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Rolls-Royce Markets Scent of its Car in Magazine Ads

July 3, 1987

NEW YORK (AP) _ Automobile marketers often compete for buyers by emphasizing how sharp their cars look. Others hype the quietness of the ride or the feel of the upholstery.

But Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Inc. may be the first in the auto industry to create advertising that appeals to a customer’s sense of smell.

Rolls-Royce has placed an ad in the July issue of the magazine Architectural Digest that includes a scent strip designed to replicate the aroma of leather upholstery in its expensive automobiles.

″We are one of the very few car companies who can do it,″ said Robert Wharen, a Rolls-Royce marketing executive. ″The essence of leather is one of the primary attributes of our cars.″

Scent strips have usually been used by fragrance companies. They release a fragrance when a loosely-attached flap is peeled back.

Wharen said it took more than a year to develop the Rolls-Royce ad, including countless hours spent comparing fragrance samples from the lab with the real thing inside Rolls-Royce cars.

Working mainly at the company’s storage garage in Lyndhurst, N.J., the admakers would alternately take a whiff of the samples, then take a seat in a Rolls. They had to pause periodically to refresh their senses by breathing fresh air.

″You can olfactory fatigue pretty quickly,″ said adman Matthew Mansfield, who oversees the Rolls-Royce account for the ad agency Della Femina Travisano & Partners in New York.

He said the first few samples smelled too much like shoe leather, and said the chemists from Webcraft Technologies Inc., the North Brunswick, N.J.-based concern that created the strips made some adjustments to reflect the other smells that subtly mix with the leather smell in the back seat of a Rolls.

These included the scent of the plush carpeting, the camelhair headliner and the other fancy ingredients that go into making a car that sells for suggested retail prices of between $109,000 and $198,000.

Mansfield said that the ad project was viewed as a special marketing event that would attract attention on its own as well as demonstrate that Rolls- Royce was a contemporary carmaker that ″has a sense of wit and humor about itself.″

The magazine Architectural Digest was selected as the vehicle for the ad because its readership includes many of the wealthy folks that Rolls-Royce tries to address, Wharen said.

Mansfield said the reproduction quality and a type of paper used for the magazine also improved chances that the project would measure up to the automobile’s exclusive image.

More than 900,000 of the scent strips were produced for insertion in the magazine and for distribution to the 58 Rolls-Royce dealers across the country to use in mailings to customers.

″This, in essence, is Rolls Royce,″ says the full-page ad, which is preceded by a four-page insert designed to look like a patch of leather.

Wharen said the initial reaction to the ad from dealers and current owners has been overwhelmingly positive. In addition, he said calls to the company’s toll-free telephone number, which is printed on the insert, have quadrupled in the few weeks that the magazine has been out.

He said there is no danger that Rolls-Royce will pose a serious threat to the Big Three automakers in Detroit. He said only about 1,100 Rolls-Royces were sold in the United States last year.

George Lane, product manager for the fragrance and cosmetic division at Webcraft, said the Rolls-Royce scent strip was the second his company had developed in recent years for a non-fragrance company.

The other was for a tobacco company that wanted an item it could distribute by mail or in stores to promote three new pipe tobaccos, he said.

But a number of consumer products companies are expressing interest in the idea, he said. Webcraft is already working on scent strips for a coffee company and a liquor company.

And there are reports food companies may be investigating the possibility of using scent dispensers in store aisle displays for items such as cookies.

In the meantime, Rolls-Royce may consider reworking an advertising theme line from the automaker Ford and ask, ″Have you smelled a Rolls-Royce ... lately?″

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