By Heather Lane, Prolitec
The thundering feel of a herd of elephants, the sound of a Georgia O’Keeffe painting coming to life… the scent of the moon? While this may sound like a series of daydreams, each fantasy is a reality at Illuminarium.
Atlanta-based Illuminarium Experiences presents large-scale experiential entertainment, in reprogrammable immersive theaters called “spectacles,” that allow Illuminarium venues to take guests far beyond the walls of their physical spaces.
Co-Owners Alan Greenberg and Brian Allen wanted to build a space where guests can walk on the moon, take a safari, or even dive into the scenes of Alice in Wonderland. At night the space transforms into a full bar offering savory small bites in ever-changing, magically immersive settings ranging from the night markets of Tokyo to a vibrant reef under the sea, a crystal cavern and beyond.
“Illuminarium is a place that can take you anyplace,” Greenberg said. “We create experiences that take your breath away.”
Creating an immersive setting that delivers a seamless atmosphere and voyage to guests is no small feat. Illuminarium partnered with leading technology companies from around the world to implement superior immersive elements that reach guests on all senses – including smell.
“The technology that went into creating these is simply amazing,” says Roger Bensinger, EVP of Prolitec, which provided the scent component for Illuminarium. “Each spectacle took a dedicated team of experts and to say it’s high-tech would be an understatement.”
Each Illuminarium journey is created with state-of-the-art laser projections on the walls and floors. These visuals were a joint development with Panasonic, requiring an entirely new lens specifically for the project. For the soundscapes, Illuminarium partnered with HOLOPLOT, an award-winning Berlin-based audio company to provide cutting-edge sound systems able to fit each unique experience.
Along with stunning visuals and audio, one of the most surprising elements of each spectacle is the scent component. Illuminarium tapped into the science that proves how scent evokes emotion and forms long-lasting memories.
The power of scent
According to an article from Market Leader, studies show that 75% of all the emotions we experience on a daily basis are generated by what we smell – more so than what we see or hear. When guests walk into a spectacle at Illuminarium they truly walk into a powerfully memorable experience – with scent a significant element.
“Our sense of smell is extremely powerful as it acts directly on the limbic system, which controls emotion and memory,” Market Leader reports. “A study by the Fragrance Institute showed that, on average, people can recognize around 10,000 odors. We also have a great capacity to remember them: we can recall smells with around a 65% accuracy after a year, but our recall of images is a lot lower, at around 50% after only three months. This ability for smells to stay in our memory means we form an emotional attachment to them.”
Not only does scent evoke powerful feelings, but it can ultimately encourage guests to return and enjoy more experiences at Illuminarium. The International Journal of Marketing Studies reports that a pleasant scent improves evaluation of environment, the level of pleasure experienced, the level of stimulation, and their intention to revisit the space.
Successful scent curation
To capitalize on the benefits scent has to offer, Illuminarium reached out to Prolitec, global leader in ambient scent technology, to design, install, and diffuse custom scents. For over 25 years, Prolitec has been working with leading companies to enhance experiences with best-in-class, US- manufactured & patented diffusion technology. Prolitec offers their customers diffusion systems that are fully programmable and catered to the peak, open, and closed times for their business. The systems are adaptable to all different size spaces and are remote adjustable for fast, no-contact service that further reduces their carbon footprint. Their team and partnership network provide full service and customer care in more than 80 countries.
“We worked closely with the Illuminarium team to curate the right scents for each spectacle,” explains Bensinger. “The process was really fun, but also really important to get right. The scents have to be livable, breathable, and subtle, yet a key part of the way guests experience the space.”
Prolitec works with the world’s largest fragrance & flavor house, Firmenich, to provide customers with beautifully crafted & sustainably sourced scents. Each scent is designed with clear olfactive goals in mind and a wide palette of fragrance ingredients. Prolitec looked at these characteristics to carefully pair the scents with the spectacles.
A modern wood scent was chosen for their safari spectacle, “Wild,” to give a fresh, outdoorsy atmosphere. Notes of natural cedarwood and touches of crisp green foliage bring nature inside and help take guests through the sun-kissed savannah.
The Alice in Wonderland spectacle, “Waking Wonderland,” focuses on more delicate floral notes. “Soft Veil” fragrance takes guests on a romantic and whimsical voyage with hints of lily of the valley and magnolia petals, gently wrapped with warm touches of Tahitian vanilla and white cedarwood. “The effect is one of airy elegance and playfulness – just right for a trip down the rabbit hole,” explains Sandra Barvaux, Prolitec’s VP of Fragrance.
The space-themed experience was a bit more of a challenge – what would walking on the moon smell like? “For ‘Space,’ we wanted something that really conjured up the feeling of mystique, an out-of-this-world experience,” Barvaux said. “We have a fragrance for it that is called Moondance. It’s a rich, luscious scent where velvety vanilla and enticing amber mingle with exotic wood notes. There’s a touch of brightness from bergamot, iris, and honeysuckle to give it an exciting glow. It really feels like you’re exploring something you’ve never experienced before.”
Fragrance experts worked carefully with the executive team of Illuminarium to ensure each scent matches and exceeds the feel of each spectacle. “It’s actually one of my favorite things to do every show,” adds Allen. “We get to sample a bunch of scents and we stand in the room and have to figure out what will work best.”
Once the scents were chosen, Prolitec designed the diffusion systems for each spectacle. To accommodate the spectacular scale of the spectacles, they installed 1200 series appliances, the largest of their product range, which are capable of uniformly scenting up to 150,000 ft³. Prolitec appliances can be wall-mounted, track light mounted, free-standing, or piggy-back into existing HVAC systems.
With 10 appliances in their current product range, Prolitec has successfully provided scent to a wide variety of experiential installations, from the Swiss Pavilion at the 2021 Dubai Expo to the 2022 Virtue & Virtuosity Exhibition by Tiffany & Co. These diffusers are also staples for Prolitec’s long-term clients, representing businesses in hospitality, healthcare, gaming, retail, and transportation.
Illuminarium currently has spectacles in Atlanta and Las Vegas, with plans to open soon in Miami and goals to launch 50 worldwide within five years. “When I see guests enter the Illuminarium for the first time, it’s incredible. You’re seeing these faces light up because they’ve never seen anything like that before,” Allen said. “They’re smelling, they’re interacting, kids are running around chasing lions and it’s magical.”
Heather Lane is VP of Commercial Marketing for Prolitec. She and her team support the global partner network and the company’s domestic operations in sharing the wonderful world of scent with people around the world. Based in New Orleans, Louisiana, Heather comes from an art background and in her spare time enjoys operating a local venue and rebuilding historic homes.