Big in Japan: Scent-emitting Digital Signage

This Japanese article describes a recent digital signage install by Recruit Co Ltd in Tokyo Station’s underground mall that uses a “Scent-emitting LCD Display System” by NTT Communications Corp to entice passer-byers with some tasty smells. Restaurant and coffee shop advertisers get their video ads shown on a 42-inch LCD screen and are included in a coupon booklet that is part of the display. Recruit’s hypothesis is that hopefully, the sweet smells that fill the surrounding area will get the mall-goers looking at the ads and grabbing the booklets (oh, and ya, going to the restaurants).

A TV that emits smells!…sometimes these “only in Japan” ideas seem a little off to Westerners but who hasn’t been within 50 meters of a McDonald’s and said “smells like French fries”. McDonald’s use of this idea (although in a slightly different iteration) should be proof enough that dialing into people’s lower-level needs gets people into the door.

Combining different types of media or taking several different angles at once could be what makes your OOH or POS advertisements effective. While the scent in the surrounding area plays on the consumer’s psychological needs, the video ads and coupon booklets can hit higher level needs on Maslow’s hierarchy, effectively triggering a wider range of stimuli and catalysts to buying behavior.

An aspect of the above-mentioned article and Recruit Co’s install that I didn’t think made as much sense is their “Commercializer” product/service. The service makes ads for you based on templates with your pictures and copy. The goal is to save costs (i.e. advertiser doesn’t need to spend on making an ad) and (possibly, but not mentioned) end up with an effective ad based on a tried-and-true format. In dealing with clients I know that it is very true that creating content can be a pain; it takes time and it costs more money than you’d initially expect.

When reading about the “Commercializer” I can’t help but hear the cliché phrase made so popular by the Search Engine Optimization industry, content is king. Sure, the service will help save costs, but at what expense? This idea of template-based ads gives me the impression that all the ads will start being very uniform and difficult to distinguish one from another, reducing the effectiveness of the visual portion of the unit.

Anyway, here’s a picture of the digital signage system being tested in the Yaesu Underground Mall:

The digital signage system being tested in the Yaesu Underground Mall.