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Why U.K. bus stops suddenly smell like roses and cucumber

Hendrick’s turned a smelly piece of infrastructure into an aromatic ad for its gin.

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A typical bus shelter in any major city is a cornucopia of aromas… mostly terrible ones. Traffic exhaust, a day-old sandwich, the remnants of its role as an impromptu urinal for late-night travelers. But Hendrick’s Gin decided to turn a collection of these public transport outposts into a sensory marketing opportunity.

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[Photo: courtesy Space]
To promote its new Gin Cucumber Lemonade, the brand outfitted bus shelters in London, Manchester, Brighton, Cardiff, and Liverpool with an upside-down “living roof” of roses and cucumbers, while an infused scent is wafted amongst waiting commuters.

This is the latest attempt by brands to liven up the bus experience. In recent years, Pepsi outfitted one with Hollywood-like visual effects, a paint brand used sensors to identify passing colors, and Samsung made a bus poster come alive.

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[Photo: courtesy Space]
Aiming for nasal persuasion can be risky though, as Goodby Silverstein & Partners found out way back in 2006 when they used scented strips to pump the smell of chocolate chip cookies into San Francisco bus shelters alongside “Got Milk?” posters. Almost immediately, complaints forced the transit authority to order the scented strips removed.

[Photo: courtesy Space]
With the emergence of digital advertising over the last 20 years, outdoor spaces like bus shelters and billboards were sometimes thought to be outdated relics of a pre-Internet age. But as social media platforms exploded, so too did the ability for one little poster to go global. A brand could make a billboard—or bus shelter poster—in one city that could be seen by a worldwide audience. This appears to be exactly what Hendrick’s is aiming for, that a bus shelter in Liverpool may make someone in L.A. think, “Got gin?”

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity.

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