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Making a Fragrance Connection Through Color

By: Michelle Harper and Lori Miller Burns
Posted: February 1, 2012, from the January 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.

Walk into any beauty aisle. Look on the beauty shelves of pharmacies and department stores. Everywhere are beautifully designed products, new technologies, new colors, new brand identities, new packaging and new ways to compete.

As consumers, people constantly analyze what they see, but when a product grabs their attention, most consumers are entirely predictable. They open the cap, squeeze the bottle, or spray the scent blotter, and smell. It’s a moment of truth that inspires most to make a buying decision right there—or frankly, move on.

Nobody respects that magic moment more than beauty brand owners and product developers—and nobody shares their concern more than those who design and create fragrances. Fragrance designers often see consumers as judges with their placards ready, and they figuratively wait on their toes as consumers raise their cards—or dollars— in confirmation: “Ten! Ten! Ten!”

However, if you think a smell test is the only review factor at work in consumer decision-making today, think again. Before the cap is opened, the bottle squeezed or the scent sprayed, consumers have already made serious decisions about the product. In fact, just by looking at a product and its packaging, they have probably formed pretty well-developed ideas about how the product is going to smell. Consequently, aligning color and fragrance is one of the most important tools a brand can wield.

The Power of Color

The key to a consumer’s ability to analyze a brand’s product on a shelf, which also contains dozens of other items she could buy, is color—the same color that can be something art directors and graphic designers take for granted. But significantly, not all signals processed by the human eye go directly to the visual center of the brain.