Innovators

Dan Offerman Designs Scents for Businesses


Offerman concocts enticing signature scents for companies that want customers to linger and spend more money

Photograph by Jeremy Liebman for Bloomberg Businessweek

Offerman concocts enticing signature scents for companies that want customers to linger and spend more money

How do you approach a new client’s project?
It depends on the customer. In the Miami area, we’re doing bookstores with a coffee fragrance. We’re also looking to do this in food, to promote things like bakeries or deli meats in grocers. Or a ship, for example: If it’s a Caribbean cruise line, is it floral? Is it passion fruit? We usually bring in 8 or 10 vastly different scents, and then we go back and fine-tune it—let’s say a floral with some citrus, if [it’s a casino and] they want to keep people awake.

Can scent control behavior?
In general, you want to improve the customer experience: Either to get them to stay longer or to buy more. And now it’s another way of branding, tapping an additional sense to help you promote the company or a product.

Do companies ever overdo it with scents?
Oh, yeah—you ever walked past a store at the mall aimed at teenagers? They have the intensity dialed up to such a high level. Some countries have made it difficult for stores to do that. They say there’s allergens in the air. There’s always special-interest groups that are looking to have something labeled a carcinogen or toxic or whatever, and it’s a full-time job to stay on top of that.

Do you bring the client into the development process?
We have what’s called a smart box. It’s full of little pipettes, and it allows the customer to zero in on what they like. It empowers them, and we make progress faster.

So once you figure out the scent, how do you get it into the environment?
Nanodiffusion. A machine is tapped into the HVAC system of a building, which sends fragrance oil floating in the air, and takes a dozen minutes before it dissipates. A typical machine goes through about a kilo of oil a month.

Bonanos is a Bloomberg Businessweek contributor.

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