Aroma-first thinking

What’s the first thing you notice when you approach a Starbucks store? Almost always, it’s the aroma. Even non-coffee drinkers love the smell of brewing coffee. It’s heady, rich, full-bodied, dark, suggestive. Aroma triggers memories more strong than any of the other senses, and it obviously plays a major role in attracting people to our stores.

Keeping that coffee aroma pure is no easy task. Because coffee beans have a bad tendency to absorb odors, we banned smoking in our stores years before it became a national trend. We ask our partners to refrain from using perfume and cologne. We won’t sell chemically flavored coffee beans. We won’t sell soup, sliced pastrami, or cooked food. We want you to smell coffee only. [Solving Starbucks Problems, Idea Sandbox]

However, since Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz said this, things have changed. Coffee comes pre-ground, “FlavorLock” packaged for a longer life and, in some regions, food is being cooked within the store. The smell of fresh coffee, which used to wrap itself around you, inviting you inside, isn’t as omnipresent as before. Where’s the aroma? Where’s the theatre of beans being ground daily in front of you?

There’s no use pretending, human beings are all but rational, and your products need to have a spark that makes us feel special – whether it’s the aroma wafting from your bakery or coffee shop, the handcrafted feel of your beauty products or the shine of your electronics.

What are the key emotional deciding factors for your product or service? Why did your customers cross your doorstep the first time?

No aroma, or no enticing factor, means that no new customers being led in, but it also means no emotional reminder for your previously loyal users. The business decisions you make shouldn’t steer you away from the source of that emotional tie. Your Aroma doesn’t have an ROI attached to it, but you need to take it in account when making decisions. Don’t compromise on it.

We love to believe in stories that match our worldview. We like to buy from our local cheese shop rather than buying it pre-packed from the supermarket, even if it involves going out of our way on the way home. It’s more “real” and we feel we’re helping local business. Sometimes, that worldview is a romanticised truth. We like to think of Starbucks as fair trade, even though most people order regular non fair trade coffee.

It makes us all fuzzy inside.

So how does your product make users feel fuzzy inside like the smell of fresh brewed coffee in the morning?

[Note: This post was salvaged from a project I started last year I never fully set live, so you may have spotted it before… Still as relevant as ever, though.]