When it comes to our senses, people tend to give much more credence to sight as a recognition tool that dominates the other senses. Sure, taste is pretty damned important too, and dishes such as Vietnamese Pho, Middle-eastern Shakshuka, French Bouillabaisse, and even British Beef Wellington being cited as some of the world’s classic dishes in terms of taste complexity from relatively simple ingredients. But many scientists are now pointing to smell as a dominant sense, and one that drives others such as taste. What we taste, it seems, has its foundations in the dish’s aroma, and that is becoming increasingly important in not only the international food market, but the development of luxury products too.
Key to the use of aromas as a means of connecting people with their memories, and taking them back to pleasurable or well-remembered times from their past. The link between smell and memory is a strong one and it is being increasingly used to tailor products high end products in a growing number of fields. Aromas are handled by the olfactory epithelium, the structure in the front of the brain that sends information to the other sections of the body’s central command for further processing. The limbic system, which contains the amygdala and the hippocampus and is responsible for processing and remembering emotions and memories, is directly affected by odours. Adults are able to differentiate between around 10,000 distinct odours, and the human body generates new scent neurons every few weeks to ensure that these senses are in proper working order. In contrast to the processing that occurs in the central nervous system for our other senses, olfactory information is immediately distributed throughout the various regions of the brain for processing, including the pleasure areas.
Scientists now believe that the anatomical structure of the brain enables olfactory signals to get to the limbic system very quickly, which is why there is such a strong connection between smell and memory. The memories that are connected to smells are deep and ingrained and as a result, when they are recalled, they are very vivid. Exploiting this feature means that an aroma can help a person relive a time from their past with great clarity, and that is a powerful marketing tool indeed.
For decades, businesses have spent a significant amount of time and effort over the past few decades looking into ways to harness the persuasive power of smell. Think about the scent of the cologne or perfume that an ex-lover wore. And then there was AromaRama or Smell-O-Vision, inventions of the film industry in the 1950s that infused movie theatres with appropriate odours in an attempt to pull viewers deeper into an on-screen story and the most recent update, the decade-old 4DX system, which incorporates special effects into cinemas, including shaking seats, wind, rain, as well as smells.
Of course, the obvious application for smell-recognition is in perfumes and colognes, which aim to reignite a memory, or take a person back to some perfect time in their past. Throughout history, in nearly every ancient society, the use of ambient scents has been a common practise. In ancient Japan, time-devices would burn a different kind of incense to mark every quarter of an hour. The Egyptian Pharaohs would adorn themselves with expensive and flamboyant perfumes so that people would know when they were coming from a distance, and ancient Romans bestowed fragrant oils on the animals they kept as pets. Today, personal smells and aromas are a huge business, and can be the difference between make or break for a product.
Here at Hawkins and Brimble, we take our scents very seriously and build them into our grooming products as part of the initial development. Take something as fundamentally simple as an energising moisturiser for daily use; our moisturiser has nourishing avena kernel oil and oatmeal extract, and is fortified with vitamins and minerals. Of course, it’s kind to the skin, but the delicate aroma of Elemi and Ginseng – our signature combination - makes it alluring. The resin of the Elemi tree fits naturally with the slightly lemony scent of the Ginseng root to create a warm and embracing fragrance that will evoke great memories for years to come. Once used, never forgotten, Hawkins and Brimble products are kind to the skin and hair, but also imbibe an aroma that will always make you smile, and its aroma memory will continue that for years to come.