Thalys’ strong-smelling travel agency experience


Strong scents can often be powerful enough to trigger feelings of nostalgia – we’ve all had times where a familiar smell instantly takes us back to a great moment in our lives.

The smell of fresh cut grass always goes hand in hand with the welcome season of spring, while the distinctive aroma of sizzling bacon is capable of transporting us right back to days spent camping and gazing under a star-lit sky.

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Smell is a very powerful sense indeed – a study carried out by the wonderfully-named Sense of Smell Institute found that people can remember more than 65% of what they smell even after a whole year has passed.

French railway company Thalys recently used the mighty power of the nose to deliver a terrific, and fun, experiential stunt. It opened its own pop-up travel agency and promoted destinations through the power of scent.

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Named ‘Scent of the City’, keen travelers in Brussels could sample 16 specially blended aromas that were each based on classic smells from Paris, Cologne and Amsterdam. Scents included a French breakfast, a Parisian café, cut grass from a stadium in Cologne and even Latex from and an erotic museum in Amsterdam. Yikes.

Each of the aromas were enclosed in a coloured tube and labelled with a number. Partakers could then match the number of their favourite scent to a number on a map, to see where in the world their sense of smell could take them.

Through this campaign Thalys played on the “strong connection between emotion and scent” and used it to completely immerse consumers in another location around the world. It provided participants with a unique experience that they will likely carry forward with them when debating future travel plans.

This isn’t the first time the power of scent has inspired an experiential stunt. Take a look at when Glade built its own sensory boutique in New York to evoke certain feelings amongst guests.

We will be sure to sniff out any similar impressive campaigns in the future!

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Author bio


With nearly 30 years of marketing experience, both client and agency side, I’ve acquired a rare perspective on brands and business: I believe you have to challenge things creatively if you want to grow sales. Consumer technology is reshaping our world, and it’s only the great brands that stay on the crest.