Friday, January 08, 2010

Women get bored easily. And so does everybody's olfactory bulbs.



Whether Lynx Twist smells good is not important. What's important about this commercial is the notion of a perfume being marketed as something that changes and evolves. Like the way it's used to be. Remember the time when you would have any reason to re-sniff your wrist several times throughout the day to see how the perfume grew and evolved on your skin? Those days seemed almost over for mainstream perfumery - and drugstore and celebrity scents in particular.

Perfume companies want to sell perfumes fast. And in order to do so, they have focused in the past decade on creating scents that are rather linear, and hold no surprises. Perfume companies' worst enemy is not recession: it's the lack of time consumers have to make big emotionally-charged decisions such as selecting the fragrance that will adorn the skin for the next 6 months - 2 years. In the little down-time they have between job-juggling, buying milk and over-the-shelf drugs, they want to find a scent they like and find it fast. And they want no surprises later. So it must be the same from start to finish. And it must smell the same way on clothes, paper, skin, hair, and car seats.

Our olfactory bulb is the one suffering the consequences: when a perfume smells the same way the entire time it sits on our skin, our olfactory bulb (which is really a part of our brain), simply stops processing it. It ignores it in order to process new and more valuable information. As a reaction to that, people either overdose themselves again with a scent when they "freshen up" in the middle of the day, or simply become very bored with the fragrance. Which very possibly will lead them to buying a new scent - only to repeat the same process of adaptation and boredom all over again.

May this year be the turning point: when drugstore fragrances change, as well as the attitude of the fragrance industry towards the intelligence of its consumers and their olfactory bulbs. May this year be when quality becomes more important than quantity. I think it will translate into better sales figures as well.

3 Comments:

At January 09, 2010 6:08 AM, Blogger The Left Coast Nose said...

This is such a fascinating post (I've been lurking for a while-- first comment-- Cheers!!)

I DO know that some of my most favorite perfumes have a quality that I call "stability," meaning that while they may "warm up" or mingle with skin, they don't change much over time. I attribute that to the idea that I like the balance of the scent as-is, and am less intrigued when bits of it start dropping off.

However, for a few perfumes, the constant shifting and changing is a huge part of its appeal: "What's that? Ooooh.... Now what's happening?" Then the pleasures are more fleeting-- you might catch a whiff of something that smells "perfect" to you, only to have it fade away into something else.

But I think what you're referring to is what I call the "air-freshener" phenomenon-- things that have a certain, very distinct smell, with no rough edges, no opposites to reconcile, very little complexity. So yes, why not spray it on the sofa? Great post!

 
At January 13, 2010 7:06 PM, Blogger Ayala Sender said...

Dear Left Coast Nose,

Thank you for following SmellyBlog and for posting your first comment here :-)

I can understand the appeal of a scent that maintains some degree of consistency throughout its life on the skin. But I prefer scents that have an evolution. Perfume takes a life of its own on one's skin - and just like a living thing it has its youthful, boisterous phase at first, than gradually becoming more sophisticated as it matured and gracefully fades out.

A perfume that is so linear and overpowering that it just hammers on the olfactory bulb with its presence lacks that mystery and interest for me. And it sometimes just plain annoying to the senses.

And indeed, the boundaries between functional scents and fine fragrances are becoming even more blurry than the gender distinction (not that I care much for the latter). It almost seems, sometimes, that the fragrance supply houses are just trying to get rid of surplus of molecules left over from laundry or other detergents and they are finding their way to our personal fragrances.

 
At January 13, 2010 7:08 PM, Blogger Ayala Sender said...

Dear Left Coast Nose,

Thank you for following SmellyBlog and for posting your first comment here :-)

I can understand the appeal of a scent that maintains some degree of consistency throughout its life on the skin. But I prefer scents that have an evolution. Perfume takes a life of its own on one's skin - and just like a living thing it has its youthful, boisterous phase at first, than gradually becoming more sophisticated as it matured and gracefully fades out.

A perfume that is so linear and overpowering that it just hammers on the olfactory bulb with its presence lacks that mystery and interest for me. And it sometimes just plain annoying to the senses.

And indeed, the boundaries between functional scents and fine fragrances are becoming even more blurry than the gender distinction (not that I care much for the latter). It almost seems, sometimes, that the fragrance supply houses are just trying to get rid of surplus of molecules left over from laundry or other detergents and they are finding their way to our personal fragrances.

 

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