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Marketing Matters: Leveraging Scent to Deliver on Brand Promise

By: Liz Grubow
Posted: May 3, 2007, from the May 2007 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Ensuring that a brand scent is well-matched to the target consumer is a large part of a creative process that goes beyond capitalizing on the established aromatherapy qualities of individual ingredients. In general, the younger the target consumer, the sweeter the scent. Young girls and tweens prefer sweet, strong scents—such as berries, bubble gum and various desserts—as evidenced by Jacqua Girls’ Ho Ho Hot Marshmallow and Cocoa, a 2-in-1 body wash and bubble bath (U.S.), and Topz Kids 2-in-1 Shampoo and Conditioner in Cherry (Brazil).

As consumers mature, so does their scent preference. Women ages 18 –24 tend to gravitate toward sheer, floral scents such as Happy (Clinique), Tommy Girl (Tommy Hilfiger) and Curve for Women (Liz Claiborne). Recently released bath and body products that follow this sheer, floral trend are The Body Shop’s Neroli Jasmin Body Lotion and Satsuma Body Butter (Japan), La Sultane de Saba Body Lotion with lotus and frangipani (France), and Origins’ Fragrant Flower Petals with jasmin, mandarin, bergamot and basil (U.S.). Beyond the 18 to 24 demographic, women’s preferences become more individualized, while their desire for scent strength varies—some prefer a stronger scent that stays with them all day, while others gravitate towards lighter notes that fade with time.

Increasingly, as the market for scented products expands and diversifies, consumers are no longer loyal to a single, signature scent. Instead, they look to match their scent to their mood, in much the same way they select an outfit from their wardrobe to wear on a given day.

Age and mood are not the only factors influencing a consumer’s scent preference; geography plays a role as well. Currently, soft and natural scents from exotic flowers, fruits and herbs—popular in Western Europe—are combined in unorthodox ways to create new scent experiences. For example, Alverde (Germany) markets body washes with orange and ginger, olive and aloe, and lemon and coconut combinations.

Nivea (Germany) is also combining scents—such as lemongrass and melon; rice and lotus; and milk and peach—for a unique shower experience. Dessert-derived scents continue to be popular across all age groups and geographical sectors. Noah’s Naturals Chocolate Massage Balm (U.S.) is luxurious in scent and feel, and Richfield Derma’s Coffee Body Scrub (Singapore) combines the natural exfoliants of coffee, sugar and salt to refine and energize both skin and mind. The Body Shop’s Vanilla Spice Bath Melt (France) is a milky cream that fills a tub with bubbles while giving off a vanilla scent laced with cinnamon and nutmeg.