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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.

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According to the Pantone Color Institute, approximately 20% of all visual signals go to the tiny part of the brain that produces the hormones that control homeostasis, our essential sense of balance and well-being as humans. That explains color’s power to influence how people feel about themselves, and colors consumers love actually make them feel better—just like fragrance, which connects to the same part of the brain.

To explore the connection between color, product design and fragrance, a perception study was conducted among female consumers in the Atlanta area by researchers at Arylessence. The findings revealed that not only are the senses of sight and smell closely linked, but specific colors actually shape olfactory expectations. If a consumer sees the color green, the study determined, that person starts to think “green,” and consequently, expects any aroma associated with said product to have a “green” scent. If a consumer sees yellow, she thinks “lemon” and expects a citrus scent. The same is true with colors across the spectrum. Even the intensity of colors is seen to influence consumer perceptions.

When asked to describe fragrances inspired by specific colors, consumers consistently use the same words and descriptors. People perceive very subtle differences between colors, see the same values in particular colors, and consistently describe the fragrances based on those colors. Light yellow is seen as “stimulating” and “uplifting.” Navy blue is consistently “masculine,” “stimulating” and even “soothing.” Deep purple? It’s widely considered “soothing” and “feminine.”

The consistency of these responses says the connection between color and fragrance is predictable. Meaning, if your brand is built on a definitive color platform, you can far more easily send consistent messages to consumers, consistently set expectations about your brand’s qualities and attributes, and be consistently perceived a particular way by consumers. And that’s a direct route to consumer acceptance.

Aligning Concept, Color and Fragrance

The message for beauty brand developers and marketers is a simple one. It’s all about alignment. Because the consumer expects consistency in product concept, color and fragrance, that consistency should be built into a brand upfront. The stronger the connection between concept, color and fragrance, the more likely the consumer will be to purchase the product.