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May 2019

The link between colour and smell

Written by Bakang Kganyago
Technology and Trends

Bathrooms create a strong impression of your business to any guest, visitor or client. We all know how important the smell in the bathroom is when it comes to forming positive or negative impressions (and if you don’t, take a read of our previous blog post here) but do you realise that colour may have an effect too?

We have discussed in a previous blog post how people tend to assign different meaning to different colours and found that we tend to experience certain moods based on the colours we are exposed to in a particular environment. In this post, we explain the link between colour and smell - and why it matters.

For years I thought that only people who had been diagnosed with synesthesia  (a rare condition that links one of the five senses to something unrelated, for example being able to “see” sounds) were the only people that could actually smell colour.

However, more recent research suggests that there may actually be a link between smell and colour that everyone experiences. Colours have now been scientifically proven to have the same links to certain smells on a global scale, which means that something is occurring on a neurological level to create these associations.

According to a study published in PLoS One, it was initially thought that demographics would play a big role in the associations made between colours and smells. However - surprisingly - it was found that all the cultures that were studied shared similar association results. For example, it was found that fruity scents smelled like the colour pink and red, that vegetable smells was often seen as green, and that musty scents smelled like the colour orange and brown.

For bathrooms, the study found that people linked the smell of soap to light pastel colours. It stands to reason then that having pastel colours in your bathroom will create the impression that it is clean and inviting.

The psychological benefits of using the right colours will not only positively affect customers that enter your premises but also boost your employees’ morale, for more on this have a look at our blog Yellow Banana Good, Green Banana Bad

I’d advise using a combination of colours in your bathroom that are both associated with cleanliness and imbue positive emotions that correlate with your brand’s personality. The importance of using the right colours is reinforced in the study whereby the researcher states that “colour plays an important role in recognizing odours and congruent colour-odour combinations are rated as more pleasant than incongruent combinations.”

In the introduction to the study, the researcher sums it up by saying- “Would a rose smell as sweet if it were blue? Perhaps not” thus illustrating how important this link between colour and scent is on perception. Incorporating colour may go a long way in influencing perceptions of both customer and employee alike - so why not take advantage of it and have a little fun with some colour!

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Bakang Kganyago

Bakang Kganyago

Bakang is a Digital Marketing Executive for Rentokil Initial. A germaphobe at heart, he's passionate about learning and sharing insights on how to defeat the enemy we cannot see. Join his journey as he writes about the impact of germs in our daily lives.

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