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The Case for Fragrance Family Loyalty

By: Laura Donna, Consumer Fragrance Education, LLC
Posted: May 23, 2012, from the June 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.

page 5 of 8

Concentration of preference in clusters: Ninety-three percent of women in the study had half or more scents identified as “ever enjoyed” and “favorite” falling into a single cluster of families, a concept newly defined by the researcher. These are extraordinarily strong findings with powerful marketing implications.

The rationale for introducing the concept of clusters to this study is as follows: The fact that for well over half of respondents, more than half of the scents identified as “ever enjoyed” and “favorite” fell into a single family among the 14 possible families, as noted earlier, is strong evidence of lifetime olfactory preferences. The reader will recall scientific evidence that adjacencies between families on The Fragrance Wheel are not an arbitrary function of graphic design; rather, proximity on the wheel conveys valid information about olfactory similarity among families. 

Given that the wheel represents a legitimate olfactory continuum, how much more might be learned about the strength of olfactory preferences by broadening the definition of categories of scent beyond Michael Edwards’ original 14 fragrance families, grouping them into what are here called clusters? In fact, examination of these clusters magnifies the already strong evidence of olfactory preference on an individual level.

Cluster definitions: The clusters are named according to a single fragrance family that this research refers to as an anchor family. In most cases, clusters consist of three fragrance families from The Fragrance Wheel. Exceptions are the dry woods, citrus, water and fruity clusters, which consist of four rather than three Fragrance Wheel families. Very weak concentration of preference in some families explains the decision to create broader clusters consisting of four families instead of three in some cases. Study respondents named only one aromatic/fougère scent and two green scents. Aromatic/fougère scents are rare for women and green scents are rare generally. To account for the paucity of data in these families, study design allowed next-closest neighbors on The Fragrance Wheel to be considered adjacent to each other in cluster definitions (T-1). An example of how clusters are designed is presented in F-3. The percentage of women with half or more “ever enjoyed”/“favorite” scents in clusters is presented in F-4.

Concentration of Preference in Subfamilies of the 14 Families on The Fragrance Wheel

While The Fragrance Wheel consists of just 14 distinct fragrance families, the Fragrances of the World database and guide contain a more detailed categorization of scents. Within many of the 14 families, scents are further classified by subcategories reflecting fragrance characteristics. Sometimes these characteristics are unique breakdowns within a family and are not one of the 14 families—carnation, honeysuckle and gardenia, for example, are subfamilies within the floral family, but there are no families with corresponding names among the 14 families on The Fragrance Wheel. Sometimes, however, the subfamily breakdowns within a family are the same as a family name—green, for example, is a characteristic of fragrances within the floral family, though green is also the name of one of the 14 families on the wheel.