E.On is experimenting with fresh coffee. British Gas is going for lemon zest. And N-Power invites you to a field of lilacs. In the ever competitive world of energy pricing, gas companies are enhancing their already very different brand identities with their own specially branded aromas.
‘Time was when if you could smell gas, there was a problem,’ said Desmond Smith of the trade body Powerglow. ‘Now, with utility companies bending over backward to get the cheapest deals to the most customers, they’re trying every trick in the book to get customers to switch to their brand. The trouble is, unlike wallpaper, chutney, bank accounts or farts, one type of gas is pretty much indistinguishable from another, odour-wise, so although we’ve got to rock bottom on price, there’s lots more we can do to offer customers choice.’
It was Scottish Power who was fastest off the blocks with its traditional ‘lavender haggis’- themed range of smelliness. Suddenly Scottish customers not only noticed that their gas was cheap but, in that crucial pre-ignition moment, it smelled good too. Consumers voted with their noses, rather than their feet. In some cases, the smell of the gas masked the smell of those feet.
Now the gas-smell industry is booming. But there are limits. Denise Schmidt of aroma consultancy the Olfactory Factory explained ‘We’ve tried new car, polished leather, banknotes – a favourite with shareholders – and a limited floral range. But we have to be careful not to get too perfumey – you don’t want an eroticised gas smell that could stimulate sexual intercourse in a partially insulated bedroom or even hallway, otherwise you’re defeating the object of the exercise.’
Because modern gas is non-toxic, a whiff of your favourite energy supply is perfectly safe, say experts. In fact that quick sniff of violets or Havana cigar could boost profits. Most devices come with failsafe systems. However some in marketing say an accidental explosion at a council house in Rotherham could emit a fresh pine smell that could be smelt across three square kilometres. This could help sales by up to 9%, despite killing three.
For those who still cannot afford to get a proper start in the gas purchase industry, there is a special product that smells like the old fashioned stuff and has many of the traditional properties associated with an old-style gas oven. It offers a chance for the truly energy-poor to leave their heating and eating worries behind them. It is marketed by Swiss-based Dignigas.