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How Experience Design is used on us (Part 2)

Updated: Jan 28, 2022

This is a follow up post if you've landed here please read part 1 here

If you only have 50 seconds:
  • We have two competing narratives logic and emotive

  • Logical narrative often wins in fleeting moments, until we have built a relationship with the product, service or experience

  • Brands use the scents to help strengthen the emotive narrative which help more people buy more products

You've been targeted

Brands understand the power of this olfactory bulb, amygdala and hippocampus pathway, they also see the power in using sensory design (scents) to trigger.

In fact many brands use machines to pump out these scents in many of your consumer experiences. The goal is to help trigger familiarity in feelings, memories and stories, in fact they know its the quickest way and most stealth like way for you to spend that hard-earned cash... and you probably didn't even notice it.

Ikea, Cineworld, B&Q, Cinnabon, Alton Towers, Disney Land, Nespresso, Abercrombie & Fitch have all used this approach, it's this this nano experience design element that separates a great shopping experience from an average one

Nespresso and Starbucks all use the scent of coffee, as well as a mix of behaviour science service and space design. B&Q use the scent of fresh cut wood throughout the stores, Alton Towers are a great example of this nano experience design as they have a themed ride based on wood and fire, so while you're queuing for the ride you will smell burning woods to really dial up anticipation in a super subtle way.

Abercrombie and Fitch, similar to Singapore Airlines, have their own unique scent which is sprayed on all employees as well as pumped throughout the store

Nano Experience Design

I want to zoom in on the nano aspects of my experience design flow having designed many types of experiences from pop up shops, immersive experiences, employee experience culture to behaviour change experience. One point to note is to never ever overlook the the nano experience stage, it is super important the three major touchpoints of my nano experience design flow are:


What is the headspace, physical space and digital space


What are people seeing, hearing, touching and smelling

(for ease of writing let's assume we are talking about the common senses)


What is the narrative of the experience? What is the internal and external narrative? How can we play with both? How do we build on that narrative?

These brief questions will give some added context for the remainder of this and the next post

Smell & stories

We know from the first post that smells are linked to various parts of the brain that are attached to emotions and memories, all ultimately link to stories we tell ourselves.

I like to kind of view it as two types of narratives battling away inside us, you have the logical mind and then you've got this emotional, those who know Daniel Kahneman's work will see some overlap here. For the interest of simplicity, think logic narrative and emotive narrative

How does that show up

In a simple situation you may find yourself looking at some candles in a store when these two narratives battle away,

  • Logic narrative - is saying now you really don't need to buy another candle you have 50 already

  • Emotive narrative - is like hell yes buy that candle, think how relaxing it will be to slide in the bath with these candles lit around you after a hard days work (yep am that guy)

Brands know about these internal debates happening, they also understand the logic narrative often wins in these fleeting moments, mainly because the emotive narrative doesn't have any form of relationship with the items yet.

Often you only really value something if you have a relationship with it and brands goals are to create a relationship with an item as fast as possible, to create some form of familiarity to strengthen this emotive narrative. To do this they need to hack your emotive side and trigger memories and feelings and this my little chickens is where the power smells come in

In our final post we will do a walk through of an experience which ties all this together and one I am sure you have all been targeted by knowingly or unknowingly

Coming up next:

Part 3: Case study walk through

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