Paul discussed ways that big businesses gather information about their customers’ tastes, habits and preferences, and how they use these findings to maximise sales.
He said that there has been a trend in the last ten years towards using smell to create a happy environment for shoppers – which will make them spend more.
“There is a company in London called IFF that turn out shop fragrances, and one of the things you can buy is Christmas smell which is basically mulled wine and cloves.
“You put it into the air conditioning system, pump the thing out and as customers walk into your shop they get the ‘Christmas feel’ because of the smell.
“At the bottom of your brain is an area called the limbic system where smell sensations are located. It is also connected very closely to emotions – its very good at triggering emotions.
“So as soon as people can smell the mulled wine it brings vivid memories of Christmas to them – much more than writing.”
He claimed that music is used in a similar way:
“The faster the music in the shop, the faster customers push their trolleys.
“You don’t want them to push their trolleys quickly because they get round the shop quickly, they don’t make many impulse buys and then they go.
“If it was something like Motorhead they would be round the store and out!
“So consequently there are companies that produce this music, round about 80 beats per minute with lots of compression on it so you don’t get too many highs or lows.
“Online, fast music gets more sales – its sort of the opposite to super markets.
“Fast music increases your heart rate and increases excitement, so consequently they reckon you get more online sales that way.”
Paul has 18 years of marketing experience and is currently a marketing lecturer at University of Wales Institute, Cardiff.
He has been a consultant for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF, now the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), and most recently for Kia Motors.
When working for the MAFF, he carried out research into product labelling and looked at how customers interprted terms like “low fat” and “organic”.
The event, held at the Gate Café Bar in Keppoch Street, Roath, is the latest in a long run of science cafés held on the first Tuesday of every month.
Huw James, who has been on the group’s committee for three years, told me that the idea of the sessions is for an expert to gve their thoughts, which will spark a debate from the attendees.
The sessions feature speakers from a range of scientific backgrounds, and have covered climate change, GM foods, HIV and Dark Matter.