February 15, 2019 5 min read

For many small business owners, “aromachology” might sound like a word from a foreign language or an esoteric term pulled from a dusty library. Far from that being the case, aromachology is instead a genuine and respected scientific practice that successful businesses from diverse fields engage in, including Apple in computer technology, Four Seasons in hospitality, and even Mercedes Benz in the automotive industry.

If your curiosity is piqued and you’re wondering how this can apply to your business, then you’re already taking the correct first step to see how AromaTech can revolutionize the way that you market your brand to your customers on a fundamental level. To get to that point, we’re first going to take a detour through the history of aromachology to find out where it comes from, how it’s different from aromatherapy, and what it truly is.

Aromachology’s Origin in the Land of the Rising Sun

As with many notable and unique forms of art such as kintsugi (the practice of artistically reconstructing broken objects), aromachology was pioneered and developed in Japan. In the early 20th century, Japan was in a state of transition. The Meiji period was already chaotic from the forced opening of Japan’s ports to European and American merchants in the 19th century, and the following decades revealed the Japanese people’s industriousness and remarkable adaptivity.

Rather than completely abandon the old ways, the Japanese people chose to incorporate effective lessons from the foreign powers and combine them with traditional Japanese cultural sensibilities. While the Meiji period ended shortly before World War I (giving way first to the Taisho, then Showa periods), the lessons and cultural developments from that time continued to influence Japanese culture.

How Is Aromachology Different from Aromatherapy?

While aromachology possibly developed as an offspring of the art of floral arrangement, it shares a surface similarity to aromatherapy, which has an even deeper history. Unlike aromachology, aromatherapy is a holistic and ostensibly health-related practice that developed independently in nearly every culture around the world. Possibly the earliest recorded instances of aromatherapy date to ancient Egypt and were considered viable means of treating disease and sickness.

As ancient Japan and China share a great deal of overlap (consider the Kanji writing system of Japanese, meaning “Han characters” and adapted from the Hanzi system of writing Chinese), the origins of aromatherapy in Japan begin in ancient China. Taoist and eventually Buddhist philosophies and artistic styles migrated to Japan, aromatherapy and other holistic approaches came with them. As Japanese culture developed over time, those sensibilities gradually blossomed into new forms of artistic expression.

After the blending of traditional Japanese and modern Western approaches to both science and society, Japan applied that blend to innovate new approaches. These approaches, particularly aromachology, produced some stunning realizations about human psychology and behavior. During the initial “exploratory” phase of aromachology, practitioners noticed that certain scents had emotional effects on people. While in aromatherapy, the interest would be centered in the well-being of the person and their body, aromachology instead focused on the psychological effects and how the scents tie to memory and emotion.

Aromachology Perfectly Melds Art and Science

One of the most distinct things about aromachology is how it bridges the realms of art and science. To visualize it, you can think of the chemical study of scent and psychology in terms of the molecules’ movement and the neurons firing in response as the left side of the brain. For the right brain, you have aromatherapy and the aesthetic appreciation or poetic meaning that those scents evoke. Aromachology is best considered as taking both sides of the brain firing together and working in unison.

Rather than ignoring either the rigorous nature of science or subjective-but-powerful sensory experiences, aromachology brilliantly applies them both. Perhaps people often consciously miss the fact that memory is tied strongly to scent and taste because it’s something we experience every day without noticing it. For example, a certain candle can bring us back to our childhood home or the scent of a burning fire recalls autumn evenings spent with good friends near a bonfire. We recall the memory due to the scent but then forget afterwards until we smell it again.

A Quiet Entry into Professional Marketing

Returning to the fact that globe-spanning businesses engage in aromachology, there’s still the question of how that practice started. Everyone knows the “new car smell,” but car dealerships recognize the power that it represents. While it originally came about through the final stages of cleaning a new car’s interior and preparing it for sale to the public, the distinct scent was incidental to the car. Eventually, enough savvy car dealership managers became aware of the association that the scent acquired over time: if a car has the new car smell, it is freshly produced and has more life in it than a used car without that scent.

Likely without realizing what it was called, car dealerships began to engage in deliberate aromachology by finishing their preparations of used cars turned in for resale with a coating of a chemical that would produce the new car smell in an older car. The association by this point is so powerful that even if a customer is aware that the scent is artificial, and the car has been used by one or more prior owners, the emotional triggers and impact on their state of mind results in increased sales.

Aromachology at Use Today

While the new car smell came about as an accident of manufacturing, businesses with a sharp awareness of the power of marketing use bold tactics. One example is that orange juice producers use unique blends of flavoring perfume to produce a consistent and recognizable flavor to their juice. For technology companies and other firms, scents are used that have no direct connection with the product, however.

Rather than smell like a familiar object, businesses can instead take advantages of the decades of science that have gone into the field of aromachology. Certain scents have cultural significance or emotional triggers and can be combined to create an atmosphere in a store or around a product that aligns with the brand philosophy. This is different for each company, but it is the reason that when you walk into an Apple store in New York City, London, or Berlin, you will be greeted by a consistent scent.

Aromachology as an Aspect of Brand Identity

While the average customer doesn’t consciously notice this, their brains nevertheless pick up the scent and put them into a familiar mindset. By intentionally creating and reinforcing a scent identity that is consistent with your brand, you can make a lasting impact on customers for years to come. As popular culture has shown, nostalgia is a powerful force and drives fields as varied as cinema, music, and household appliances.

Businesses that recognize the potential in aromachology to first create and then capitalize on those associations that people unconsciously make with scents can out-compete and grow in the face of competition that has yet to gain that understanding. Learn more about the science behind the scents of aromachology and how it can help your business today.