I have seen the future of customer relationship management-and it stinks.
Perhaps you've read about the hipsters in Oakland, Calif.,-which I've always thought of as Silicon Valley's backyard toolshed-who have founded DigiScents, a company they swear on a stack of Wall street Journals will deliver smell via the Internet.
These guys-namely CEO Joel Lloyd Bellenson and President Dexster Smith-seem dead serious about this scheme and have attracted the likes of CNN.com, ABCnews.com and InformationWeek to their odorous offices. Their idea is relatively simple. A small peripheral called an iSmell device is loaded with scent-inducing cartridges and plugged into your computer's serial or USB port. Digital ticklers sent via the Web release fragrances from the iSmell box and-whiff!-you have all the joys of the Interscent.
Assuming that Joel Lloyd and Dexster aren't pulling off the greatest bamboozle since Piltdown Man, this could be the biggest boon in the history of CRM. So what if the history of CRM dates back only 18 months? Imagine sending iSmell boxes (low-end models may retail for under $200, the company says) to your favorite clients and prospects, then tantalizing them with olfactory sales and marketing presentations that will leave them slathering like so many Pavlovian pooches. DigiScents could actually put the fun back in sales. And "fun" is probably the one "f" word you haven't been hearing if you've been trying to get your staff to actually use CRM software.
First, you must find someone to take ownership of your corporate odor assets. Forget all those bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, MBA-waving middle managers. Draft a scratch-and-sniff memo and pick the star in your galaxy with the most sensitive schnozz. Next, put some weight behind your new initiative by naming your new pungency pundit Vice President of Scent or Chief Fragrance Officer and putting him in charge of the company's Nasal Base.
Now comes the fun part. You retreat to a hypoallergenic spa in Palm Springs to brainstorm with your new scentographers. (Don't get excited: "scentographer" has already been trademarked by those wizards at DigiScents, along with Web "Snortal.") Can't you just smell the possibilities?
The Fulton Fish Market e-mails whiffs of the catch-of-the-day to restaurant buyers up and down the Eastern Seaboard, promulgating e-eel, Yahoo! wahoo and southern fried@fish. Peddling season tickets for a moribund baseball team? No problem. Just pipe in the fragrances of freshly mown grass (so what if they play on Astroturf?), sizzling franks (even if the stadium serves tofudogs) and roasted peanuts (don't tell them the price just jumped to $6 a bag) and you'll put fannies in the seats.
Ford, GM and Chevy need only three words: new car smell. Goodyear, eager to overcome the stench of being tossed out of the Dow, will transmit eau de radial as its new line of all-weather tires rolls off the plant floor. OK, maybe that's not such a good idea, but can you tell me what a blimp smells like?
And talk about front-office/back-office integration? Hook iSmell into your odor-entry system and in no time, you too will be smelling like Larry Ellison.