the advertiser or network. Does this sound like science fiction? And more importantly would it even be humanly possible to resist this type of advertising?
Okay so maybe I’m just a fat carnivorous charcoal grill addict, but this technology has been in development for years and it will be arriving on the scene pretty directly. We’ve been eating and smelling synthetic foods and aromas for many years now, but this used to be the realm of commercial food production, soft drinks and that’s about it. There are scores of labs around the US and abroad teaming with ‘food scientists’ cooking up new batches of synthetic flavors and smells and have been for a while. But only a marketing genius (or an evil bastard who wants me to be morbidly obese) would think to combine synthetic aromas into the back of your TV so advertisers could have yet another sense to grab you with. And only a true marketing savant (or truly incredulous prick who wants me to die of heart disease) would scale the technology up so traffic on the highway can literally smell the billboards they’re driving by.
Smell-O-Vision TV’s aren’t on the shelves yet, but Digital Scents aren’t anything new. In 2010, the grocery store Bloom, owned by Food Lion, put up a first of its kind billboard for a new line of steaks. During peak hours, the billboard turned on a massive fan that blew air over synthetic scent oils inside of cartridges. Even with your windows up, the aroma comes through your vents and you will immediately look for where it’s coming from. Chances are you’ll find that billboard and more importantly remember it. This is extremely valuable in this day and age where so much marketing is shoved down our throats we don’t even recall the half of it. Used car salesmen have put ‘new car smell’ air fresheners in their cars since the beginning of time. Real estate agents bake bread or cookies to make a house a home. I’m actually surprised it took until 2010 for a billboard to become scented.
Besides billboards and TV’s, the list of scent enabled products currently under development includes mobile phones, computers, mp3 players, and even clothing. One day your shirt will notice you’re a bit tense and release a calming lavender aroma to relax you. Your cell phone will deliver not only the sound and images of whoever is calling you, but the scent of their environment as well. Your computer will interface with scent-enabled websites to deliver new user experiences and of course interactive, scent-enabled ads. I wouldn’t be surprised if Google currently has a scent-enabled version of it’s popular AdSense and AdWords in development right now.
How long will it be until we’re able to project taste and flavor over the network? Will this type of marketing make a big splash, or just fizzle out slowly? And will you shell out the extra money to get a scent-enabled television?