It was only a matter of time before smell became a marketing tool. Along with human scientific advances following from the groundbreaking mapping the human genome was the ability to crack the code on the genome of smell. And once this code was cracked, replicating smells in automated ways became possible. Recent reports from Tokyo are all about new ways they are already using smell in theaters. The opening of "The New World" featured corresponding smells to augment the movie going experience. With uses of manufactured smells growing in popularity in Tokyo thanks to new technology from the Tokyo Institute of Technology – there remains only a single hurdle to using this technology for interactive marketing … the creation of a lower cost (and more portable) "smell replicator" that could be integrated into PC’s. Imagine if part of home entertainment PCs was a smell replicator that could translate signals sent by a website to produce particular aromas. Visit a site about World Cup soccer, and you could smell the pitch. Researching tourism options in the Swiss Alps? Experience that fresh alpine air while you surf … The possibilities for marketing are almost endless. In addition, this would change the growing market for home theater. Netflix or other rising online movie download sites could offer "smell-enhanced" DVDs that offer an unique home theater experience with integrated smell. Perhaps we would see a rise in SE-HDTV (Smell Enhanced High Definition TV). Sound futuristic? Perhaps, and it is not without problems – such as giving a whole new dimension to spyware (what would a popup ad smell like?) – but the potential benefit for marketers is huge in creating more experiential messages. Now we just have to wait for some smart companies in Japan or elsewhere to produce that smell replicator to make it all possible …
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Rohit Bhargava is a trend curator, founder of the Non-Obvious Company, and the author of six best selling business books including the Wall Street Journal best seller Non-Obvious.