Scent of a broker


When was the last time you flattened a glob of Silly Putty across a Beetle Bailey comic?

Or ran a wad of Play-Doh through the plastic spaghetti maker?

Or ripped open a brand new pack of Topps baseball cards?

You know what I’m talking about, right? You can almost smell it.

From Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts to Abercrombie & Fitch, more and more companies are spritzing our senses — specifically, our sense of smell — in an effort to build a deeper brand connection. Social scientists have long known that scents trigger memories, emotions and associations. But scent is gaining wider acceptance as a key dimension of branding recently.

Case in point: The aroma of A&F’s Fierce cologne envelops every person strolling in front of one of the chain’s stores. It lures their targeted customers toward the showcase window, where, hanging on the wall, just beyond the array of Daisy Dukes, is a larger-than-life poster of some JFK wannabee, topless and windblown.

Le Meridien hotels created a unique scent that captures the essence of its recent brand revival. It’s piped through every floor of every one of their properties.

Other brands capitalize on scent to create ancillary products or to extend an experience. Consider the array of oils and candles made available to spa guests who want to recreate their 90-minute massage back at home. A bottle Johnson’s Baby Oil could get the job done, but it’s the $20.00 scented spa lotion that delivers the experience.


Does a real estate have a scent? Not yet. But it could. And considering the high level of emotion that courses through its transactional veins, I would argue that it should. There is no reason why a real estate brand cannot not take a cue from the companies I list above.

But what could some leading real estate brands smell like?

  • RE/MAX. High above the clouds, our RE/MAX agent soars through the stress of the real estate transaction inside their hot air balloon. What does that altitude smell like? For me it might be the The Rio Grande Valley. Piñon. Crisp air. This scent could be piped through every RE/MAX office or handed out through a RE/MAX line of hot air balloon air fresheners for the home. Each time it spritzes, you think RE/MAX.
  • Coldwell Banker. With its roots in Old San Francisco, this brand conjures up the scent of a well appointed sitting room in a Nob Hill mansion. The scent is a mix of mahogany, fine leather and oak embers — a blend that elicits a sense of tradition, stability and discretion. CB could even fire up the scent in an exclusive line of specialty cigars.
  • Sotheby’s. A picturesque English countryside filled with Agrimony, Wild Marjoram and Heather serves as the perfect compliment for enjoying a simmering cup of Earl Grey. These scents conjure the finer things in life. Every Sotheby’s office should smell like this, provoke those connections. They could be taken home through a Sotheby’s gift line of wildflower seeds and teas.
  • GMAC. Why hide this brand’s muscular flex towards real Americana? Power. Brushed steel. Detroit. I don’t know a single person who doesn’t love the smell of new car. In fact, that scent is known as the New Car Smell. How can that translate to the smell of buying a new home?
  • Windermere. This brand speaks of pine trees, rain and the aura of its ozone aftermath. Much could be done with a light application of these scents through every office and on every piece of collateral — an evocation of place no website or sign rider can deliver.
  • First Team. This SoCal independent smells of sunshine. Boat drinks. The sea breeze. Their offices — and a private-labled line of sunscreens — should as well.

Perhaps you think this is far-fetched. It is most definitely not if you are committed to making certain that every one of your brand’s touch points  — whether seen, heard, touched or smelled — communicates its essence.

Brokers who embrace this basic tenet of brand care will come out of the down market smelling like a rose.