Thursday, October 18, 2007

NTT tests odor-releasing digital signage

Digital Signage Today reports that NTT Communications, a Japan-based company, is in the process of developing a form of digital signage that will release (presumably pleasant) odors.

According to the article, "In this first stage of the study, the company will operate a digital sign in front of Kirin City Beer Hall in Tokyo's Yaesu Shopping Mall from October 21 to the end of December. Aromas, such as lemon and orange, associated with beer will be emitted by the sign to enhance the impact of its messages. Through the study, NTT Com expects to measure the sign's effectiveness in attracting the attention of passersby in the underground mall."

Back when I was still in grade school I remember people saying that TVs that would be aroma-enabled were just around the corner, yet today that technology is still being talked about in hypothetical terms. As for implementing this in a digital signage system, I think it's a great idea. In a controlled environment it could have a more practical applications than on television (where, even if you could get manufacturers and broadcasters to agree on how to do it, there's a huge chance that it would just become a novelty that would soon lose it's appeal). Moreover, recently there have been some trials for smell-enhanced digital signage, so clearly the technology is coming of age.

Of course, I do find it kind of strange that the company is starting with aromas associated with beer, as the article mentions. Technology such as this seems like something younger audiences would get a much bigger kick out of than adults would. Even more importantly, will the gimmick really appeal to mainstream shoppers? Here in the US, for example, many more people drink cheap beers than quality beers, so they aren't exactly buying the stuff based on aroma. In Japan it may be different, and they could be hoping that the association of citrus with Kirin will be enough to entice passers-by. I think associating a smell with a product is going to be a lot harder than associating an image with a product, and it could be bad (marketing-wise) if the company inadvertently creates a clash between the product (the thing for sale) and the content (the aroma).

So while the technology, if it works, looks pretty cool, the content and application are going to have to take center stage for any value to come of it.

Tags: digital signage, smellovision, experiential marketing

1 comment:

Bill Gerba said...

There's another article with more information about the project here