Friday, 18 November 2016

The Fragrance of Association – A Luxury Perfume Houses’ Key To Success And a Consumers Journey Into Nostalgia and Hidden Memories

We see it everywhere; we experience it all the time. I, like many who find themselves playing around with notes of different fragrances on perfume sample counters, always come across that ONE which makes us hold our horses. A sniff of one random one and that’s it – it all comes flooding back. That memory of the smell of spices wafting through the air of that Marrakesh souq we were wondering through last year, or that beach in the south of France, or that glitz and glamour of the Monaco after party you attended a few years back… all come screaming back at you. Your suddenly transported to a time and a place that you never would have thought you would remember again. I mean sure, you would remember that event that happened in your life – you will remember that holiday resort you went on 2 years ago where you drank coconut water directly from the coconuts, but you will not usually remember something like that smell coming from the charcoal grill restaurant that you pass on your way to see the leaning tower of Pisa. You would generally remember the views of the city from on top of the leaning tower of Pisa! But this is what a fragrance does. Not only will that woody tobacco-y scent bring you back to the nuanced scent of that charcoal grill, but it will also bring with it that excitement you felt, and the experiences associated with it. It is the perfectly nuanced nostalgic moments that tend to come back with fragrance notes – those that you would never remember generally, or even want to remember, specifically. I mean, what’s so great about walking past that charcoal grill, right? The answer doesn't lie in what the memory is about in particular, but how that memory makes you feel.

This is very true for occasions, like Christmas – where people would associate ginger, cinnamon and maybe eggnog with that time of year – even a shot of brandy! But what we can see here, is that these scents and smells of Christmas, conjure up that feeling of excitement, happiness and warmth. And this is the type of thing that major brands and fragrance houses use in their scents – they want to use notes that help people to conjure up memories of a past, a happy event that makes them come back for more. In marketing, with the importance of imagery and smell of a fragrance, the feeling that perfumes gives you when you smell it is a major marketing tool as well. That fragrance which reminds you of your childhood, could in fact be the same fragrance that your mother wore – you just had no idea. Maybe the smell of your mother’s hair you smelled when you hugged her as a child is a nostalgic memory, brought back by the latest niche fragrance. But generally, you wouldn't remember the smell of your mother’s hair! It is that which makes you buy it to treasure and capture that memory – that feel-good feeling we all like to get. But of course, there can be instances of very strange memories coming back with a fragrance – maybe the smell of stale baked beans from the school dinner canteen from when you were at school, a scent I am sure not many people would buy into! And then there are those which make you nostalgic for a time and a place, with which you have no association with whatsoever! A case of genetic nostalgia, me thinks! ;) This was true for me recently, when sampling Kurjidian’s oud satin mood… that rose opening note, which I didn’t realise was rose, until some moments later but it certainly had an emotional effect on me, in that it was very familiar and a very ‘down to my roots’ type of smell. But low and behold I have no idea of any event in life that is associated with that rose at all – maybe I had whiffed something similar on my grandmother before, who knows? It’s a complete and utter mystery. But one thing that I did know for sure, was that for a writer like myself fragrances offer a lot of good food for thought which translates well when writing!

What scents bring back good memories for you?

Happy Sniffing! :)


  1. Yardley's lavender and 4711 ( Mum).Emeraude from the 1970s ( big sister).Poison original because my little sister and her clothes and her hair,her flat etc smelled of it.Jicky and Quadrille because I bought them at 17. The smell of Baked Beans because it meant a snack was ready !!!Old Mice ( spice ).Then Evelyn Rose as Holly bought it for Mum's day .French herbs we use in my meals and oh pencils because I love them so Cedarwood frags. The smell of cat's fur and one day someone will recreate it ! Thanks for a great post Shaneela.

  2. Wow Angela! Those are some memories that you have there! Snap with the Poison, as you know, its one my mother used to wear when I was a child. Those memories are precious ;) <3 I am glad that you enjoyed the post :) Thank you!