Have you ever wondered what it takes to make a best-selling perfume? The obvious answer should be a combination of quality (first and foremost one would argue), capturing the zeitgeist of the period of release and of course some sort of universal appeal. But of course as we perfume lovers well know, far from all best-selling perfumes comply with these or similar criteria. In fact, most of the time it is marketing that drives a best-seller, with unfortunate, deleterious consequences for the sensitive noses and sensibilities of connoiseurs who end up disparaging the mainstream market as a result. For me one such perfume whose continuing success leaves me rather bewildered is Dior's J'Adore, a veritable golden goose for the company. Countless women profess their adoration (ugh, forgive the accidental pun) for J'Adore, much to my dismay and confusion. Well, I seem to have come across an (at least partial) explanation for its success while studying for Consumer Psychology, one of my elective courses this year, and now that I've more time I finally get to share it with you. According to Hoyer & MacInnis (2008, p. 34) it is not uncommon for modern marketing efforts to be driven by neuroscience:
Neuroscientists are seeking to understand consumer behavior by looking at brain activity using functional resonance imaging (fMRI). To do this, they examine which parts of the brain become activated when consumers are engaging in activities such as making a decision, viewing an ad, or selecting an investment. For instance, Christian Dior used fMRI research to test consumer's reactions to music, colors, and ad placement when planning its highly successful introductory campaign for J'Adore perfume. Although neuroscience research raises concerns about manipulation, one advertising executive notes: "Observing brain activity and setting up models for behavior is not the same as forcing a brain into making a consumption decision."
Although I cannot with certaintly refute the validity of this claim without further information, one has to question the extent of its truthfulness. Specifically, in the event that marketing is heavily based on automatic brain responses, what sort of defense is left for us against it? What do you think? Considering that not every household currently contains a bottle of J'Adore it is clear that freedom of choice still remains secure, but with more technological advances in the future I foresee this ethical debate heating up.
To briefly return to one of my initial points regarding universal appeal in perfume, I found another interesting little tidbit elsewhere in the book (idem, p. 84). According to the authors "Only one smell is universally regarded as pleasant. No, it's not vanilla... It's cola! Considering this, I am surprised we've yet to come across a perfume with cola notes! Or have I missed something?
References: Hoyer, D. W. & MacInnis, D. J., 2008. Consumer Behavior. North Way: GB, South-Western, Cengage Learning
Emphasis in original text added by author.