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by Dr. Nathan Mellor

You have to give it to the folks at Febreze for coming up with a great marketing campaign. Their latest television ad campaign asks, “Have you gone nose blind?” Through a handful of TV ads, they ask questions like, “Does your kitchen smell?” and “Does your kid’s room smell like a locker room?”

Becoming Immune

On the Febreze website (, they call upon science to assist in their efforts to reawaken the noses of America. They suggest there is a three-stop process by which we become immune to the smell of “your famous fish casserole.”

  • Step One is Odor Adaptation defined as “your nose’s physical response that normalizes new smells.” 
  • Step Two is Odor Habituation is “a built-in reprogramming of your brain to ignore a smell.”
  • Step Three is Odor Infestation, “what your guests overwhelmingly smell as soon as they walk in the door.”


Changing Direction

Although their ad campaigns today are highly successful, this was not always the case. In the early years, their former marketing campaign nearly drove the brand out of existence. In those days, they attempted to sell the product as a way to eliminate odors. The problem was that most people no longer noticed the offending smells in their homes. Instead, they had to market the brand as a pleasant smell that was the finishing touch when cleaning a room.

Evidently, our brains are good at adapting when confronted with something unpleasant. This is the case when our home smells of pets and is often the case when life at work has grown stale too. It is the job of leaders to remain alert and not become nose blind.

Combatting Nose Blindness at Work

To keep from going nose blind at work and to have a pleasant and inviting culture, it requires a few things.

1. Explore and Learn. Fighting “nose blindness” requires exposure to new ideas and perspectives. This means getting out of our regular environment and purposefully experiencing and learning new things. If you cannot remember the last time you invested time and resources into learning a new way of doing things, you might be nose blind.

2. Invite Insights. Invite guests (vendors, friends, family, consultants, etc.) and get their impressions. One of the popular tools offered by Strata Leadership is our Cultural Analysis. Through the Cultural Analysis, we provide an anonymous tool through which leaders can gain helpful insights into how their organization is viewed from the inside out.

3. Ask for Impressions. Capture the first impressions of your most recent additions to the team. What stood out to them about your organization in the first weeks and months? What did they see and experience that was unique?

By becoming intentional in combatting “nose blindness” you will not only learn to appreciate those with whom you work more, but you will also improve your organizational culture, making work an even better place to be.

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