Scent expert, Caroline Fabrigas, on creating signature scents for spas & hotels

Caroline Fabrigas of Scent Marketing Inc. talks about creating the perfect signature scent for your brand.

We’re talking about scent marketing for your spa and hotel, and about how multisensory experiences can increase sales and elevate brand awareness and consumer connection. 

Caroline Fabrigas
Caroline Fabrigas

Caroline Fabrigas is the CEO of Scent Marketing Inc., a full-service scent and sensory marketing company and a leading authority in the art and science of scent marketing and branding that has created scents for world-class brands such as Hyatt, ­Auberge Resorts Collection, 1 Hotels, and Deep Blue Med Spa. She is also co-founder of ScentInvent Technologies LLC., a scent innovation firm dedicated to introducing new forms and function in fragrance. She has worked in marketing for luxury brands including Clarins, Prada, and Chanel, and maintains an active beauty consulting practice called BeautyFluence LLC. 

We got deep into it with Caroline Fabrigas about developing signature scents for hotels and spas.

Please talk to us about how scent elicits emotions and reactions.

We see what happens in the presence of scent versus in the absence of scent. When the right scent for the environment is present in an appropriate way, you will see the “linger longer factor,” where guests and clients will stay longer in a particular area, which is always good. There is also a memorability factor, as scent builds an instant recall, so when someone leaves a place, they will have a longer-term memory of that experience. (Read more on the science of consumer behavior here)

We think this works through the brain’s limbic system, which is where all memory is stored. It’s like the reptilian brain, the automatic reaction to things. The limbic system is connected to the olfactory system where a human perceives scent. When a scent molecule comes in, it’s like a lock and key opening a receptor in the olfactory system, and then that rushes to the limbic system and there is a reaction. Hopefully the right scent triggers the right reaction.

You can see it in everyday life. When you smell something amazing like baking bread, it makes you feel warm, it makes you feel hungry. When you smell fire and smoke, you have a totally different reaction. That’s the limbic system. In what we do, we try to tap into that with branded scent, that creates the reaction that we are looking to create. If we’re trying to create a dynamic environment, we will pick aromas known to promote this idea of energy or dynamism. If we’re looking for something comforting, relaxing, and calming, we will pick aromas known to create those kinds of sensations and reactions.

We often talk about the calming effect of lavender but what are some of the other scents that can evoke specific, sought-after reactions?

Peppermint is historically known to help clarity and focus, cinnamon is known to sharpen the mind, and pine can help alleviate stress. Vanilla can be comforting and calming, while citrus can help to provide a sense of energy and exhilaration, and eucalyptus helps support clearing and clarifying. Jasmine may also help sharpen the mind and help with precision. There was a study, in which the accuracy of baseball players hitting the ball increased in the presence of the scent of jasmine.

These things may be dependent on your culture and the associations you have with specific smells. But are there scents that evoke universal reactions?

I do think that the gourmand scents create a reaction because they are included in many cultures. Vanilla is noticeably sweet, warm, and comforting. And you would find it used in various cuisines. That could be a scent that I would say resonates. I also think wood would be universally recognizable as something grounding, anchoring, and sensual.

What are some things people should keep in mind when seeking the right scent for their business?

Picking a scent that is reflective of your brand and what you want to communicate. Because sometimes if you don’t have that alignment, you can create a disconnect and it can be disjointing.

There are different ways we work with our clients. We can create a total custom, bespoke scent from scratch or find the right scent that already exists in our extensive scent library. Sometimes someone is not ready for a completely bespoke scent and will want to find something that already exists. Then we’ll do a curation process, which is quicker and less expensive. Sometimes somebody will start with a curated scent and end up very happy with it.

I should add, how the scent is working with the diffuser is also something to think about. Maintaining your diffuser is very important. Whether it’s in the HVAC or whether it’s free standing, making sure it’s filled, making sure it’s clean, making sure it’s tended to. Like with anything else you need to make sure that it’s maintained.

Can you talk about the process of creating a bespoke scent and connecting it to the brand?

That’s my favorite thing in the whole world to do. We have created the scent for the One Hotels, which has become quite a collection now of hotels. We started with them when they were just doing their initial branding, and it was an incredible development because the whole premise was the idea about being one with the environment. We looked at the décor and at the philosophy of the brand, which was to be incredibly sustainable. In creating it, it wasn’t a superimposed fragrance, it was much more about the raw materials of your environment breathing with you instead of at you.

It all came together when we stood in one of the model hotel rooms with our perfumer. We smelled the wood and the greenery. And they have a faucet in every room instead of bottled water, and you could smell the cold water. It was an incredible experience. And then how to interpret that into scent? We have a specific process where we do a DNA analysis of the brand, of the colors, the textures, the sounds, the language, the philosophy, the ethos, and really what the brand wants to communicate. We use that as our brief and then we work with perfumers and research companies to determine what kinds of raw materials will evoke the kinds of sentiments and feelings that we are after. And we create these incredibly unique custom bespoke blends and share them in sniffing sessions with our clients, taking them through the different iterations of what we’ve created and why — how it connects to their ethos and their brand, speaking the language of that brand back to the client through the lens of scent.

How can scent marketing increase revenue?

I always hesitate to add that to the story because there are so many things that can influence revenue, like a sale, the weather, or the time of year. So, I tend to keep the influence of scent when it comes to purchasing behavior more to the other factors. Like many areas of marketing, scent is connected to brand building which is, of course, connected to revenue. There have been several experiments that suggest it has a positive impact on sales. In a well-known experiment conducted with Nike, for example. subjects who viewed sneakers in a scented room vs an unscented room were significantly more likely to say they would purchase the shoes, and appraised them at a higher value.

Also, we have many clients who have gone from just having an ambient scent diffused in their location to creating an entire revenue stream with us where we will make candles, room sprays, reed diffusers, all kinds of products that they can then sell, and it creates an entire incremental business for them. Right. This goes back to reinforcing the brand connection and memorability, and it creates this full circle experience as well as an additional revenue stream. So, it’s a wonderful business.


Now read this:

The power of scent marketing to increase sales at your spa


Spa Executive is published by Book4Time, the leader in guest management, revenue and mobile solutions for the most exclusive spas, hotels, and resorts around the globe. Learn more at


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