The home, household goods & services

The essence of recollection

We live in a two dimensional word dominated by sight and sound but it wasn't always so. For most animals, smell is the dominant sense with which they locate food and sense danger. For humans smell is often a sentimental journey back to the safety of childhood and early experiences. But this is largely overlooked in both business and the arts. However, the scent of change may be in the air. A new book called Brand Sense looks at how companies such as Singapore Airlines and Faber-Castell are using smells to brand products (e.g. Scent Pens) and experiences (Business Class). In the arts a theatre performance called On the Scent recently explored how smell is connected to memory which in turn links to feelings of wellness, sickness, happiness and fear. In medicine the study of smell is emerging as a new area of research with dogs 'smelling' cancers and loss of smell being used to diagnose Alzheimer's. And therein lies a peculiar problem. One of the defining characteristics of smells is the fact that humans have no way of communicating a smell to others apart from relating it to what other things smell of. Moreover, we have few reliable ways of recording or reproducing many of the most evocative smells. A future opportunity then?

Ref: The Times (UK) 1 May 2005, 'Scents and sensibility', R.Mabey. See also: Brand Sense by Martin Lindstrom, The Emperor of Scent by Luca Turin and Perfume by Patrick Suskind. Links: Car -maker Bentley using smell to make new cars smell old.

Aromatherapy to go

A New Zealand company has created something called the Aromapod. This is essentially aromatherapy in a can for people on the move. One twist and a quick sniff and you're instantly transported to somewhere else - in your head at least. Aromapods come in a number of 'flavours' (smells) including: Awake, Energise, Focus and Calm and cost NZD $9.99 each (about US $6.95). By the way, have you noticed how the word 'pod' suddenly seems to be everywhere? (the Apple i-pod effect we assume).

Ref: Springwise (Neth) Issue 19, January 2005.

Robot hacking

What's the next big thing in toys? Unfortunately for toy manufacturers it's something called toy modding (modifying) or hacking and they have no control over it whatsoever. The idea is quite straightforward. Take an electronic toy (ideally a robot with a computer inside) and make a few 'improvements'. Suggestions for possible hacks are made on various websites and blogs and one magazine recently offered a prize for the best hack. The attraction, apart from upsetting big toy companies, is to turn what is essentially a cloned product into one of your own children.

Ref: The Times (UK), 15 January 2005. 'The Next Big Thing - Toy Hacking'. Links: The mashing trend in music.

Dead cool

In the developed world most of us live in sanitised societies where death is quietly swept under the carpet and not discussed. This has been good news for the funeral industry, which as a result has managed to resist significant change for well over 100 years. However, like weddings, funerals are slowly being reinvented by a number of designers, environmentalists and innovative local authorities. The biggest change to date is probably the idea of woodland burial where people are buried in woodland areas without tombstones. Traditional coffins are made of 89% chipboard which is not eco-frendly so a number of alternatives have also been invented ranging from wicker coffins to paper mache containers. At the faddish end of the spectrum you can even have the ashes from your loved one turned into diamond jewellery or have a coffin made with stained glass windows (to look out or to look in?). But many of these ideas are deadly serious. One reason for some of these innovations is the high cost of traditional funerals. The average cost of a funeral in the UK has doubled over the last 10 years to GB £2,000 largely due to burial (land) costs. Woodland burials in contrast offer a cheaper alternative using low cost land and coffins and they also appeal to people wanting a non-religious service.

Ref: The Times (UK) 30 October 2004 'Going out in style', S.Dolan.