The Powerful Allure of Fragrance
Your Nose Knows
Remember that mean mathematics primary school teacher of yours, the one that scared the … out of you? You remember, the one that wore that heavy and most pungent fragrance. What was it, a cheap tea rose? She smelt like your old aunt’s toilet air freshener. That mean old teacher was a heavy smoker too, who tried to cover it up, by pouring more of that revolting fragrance on.
The result was smoker’s breath with a heavy pungent toilet potpourri smell!
Remember the cookies that your kind loving granny used to bake for you as a child? You could smell the cinnamon and vanilla essence gently wafting past you as you arrived at the front door. Many years on, your granny may have passed on, but the smell of vanilla and cinnamon still puts a smile on your face and warmth in your heart.
Many years on you still smell cheap tea rose or anything similar to potpourri and you think, YUK!
Basically you have been scarred for life.
Our sense of smell is the strongest of all our senses. The nose is like a library of fragrance memories. Scent memories that are connected to people, places or things that you have experienced in the past. Research has shown that ‘associative odour learning’ begins very early in life, with events and experiences that may become accessible to you as we age². Whether you have had a good or bad experience with that particular scent will directly affect how you relate to that scent in the future³.
If we take the case of a basic smell, say a lemon, the following video illustrates some of the reactions that are triggered in the brain.
Fragrance choices are not right or wrong
Fragrance choices are individual, just like our individual experiences and memories. Scents have the power to conjure up emotions that were created by your thoughts at the time that you experienced that specific scent. Those thoughts and emotions can be then linked to colour and certain expectations are then associated with that specific scent.
In the case of the granny, the following is a diagram of the initial trigger and the expected response.
You would have your own list of fragrant triggers and your own personal responses to certain smells.
Let me tell you one of my favourites. NOT!
When I first got to know my life partner, Paul – the very first thing that I noticed, apart from the fact that he was wearing high waisted tapered to his ankles, original 80s jeans and we were in the year 2000, was ARAMIS.
ARAMIS a perfume that in my opinion, should have been left behind in the 80s, along with those jeans.
I have since managed to get rid of Aramis ….but, Paul is still holding on tight to those jeans.
It’s funny, 15 years on and I hear my young mentor, Adelaide retell the story of fragrance shopping with her partner, Dave.
Dave likes an after shave that is popular and is predominantly a tobacco vanille fragrance (a complex blend of tobacco, oriental spices and woody base notes).
Just the smell of this perfume, makes Adelaide cringe …
“Old man smell!”
Those were my exact thoughts, 15 years earlier when I met Paul, but unlike Paul, Dave is a fashionista.
Did I mention that those jeans came with a matching Mr Darcy jumper?
(You know the one from Bridget Jones’s Diary!)
I get why Dave has an appreciation for tobacco notes. Tobacco notes are classical, strong, typically masculine notes that you would expect James Bond to wear and Dave, like Paul, appreciates good old James Bond.
On the other hand…
Tobacco notes, remind Adelaide of … to find out, check out video!
P.S.Uncle Bob is a fictional character in order to protect the identity of the actual person from any embarrassment.
So what was the outcome of their fragrance shopping spree?
A compromise is achieved
Like all successful relationships, a compromise was met between the two and Tom Ford’s Oud Wood was the winner. Tom Ford’s Oud Wood is a perfume that incorporates the fragrance notes that Adelaide and Dave both enjoyed due to their own individual past experiences.
The winning perfume is a blend of the fragrance notes that they both like in common and in this case, it was a complex mix of woody, vanilla and tonka bean notes.
The ultimate purchase decision was more than likely, based on what they both perceived to be a balance between Dave’s appreciation for classic sophistication and Adelaide’s playful nature.
The psychology and science behind fragrance development is inspired by nature, created in the mind of the perfumer and then scientifically translated into a scent. Fragrance creation is a complex art and one that also needs to consider the intimate relationship between, the individual and:
- Their perception of self in relation to brand communication
- Their perception of self in relation to their peers
- Cultural differences, influences and tastes and the big one
From a marketing and product development perspective, the fragrance of a product is a key element when creating brand identity and building on brand loyalty.
There is no right or wrong when it comes to fragrance choices. What works for you, may not work for someone else. So if you perceive that something is right for you, then for you it is right.
Your Nose Knows – Pay Attention!
What are some of your fragrance experiences?
Daphne K Knows
Founder of LAJOIE SKIN
and the anti-chafing cream, Calmmé.
Let me know by commenting on this site or facebook, twitter, instagram
Another fabulous article Daphne K and one of my favourite topics. I definitely agree that a simple scent can transport you back to another country. Remind you of an event or of someone in your past or even your present. I have certain scents that do just that and there are some that make me so nostalgic that I sometimes find it hard to wear them. Thank you for this article it really tells it how it is…what I really want to know however, is did Paul tuck his MR Darcy jumper into those jeans…? Now that would have really topped off the look!!!
Thank you SS. To answer your question, I know Paul would refute this …but I do have photographic evidence and yes he did tuck THAT Mr Darcy into THOSE Jeans!
My favourite smells remind me of nature, so for perfume that means floral. My Dad is a passionate gardener and the garden was full of flowers like magnolias, roses. The fragrance of wisteria will forever be connected with spring as the entire street side of our house was dripping with purple wisteria. It only lasted a couple of weeks each year, but I will remember it always. Love the blog, it has brought back some great memories!
Thank you for sharing those beautiful memories. I remember, jasmine, roses and gardenia growing in our garden. I especially remember the smell of cut grass from my father mowing our lawns and the way the jasmine gently wafted into our home. These were the smells of Spring and I knew that I was weeks away from going to the beach.
I’ve always felt the connection between memory and smell. It was great to read the science behind this – Thank you for sharing Daphne. I hope I haven’t traumatised any of my students at school with my perfume!?! lol. I particularly appreciated the videos – being able to see clearly the reactions in the brain was great! : )
You made me laugh. I visualized a whole class of traumatized students.
Hehehe! Nah, hopefully my chosen ‘smells’ have only created good memories for my students over the years. There’s actually a school of thought that teachers shouldn’t wear perfume at all, because it is distracting.
Ah I don’t know if I like the idea of not wearing fragrance … I would feel naked! I would suggest, that wearing a light, fresh and broad appeal perfume should be pretty safe.
I like Old Spice, what does that say about me?! Hehe
It means what whatever you would like it to mean to you. Fragrances like most things, are subjective. Unlike maths, where 1 + 11 = 12…there is no right or wrong. Thankfully.
Here … here! That’s good to know I won’t be judged ; )
All good. Thank you 😉
Thank you Daphne for your entertaining and insightful explanation of the link between memories and smell. It is amazing how strong the link is, the other day, I passed a woman with perfume that was very similar in smell to what my first girlfriend wore, it triggered my memory of her and that was a while ago.
Thank you Sam for your sharing your experience with fragrance. Wow thrown back to your first girlfriend, now that is pretty powerful. I don’t know if my memory of my first boy friend was a good one or a bad one!
Very interesting article as i love the memories that smell conjures up. My favoruite is the smell of the fresh figs from the island Lipsi in Greece. When i smell them here, even though it is never as good, i am once again holidaying on the island hahah
And Paul, if you read this, dont worry, I will still talk to you even if you wear those same jeans!!
I love figs too and yes I do agree they don’t smell the same here in
Australia as they do in Greece. Angelique.. we really do not need to encourage Paul’s love of those 80s jeans, for goodness sake, it has taken me nearly 15 years to get rid of one pair!
Thanks Daphne! Opening my mind to the world of fragrance, perhaps I shouldn’t just grab whatever linx can I see first… 😉
Too funny Matt. You can pick up and use what ever fragranced product you like! If Linx does it for you..Ahh having said that, maybe not. I am a like a cadaver dog, I have a highly sensitive nose, hence why Paul’s choice of fragrance, created mini spasms in my brain. I say, get down to the shops and start experimenting.
The science behind the nose is fascinating, I loved reading your piece on this! It can trigger so many emotions all at once and it can take you back to your past as quick as a heartbeat. Your writing is so poignant and fresh – keeping it real. Love it love it! X x
Oh … I am so humbled by your comments Jane. I am as real as real can be! I did try changing once, I spent a whole weekend trying to be someone else. I failed! Thank you so very much. xxx
Love how you put so much humour in your article.. I feel like I know Paul and Dave already! 🙂
Thank you Lenny for taking the time to add a comment, this is very much appreciated. For me life without humour, would be pretty challenging! Yep ..poor old Paul is now being asked to bring THOSE jeans into work! Maybe, this will encourage him to finally get rid off them or maybe we can theme them for a ‘Bad Taste’ party!
Great article Daphne, thanks for sharing! I have a very strong sense of smell and I like to change perfumes every few years…that way, each perfume reminds me of a different time in my life – whether it be uni, a trip overseas etc.
Thanks Leah. I do exactly the same, once I finish one bottle, I move on to a different one. I am continually experimenting with perfume. Interesting to see how your fragrance tastes change or maybe not, over the years.
Daphne Fab article and soooo nice to see you back in perfume!!!1
Thank you so much Marco I really appreciate your kind words. It feels soooo good to be back!
A great article and what fun ! Thinking about Paul and his jeans makes me laugh. Can’t wait to tell Colin. So true about scent association, remembering my grandmother smell of 4711 or Ice cologne; grandfathers and Old Spice, father smell of Brut; just hoping I don’t develop a smell association with Linx and my teenage sons !!!
Thank you Tina for joining the conversation. Scent memories are the strongest of all our sense and so I am sure that you have already developed a relationship with Lynx. Now what type of association you would have with Lynx, only time can tell. Could be worse, you could have 80s jeans still lingering around…