This is not an entirely new thought, but recently I have very acutely felt that the perfume and fragrance industry is missing a huge opportunity and actually working backwards of how it should. This realization came from my experience of having my *yet another new bottle of perfume* being borrowed/taken/expropriated by *yet another man*. These guys had one thing in common (let’s spare the saucy parts) – they were not involved in the fragrance category whatsoever. However, when coming nose-to-nose with a whiff of my perfume, they were not just intrigued – they wanted it on their bathroom shelf that instant. It got me seriously thinking about this. Especially the fact that in the course of this “adoption” process, these men were completely removed from the traditional path to purchase – seeing any of the marketing expressions of the fragrances (look of the bottle, box, advertising, commercials, etc.) before smelling it. The beautiful part to me, the student of consumer behavior (yes, I’m a bit evil, darlings!), is that some of these fragrances were not so traditionally manly and were not marketed as such (any of the macho men there fancy Tom of Finland by Etat Libre d’Orange, by any chance? :-). Although absolutely gorgeous smells, these fragrances would have stood virtually no chance of being tried on, let alone purchased, if a traditional shopping path was taken. And it’s a bloody pittance, because when we smell a fragrance on someone, all of that marketing collateral is absolutely irrelevant.
Very often people underestimate how important our sense of smell is when we meet a new person. Sure, one cannot rely on a fragrance alone to bewitch someone when she/he looks like hell and cannot communicate. However, when everything in those departments goes well, a nice fragrance does help to paint a much fuller picture of someone and their personality. I have read somewhere (and I do hope that I will find the reference – but please help!) about this very neat sensual journey of getting to know someone, which goes hand-in-hand with our sensory experience of the world:
- We see them first (…And we find them attractive. Ah, success! Next!)
- We hear them (“Hello there” – _insert a pick up line here_)
- We touch them (A meet-and-greet kiss on the cheek, perhaps even a subtle touch, indicating *yes, I fancy you*)
- We smell them (That’s when things go well and we start closing in on that personal space)
- We taste them (A kiss… maybe more to follow? Interestingly, our nose would contribute to about 80-90% of that experience anyway)
Now let’s assume that the step #4 is a complete turn-off – and a break in the chain, which can really happen. So, why wouldn’t people (okay, more men than women, but still there is room for improvement for both) give choosing and applying a fragrance a more considered thought? How come we, the humans, have evolved our personal styles in fashion (ok, some of us), but more often than not, are stuck in the land of the bland – or even none (gents, your Old Spice deodorant does not count!) – when it comes to personal fragrance? To be fair, fashion is definitely the most obvious way to express our sense of style and who we are. However, when it comes to emotion and memory, fragrance is a much stronger communicator, going straight into the cortex of our brain, as opposed to being translated by our nervous system, like our other senses. One whiff of the fragrance of our chou-chou and we get butterflies, n’est pas?
Sadly, the fragrance industry is one of the biggest contributors to this uninvolvement in the category. So many high-street label fragrances are so similar to each other because brands do not take many risks in making their new product unique or different. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite of how they operate. Brands follow the market favourite fragrances and base their new ones on them (ok, let’s be fair, with a slight twist) to ensure they sell well. And since consumers are highly influenced by marketing and advertising (perfumes are one of the biggest gifting categories for a reason), there is little room for the niche labels to get distribution or even spreading the word about their existence.
Another part of the problem is making choices when shopping for fragrance. How many times have you personally walked into a perfume shop, smelled a few fragrances while applying them to every inch of your both forearms (or worse, smelled them on paper strips – which would smell differently from applying on skin), only to walk out with a complete confusion and a headache? The scent does develop over time and needs to be worn for a while before one could really make a purchase decision. The notes evolve from top, to middle – and then to bottom or a dry down. And some of you can definitely relate to the unlucky shopping experience of buying something and realizing that it was not what you thought the fragrance was when you smelled it first. But yet you already came home with it in tow. How disappointing is that? Definitely not a good incentive to get adventurous or shop more, to say the least. And there it goes stuck in your bathroom closet or being regifted or bumped to your mother/younger brother/neighbor – or even being turned into an air freshener.
All of this begs the question… is there – or, rather, should there be a better way to shop for fragrance? Which should also (I’m stating the obvious here) stretch a bit farther than a visit to your basic counter at Boots/Macy’s/_insert the blank here_ ? My favourite stuff does not live there by miles. Can we, pretty please, find a better way? And not just for the boys, for the girls too, who keep asking and begging to take them somewhere that sells better stuff than our regular Chanel/Dolce/Armani spread and would help them (I mean, really help them, not just sell them) choose.
Yes, we should.