30-08-2011

Print Stinks

Author: Shireen Shurmer

A few cultural outings are vital to break up the long school holidays and this week we ventured out to see ‘Mr Stink’, which brings to life David Walliams’ children’s book for the stage.  The story – for those without young offspring – concerns the friendship between a young girl and an old tramp, the eponymous Mr Stink, through whom the young heroine and her family learn some valuable life lessons.

Author: Shireen Shurmer

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A few cultural outings are vital to break up the long school holidays and this week we ventured out to see ‘Mr Stink’, which brings to life

David Walliams’ children’s book for the stage.  The story – for those without young offspring – concerns the friendship between a young girl and an old tramp, the eponymous Mr Stink, through whom the young heroine and her family learn some valuable life lessons.

Walking into the theatre, we were each handed the ‘Little Book of Stinks’. Quentin Blake’s illustrations from the book had been enhanced using ‘scratch and sniff’ to bring key scenes to life, or perhaps I should say ‘to nose’.  Mr Stink’s canine companion, ‘The Duchess’, stopped at various points in the story to invite the audience to scratch and sniff.  The auditorium was filled with shrieks of disgust and delight as we breathed in the aromas of sweaty socks, sweet shops, smelly burps, pondweed and even Christmas. As you can imagine, the highlight for the under-10 audience was the scent that accompanied the scene in which Mr Stink harnessed his natural flatulence to disarm the oily and insincere Prime Minister.

According to the booklet, this olfactory journey was the work of Celessence (www.celessence.com) whose print division uses microencapsulation techniques to bind scents to paper and textiles, “transforming the potential of aromatics as a way to add significant value to brands”.  The company web site claims that it can draw on the expertise of perfumers worldwide to create almost any smell, good or bad, and bring it to life on the printed page, virtually regardless of the print process, it would seem.

The applications for this technology to enhance printed marketing collateral must be endless.  Apart from the obvious scent samples, imagine a leaflet from an online butchers that opened to the aroma of a freshly grilled steak, the Mother’s Day mailer that allowed you to smell the floral bouquets, or the high-end holiday catalogue that delivered a whiff of sea breeze.  I can well imagine that the impulse to buy might be given a significant boost.

Much is said about the tactility of print – the fact that many of us like to touch and feel what we read, not just consume it from a screen.  If print can be used to engage the most powerful and evocative sense of them all, then it has fresh potential which online media will struggle to match.