Thy Nose Knows Best

Our nose is one of the most ignored parts of our life, yet so prominently central to our face.

The sense of scent is the most ignored of all senses.

Advertisements play with our sense of sight, touch and taste, with promos, 3D visual pop and free samples, respectively, but seldom cater to our sense of smell. The scratch and sniff tactic or the fragrance inserts in magazines are a needle in the haystack of advertising towards thy nose. As our most primitive sense, scent mandates a higher pedestal!

The sense of smell is the strongest influencer to memory, with the power to pump product associations into us like drug tablets acting on our nervous system. Although it may not work with regular mom-and-pop products, one category that relies on the sense of smell and has become a staple in households, reaping high margins and exuding an ambiance of seduction and pleasure, is that of fragrances, where the real profits lie in the clutches of cologne and perfume producers. This is a category that is easily one of my favorites in the world of glitz and fashion.

It is thus critical to explore the scent business, which forms the crux of a lucrative, albeit risky and competitive business. And after a whiff of the enticing world, one can explore their level of fragrance addiction.

Photo Courtesy: Calvin Klein

Why Wear It?

Colognes and perfumes mask odor, but are not deodorants or antiperspirants. Wearing them to prevent odors may not be effective as the odor banishing germ fighting and marginally priced deo roll-ons and sprays. With most perfumes containing buckets of alcohol with drops of fragrance, their use is more experiential, sensational, and plainly put, a force of habit. Functionally, perfumes may not kill odors, but they help to mask them. With sexy bodies and mouth-watering associations being marketed to us for decades, we have gotten used to fragrancing ourselves up daily. And why not? The nose is an underrated but hyperactive sense. It may not smell the pricey scent off of your skin, but it will smell the odor that can be an instant turnoff if the scintillating scent is not present. So, if nothing else, wear it to mask thy biology.

Know Thy Fragrance

The sheer quantity of colognes and perfumes in the market is simultaneously appalling and appealing, making it necessary to know thy fragrance, its family and its constituents well!

Most high quality perfumes and colognes will have three  notes: a top, sharp note that is caught instantly, a middle note that emerges shortly after, and a base note that is the most subtle but long lasting. Read any fragrance profile and you will see a graceful (and sometimes pretentiously laced together) listing of ingredients featured in these notes.

Marketing has evolved from classic fragrance families to adding even more to the list of floral, fruity, woody, oriental and green. Now we hear of leathery/musky scents and marine, water based concoctions. Fragrances rarely expand beyond these broad families with prominent traits, raising hope that to a certain degree, its all in the family.

Overdose or Understated?

One spray or a body bath? This depends on your tolerance. It is a known fact that we do not smell ourselves the way others smell us, just like visual senses and our plagued sense of audibility. Ever heard yourself on television, on the phone, or via a sound wave transmitter of any sort, and grimaced at the way your voice projects itself? The nose works similarly. So while you may spray on the equivalent of a minute long shower spray, be careful to not induce allergic reactions and sneezes to passerbys. Fragrance lingers, and is best used only on skin during summers, as our layers are lighter with our skin playing peekaboo (and frequently winning). During cooler months, in addition to skin, a spray or two on multiple layers can help. Wool in particular retains scents quite well.

However, more than how much to wear it, it is crucial to determine where to wear it. The forever exposed areas of cheeks, neck, and back of your palms are a good spot to start, as these are most intertwined with everyday interactions, and the throat in particular is an area of concentrated body heat, where scents can magnify in power and prowess. Meanwhile, spraying on sweat inducing zones of the chest and back can prevent someone from gagging behind you (good news: they may swoon instead!). Of course, if you are a beachy stud or a Marilyn Monroe who only wore Chanel No 5 in silken sheets, feel free to be more creative.

The Big Marketing Ploy

How much does the marketing help, some may ask? A lot.

If it were not for the smooth sheen vials and fragrance bottles, the embossed logos accented with  clean metal or lacy fabric, and most importantly, the seductive images of Aphroidites and nymphettes in lush grasslands or bedspreads, or an Adonis emerging from the water, no consumer would ever walk up to a fragrance counter. To a certain degree, the eyes walk up first, followed by the nose. The visual cue is essential to creating a story, which is the most common marketing tactic employed to coax us into purchasing a scent with the dream of transforming into a sigh-evoking stunner.

Logistically, many are shocked to know that the actual liquid does not cost much to make, explaining the detailed DIY procedures available for perfumes. The packaging however, complete with semi precious jewels, or metallic embossments placed in gold encrusted boxes, often does cost much more. And combined with the story and brand name allows the alcohol and a dash of fragrance concoction to catapult itself into unfathomably high rungs of price.

There are pros and cons to the marketing of fragrances. Try distinguishing between a series of similar looking fragrance ads or images and one will realize that car advertisements are not the only ones that send the mind boggling into mix-and-match mode. There have been classics that are always remembered, like the seductresses of Chanel No 5, or Gaultier’s human form bottle, or Diesel’s racy and rugged artwork. Armani’s Aqua di Gio swimming man bears a resemblance to Calvin Klein’s Man, while the color combinations of Paloma Piccasso and Dolce and Gabanna are identical. Between each of these differences is a surplus of resembling marketing stories generated by distinct brands that very often cross paths.

Photo Courtesy: Gucci

Catering to the Opposite Sex

Being a guy, the sultry women with red lipstick on pouty petal-like lips, poised in provocative postures with velvet bodies aching to be caressed, are a huge draw. And many times it has crossed my mind that it would be scrumptious to have a significant other wear this particular scent. Naturally, the company in question would like me to envisage my significant other transforming into this nymphette that has lured me to the fragrance lane. For my lady friends, they also claim to have bit their lips on seeing slabs of muscle and intensity smoking from a men’s fragrance ad, instinctively picking it up for their guys. So, who is the target market, and who is the end user? Truly a case of duality.

I think it can work either way, and occasions like Valentines days, or Mothers and Fathers days, fragrance houses can and should allow for a convenient switch in target markets and core user profiles. Ever seen such a chameleon quality in any other product category?

Photo Courtesy: Jean Paul Gaultier

All in a Name

Besides the marketing of visuals, a catchy  name wins the game. Naming fragrances is an tricky task, since many want to evoke sensations of freedom, pleasure, relief, surrealism and euphoria. Several wish to convey associations with water, cleanliness, freshness, sexuality and arousal. And several just want to sway between being catchy or classic.

So while some focus on polished qualities to evoke richness with names like Armani Diamonds, others wants to evoke emotional treachery and coy strength with names like Gucci Guilty or Marc Jacobs Bang. The French connection to fragrances is akin to a birthright, and a touch of Parisian glamour always transcends well into human psyche. Thus Lancome Tresor and Yves Saint Laurent’s Rive Gauche continue to be top sellers. Attaining the untouchable taboo is capitalized with names like Christian Dior’s Poison, while simpler emotions for everyday tranquility are delivered by Ralph Lauren’s Romance or Calvin Klein’s Eternity. Freshness is another characteristic of a relieving fragrance, well conveyed with Versace Eau Fraiche or Davidoff Cool Water. The key is to always keep the name short, brisk, catchy, and well associated with the message that the brand and fragrance wants to deliver. And more importantly, consistent with what a user wants to hear.

When tied with a marketing story and a brand, the name brings together the essence of a fragrance, exemplifying what it wants to deliver, and what its wearer aspires to be like; or sometimes, what its wearer intends to do.

The Gender Specific Origins of Fragrance Lines

When selecting a fragrance, it is somewhat critical to pay attention to whether the line or brand is of a male of female origin. It will affect the way the fragrance smells, take a toll on the packaging, and forshadow a few pointers on the longevity of the fragrance on the market. Not many fragrance houses have managed to row the unisexual boat. With Cacharel failing to launch in the men’s category with the brand’s flowery feminine associations that do not click even with the most metro of men, Ralph Lauren’s Polo has yet to taste equivalent success with women in the way it has epitomized sporty men. Yet, all is not lost, as Chanel’s Allure for Men remains a favorite, or as Calvin Klein happily walks on eggshells with male/female counterparts to almost all its scents.

The lesson here is, for those who stick with one or two fragrances for years, pick one that has its origins in your line of sexual intent. For those who are more promiscuous with fragrances, frolic and have fun. Either way, you are a fragrance addict.

Photo Courtesy: Victor and Rolf

Fragrance Addiction

With brands launching more and more fragrances, varying in levels of intensity to summer flavors and new colors and limited editions, one can frequently compare this luxury category to a  grocery store dilemma; a complex shopping trip indeed. This has given birth to a new target market of fragrance addicts, for it is important for both users and fragrance producers to know what end of the scent spectrum they are on.

To deduce the addiction, the cologne/perfume usage is divided into usage frequency and variety.

Those who use fewer fragrances in variety and high frequency are loyalists. Loyalists believe in having a signature scent, as recommended by AskMen.com and as popularly refuted by yours truly. But to everyone their own, and it is a target market for classic, timeless fragrances.

Those with low usage and variety could be followers of a signature scent, or are perhaps the anti-target market,  either disinterested by the glitz of fragrance, ignorant of it, or simply unaware of the power of scents in attracting the opposite sex (it is a proven connection, trust me, and other resources, and more.). Cautious is the best way to name this group.

There is also a small category of those who use fragrances reluctantly, but are indecisive or simply enjoy variety. These are the frivolous folk, very much akin to the passion mindset in the Mindset framework, encompassing individuals high on emotional attraction.

I am admittedly an obsessive boy. I use several colognes and bathe in each one. This target market is one that has embraced the fragrance world with multiple arms and minds, appreciating the packaging and advertising of fragrance houses, aware of the scent families and able to decipher the distinct three notes of a fragrance, who know their eau de toilette from their eau the parfum, and are overall the lucrative target for businessfolk.

What fragrance addict are you?

Photo Courtesy: Marc Jacobs

The Name Game

I guess I have attracted several noses in my direction. My admittance to falling into the obsessive category is inevitable; it is a family affair. Having grown up seeing cologne and perfume bottle littered across my parents’ dressers, and eventually my own, left me little exposure to the lack thereof! I will shortly unveil my personal favorites, and if you are curious, you will see what I am attracted to, too. Behold, the Name Game!

Till then, respect your nose.

Thy Nose Knows Best.

14 responses to “Thy Nose Knows Best

  1. I am reminded of a Tom Robbins classic ‘jitterbug perfume’..
    I can’t say that I like perfume all that much (it tends to deaden the senses), but it’s perfectly justifiable on occasion.
    Essential oils are wonderful with their tantalizing aromas and are without the added chemicals :)

    • Hey great to hear from you again! Definitely, I think after a while they do ‘deaden’ the senses, but as I have confessed, I’m totally bought in by the stories and the scents. I think a whiff of them adds freshness, but an overload induces headaches. :)

      Aromatic oils are great too, definitely scent-sational, but my only qualm is that I think they don’t vary too much in scent – its usually the fruit or flower inspired scents that I see often. I guess its a classic case of the perfume/cologne category being more mature so having more variety. Perhaps aromatic oils will get there one day!

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    • Thanks for the compliments! That was a spur of the moment pic, but I didn’t intend for it to be Dior’s poison! You may just be obsessive, like me! Thats the in-between (so to say) of frivolous and loyalism.

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