Perfume, Cologne and You, Part Two: The Psychology of Scent

November 14, 2021
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“Fragrance speaks the loudest on a subliminal level.”

Marian Bendeth, Internationally Renowned Fragrance Expert

Last Sunday we talked about choosing a signature scent for yourself in my blog: Perfume, Cologne and You, Part One: Choosing a Signature Scent. Today I’d like to delve a little deeper into the topic. I’m talking about the backstory of perfume and cologne – the why of what we are drawn to. Why we choose the notes in certain perfumes and cologne and what influences what we buy.

Scientists have tackled the question of scent for decades. They have been trying to understand what is appealing to humans and why it’s appealing. In fact, in 2004 Linda Buck and Richard Axel even won a Nobel Prize for their work on the science of smell. Their research proves that perfume can stimulate the conscious mind as well as stabilize and modify the emotional state. What I’m getting at here is this: there’s a lot of science to perfume and cologne and we can learn from this science and apply it when we are trying to choose a scent for ourselves or others. So here’s the skinny…

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Factors That Drive You To Buy When It Comes to Perfume/Cologne

Marketers of retail products are very tricky. They try to get you to buy their products in both obvious and subtle ways. You may go score those t-bone steaks because your local market has them on sale (price/obvious) but you might buy that Cadillac because Matthew McConaughey gives you absolute fits (image/subtle). Marketers of perfume/cologne are no different. This is why I advised, in Part One of this series, do not buy anything on your first trip, when shopping for a signature scent. Perfume/cologne marketers count on these factors to influence your buying decision, so be aware of this and you will make smarter choices:

  • Emotional Reaction to Scent – scent, as we’ve said multiple times, evokes memories. Certain perfumes contain notes that will bring you back-in-time emotionally, making you want to buy because of the emotions that this time brings out. Try to separate your heart from your head when shopping for perfume/cologne.
  • Portrayed Image – this includes packaging and bottle type. Don’t be drawn in by that pretty red box or the unusually shaped bottle. It’s what’s inside that counts.
  • Ingredient or Ingredients – sometimes it’s one ingredient, sometimes it’s a combination of them, but notes of scent that appeal to you are real reason – and the most important one – when it comes to purchase. Live with the samples awhile before committing.
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Chose Scent To Match or Set Your Mood

Scientific scent research tells us a lot. It’s well established that scent can evoke memory and alter mood. So what else does it show? Scent science can actually be used to match or set your mood! Who knew? According to Paul Jellinek, scent smarty-pants, this is how the science lines up:

  • Herbal, Coniferous or Citrus Scents – support creativity and mental activity
  • Spicy and Fruity Scents – bring about uplifting and invigorating feelings
  • Rosy, Floral Scents – reduce anxiety and stress and promote mental balance
  • Caramel, Earthy, Sensual Scents – promote personal comfort and are nurturing

So now, when you are out there shopping for that signature scent, looking for a scent gift for a friend or just considering adding to the treasure-trove of perfume/cologne on your dressing table, you will be armed with some scent science. Chose notes not only for how they smell but for the feelings they can evoke.

As always… be careful out there, my friends… and have fun!

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