The evidence concerning the importance of “name” brands.

In a recent thread at, the topic of what makes a scent popular arose. I was reminded of something I heard quite a while ago about the The New York Times “Bestseller List.” Here is one take on it:

An endorsement from Oprah Winfrey. A film deal from Steven Spielberg. A debut at the top of The New York Times bestsellers list. These are the things every author craves most, and while the first two require the favor of a benevolent God, the third can be had by anyone with the ability to write a check — a pretty big one.

The point is that I have no way to know if a scent like Bleu de Chanel would generate huge sales or hardly any if it were to be sold by a brand like Lomani. I decided to do some do some basic searching, to see if there had been any relevant research on this subject. Below are passages from a few papers that I thought were the most illuminating.

Title of paper: “Taiwanese Consumers of Perfume:The Importance of Brand Familiarity & Communication Channels.”

Brand Familiarity is Key Out-of-Store (before & after purchase). It affects Taiwanese consumers’ decision-making before (when they consider the purchase) and after(evaluation) the purchase moment per se. It provides trust and helps consumers easily scope their choices, ultimately leading to a final choice of purchase or not. It is less important while Taiwanese consumers experience perfume purchase: the scent becomes the most important factor of the purchase experience in-store…

Title of paper: “Measuring Consumers’ Luxury Value Perception: A Cross-Cultural Framework.”

Hedonic Value – Certain products and services carry an emotional value and provide intrinsic enjoyment in addition to their functional utility (Hirschman and Holbrook 1982; Sheth et al. 1991, Westbrook and Oliver 1991). Studies in the field of luxury consumption have shown that luxury products are likely to provide such subjective intangible benefits (Dubois and Laurent 1994). Additionally, research concerning the concept of luxury has repeatedly identified the emotional responses associated with luxury consumption, such as sensory pleasure and gratification, aesthetic beauty, or excitement (Benarrosh-Dahan 1991; Fauchois and Krieg 1991; Roux and Floch 1996; Vigneron and Johnson 2004). Hence, hedonism describes the perceived subjective utility and intrinsically attractive properties acquired from the purchase and consumption of a luxury brand to arouse feelings and affective states, received from personal rewards and fulfillment (Sheth et al.1991; Westbrook and Oliver 1991). In sum:

…P3b: The consumer‘s perceived level of hedonism towards a luxury product or service and its property to satisfy an emotional desire for sensory gratification as best as possible is positively related to the individual luxury value perception.

A study entitled “An Experiment in Brand Choice” may provide some understanding about what is thought to be established as well as what such studies require:

QUOTE: The study of consumer dynamics-how people change their purchasing habits-is facilitated greatly by experiments in which marketing factors are deliberately varied. The cost of such experimentation in the marketplace is usually prohibitive…

The high level of brand switching observed in the
first few weeks did not last. After the period of search,
buyer behavior began to settle down as illustrated
by the 3-week penetration levels and average buying
frequency levels. These useful forms of analysis are
discussed elsewhere [3]. The average figures sum-
marized in Table 1 reflect those for the individual
brands (the comparable results from the earlier study
are documented more fully in [7]).
The pattern for each brand in the first half of the
experiment was a downward trend of penetration and
an upward trend of the average buying frequency.
From this is seen the development of brand loyalty…

CONCLUSIONS This study is the second of two similar experiments on consumer dynamics. It confirms and extends the earlier findings.The evaluation of experimental buyer behavior under stationary conditions turned out to be simple because there is a generalized body of knowledge which summarizes stationary behavior in real life and the same patterns were found to recur under the experimental conditions. But for the dynamic situation, of course, there is no such body of real-life knowledge. Indeed, these experiments were directed toward producing some generalizable results under dynamic market conditions. Two things are required if this is to be achieved. First, many experiments must be conducted to determine whether results generalize even within the experimental context. Second,once a reliable and coherent body of experimental results has been built up, their validity must be tested in the marketplace. UNQUOTE.

Perhaps it’s worth mentioning here that the other day I saw a NatGeo “Brain Games” episode in which it was pointed out that simple things, such as blowing the scent around and playing the sounds of food sizzling on the grill, can lead to a willingness to eat “road kill” foods, such as Iguana Lasagna. Thus, one wonders how much major companies such as Chanel understand about how to influence consumer behavior. My guess is that such companies have more than a few “trade secrets” in this context! In any case, one thing that’s clear is that many if not most people are not going to do a great deal of research when they are thinking about buying a new bottle. To me the more interesting phenomenon involves people writing up reviews or posts defending a specific scent against charges that it is “generic” or mediocre. If a scent is considered “bad” by many people, by contrast, there is usually a reason why, such as a strong cumin or civet note, whereas what I noticed in the case of Bleu de Chanel, many people seemed to think that they needed to “defend” it, even though there was little mentioned about how it actually smelled. In any case, if you want to hear my thoughts about defending the mediocre or generic, you can read my recent post about the Bleu de Chanel “wars.”

Lastly, I’ll close with a thought I had about what might be the major problem with “mainstream designer” scents these days, at least to those of us who are seeking a reason to pay some attention to their recent releases. This thought occurred to me when I saw a “masculine” scent at called Club Men by Azzaro. The notes are listed as lemon, papaya, cannabis, hinoki, and musk. This makes it sound “niche,” and yet the reviews and online comments I’ve seen suggest that it is “generic” or like a light version of Black XS for Men, and not of any particular interest (very little if any detectable cannabis note), overall. If this is the case, why bother listing a cannabis note? Of course some of the reviewers may have been suffering from olfactory fatigue, but does any aficionado who hasn’t tried it think that it is going to be remotely like a niche scent? Instead, it may be that this is part of a new marketing strategy, which is to include at least one note that piques the interest of the aficionado while the scent actually is designed to appeal to the “average Joe.” While this is speculative, we’ve now seen a whole bunch of non-niche names/houses release scents with an oud note, for example, and in the ones I’ve tried the oud note is nowhere near as obvious as it is in a scent like vintage M7, for instance. However, another possibility is that enough “average Joes” have heard about oud at this point, so in this case these kinds of scents may not be marketed with aficionados in mind. Or it may be that there is a certain amount of groping in the dark occurring, with the “lesser” companies waiting for the major ones to do something “different,” and then they go ahead and make similar scents, though of course this would certainly be nothing new.


Filed under The basics.

36 responses to “The evidence concerning the importance of “name” brands.

  1. EDP

    Hi Bigsly,
    Could you please tell us a bit more about Azzaro Club? I’m interested but I cannot test it where I live.

    • You can read my Fragrantica review of Club Man at this point. I might write up a post here about cannabis notes in scents, but I still have to study a couple of these more closely.

      • EDP

        I have read it and liked it a lot. What about Club’s longevity please?

      • My guess is that this is one of those scents that will be assessed quite differently, depending upon how you perceive the wood and/or musk note (s), assuming you can at all. Do you know if you are especially sensitive to iso e super, for example? If so, I think you will perceive excellent longevity. If you don’t detect it, then you might think that Club Man has terrible longevity.

  2. EDP

    Thank you very much. I don’t think I’m particularly sensitive to Iso E Super. You have said that AC is a smoky fragrance, which arouses my curiosity, especially that I respect the Azzaro brand.

    • Well, your continued questioning has led to some interesting thoughts. For example, if I were compelled to “take a stand” right not, I’d say Club Man is somewhere between smoky and fume-like, meaning something like propane fumes for the latter. I need to give it a regular wearing when I am in the mood for it. If it do it too soon or if I’m not in the mood, it will likely generate a negative impression, and I don’t think that helps my readers. Since it doesn’t look like the price levels will change within the next month or so, I think you could wait until I get to a regular wearing with it, when I will start with one spray and then if it’s not strong enough I’ll do one or two more until I feel I get the full effect, without going too far, of course.

      • EDP

        Thank you for having replied. I have ordered it and I need to collect it a week tomorrow, otherwise my order will be cancelled. I would not dare ask you to wear it ‘for me’. Kind regards.

  3. EDP

    My last question, if you don’t mind, is, Do you think there’s anything, even remotely, cloying about AC?

  4. EDP

    PS Propane is odourless.

    • When I was working my way through college I worked for a company that also sold home alarms. I couldn’t take it after a couple of days as my eyes were irritated and there was a fume-like quality to the air that bothered me. However, I certainly agree that it didn’t smell like anything in particular, more of a quality than a flavor might be the best way to phrase it. I might be able to wear Club Man on Tuesday so if I do I’ll report back.

      • EDP

        Thank you. You’re very kind.

      • I wore Club Man today and my assessment is just about the same as before. The drydown features an interesting wood quality, a very slight resinous quality, and that fume-like aspect I have gotten from more than a few recent designer scents, whatever it might be. As I said before, it doesn’t smell like a “chemical mess,” and overall I think it is well done. However, it doesn’t have the depth of vintage, nor are the notes as interesting to me as I was hoping, in particular the cannabis note. At this point, I’d go for Fresh’s Cannabis Rose for the most clear cannabis note (I think), though of course if you don’t like strong rose notes that probably wouldn’t work for you. Longevity is good and there is more than enough projection/sillage, with just one full spray to the chest. Keep in mind that for all I know this might seem weak if you don’t perceive the musk and/or wood aroma chemicals used here. Also, though this is niche-like I have the feeling that the niche fan would be disappointed because he or she would want a more substantial cannabis and/or hinoki note.

  5. EDP

    Thank you very much.

    • Sure, and one last point: the longevity on Club Man was incredible. They must have used a whole lot of some powerful wood and/or musk aroma chemicals in it. Projection isn’t monstrous, but I only used one spray. It’s a good scent for those who want something niche-like but are on a tight budget. This is not a “crowd pleaser” type scent, except perhaps for the top notes.

  6. EDP

    Thank you. I have not collected it as I fear it may turn out to be stifling. Would you be so kind as to comment on that, please?

    • No it’s no like some “old school” musky nightmare scent. I think the two keys are whether you want something more complex or articulated and whether or not the aroma chemicals used bother you.

  7. EDP

    Thank you. I got it. I find it very dated. Kind regards.

    • Out of curiosity, what “date” would you put on it? It has no heavy lavender (none that I can detect), nor does it have any kind of “skanky” musk (the musk is mild and instead it is more chemical-ish to me). It doesn’t have the vanilla-ish “old school quality of scents like Canoe, nor any kind of super herbal or super spicy quality. Instead, I view it as niche-light. Have you tried CdG’s Hinoki?

  8. EDP

    I seem to have misused the notion of ‘dated’. Most things you’ve said about AC seem highly accurate. I’ll write more at a later point. Kind regards.

    • EDP

      Off-topic: ‘Wow, another oud fragrance! I’m sure this one will be truly original, and not like the 82 other oud scents that I currently own. I can’t wait to spend the last penny I possess to make sure I get a bottle!’ I could not agree more.

      • And the funniest thing (to me) is that the best of the bunch might be Jovan’s Oud Intense, which you can get right now for less than $10 total for a 3 ounce bottle !

  9. Edp

    Hi, would you mind a question? You’ve sort of become a hero. Do you think it’s possible that I got a ‘flawed’ bottle of AC? (It’s my second bottle; I gave away the first one, you see.) When I applied it yesterday, for the first time, it projected very nicely, albeit softly for around 5 hours and then it became a soft ‘skinscent’ that lasted for approx. 12 hours. I was absolutely happy with it. Today, it seems to have evaporated within an hour, meaning I can barely smell it and my friend cannot smell it at all. Where is the problem, in your opinion, please? (I cannot return the bottle, just in case.)

    • If you are talking about Azzaro Club for Men, it sounds exactly what happened to me as a newbie. Your “mind’s nose” got used to at least certain aspects of it, I’d guess, so after the first or second wearing it seems really weak. This is a new scent and seems like it’s got a lot of powerful aroma chemicals in it, so I simply can’t imagine that it is “bad” in any significant way. For those who don’t know and think it might make a difference, the bottle is painted black. You can’t see what the liquid level is even if you shine a flashlight at it from behind (the best simply method with some bottles like this). Don’t wear it for a month and then I think it will smell strong again.

  10. EDP

    Thank you. I’m not exactly a newbie. I’ve been a perfume enthusiast for years now and I’m familiar with a number of fragrances and their diverse aspects. I’m wearing AC today and the scent is tremendously weak, which is a bit of a shame ’cause I like it a lot. Bizarre, don’t you think? Have a good day, Bigsly.

    • No, I can’t say it’s bizarre other than being part of the odd things I’ve noticed since this has become a hobby. Perhaps this element of the human sense of smell is mostly about identifying new things rather than providing olfactory pleasure. Oh, and I just learned there is a difference between natural gas and propane (I have never lived in a house with them nor used them). I worked briefly at a natural gas company, not a propane company. When I came home from work the people who lived in the same house could smell it emanating form my clothes/hair or whatever. Do you know what part of the “natural gas” they were able to detect?

      UPDATE: Just saw this, which I think you’d like to read:

  11. EDP

    Thank you very much for having replied. The problem is, I can smell my Habit Rouge (three ‘formulations’) or A*Men Pure Leather, for example, for long hours, but I cannot smell the lovely Azzaro Club Men a t a l l. This is precisely why I’ve turned to you for an opinion; I trust your approach for it’s genuine, simply put. Kindest regards.

    • Sure, no problem. From what you’ve said it sounds like you are anosmic to the aroma chemicals in the base of ACM. Unfortunately, for me they are blaringly strong. This is a good example of how difficult it is to review a scent for everyone else. Even if we have similar tastes, you might not even smell what is very strong to me !

  12. EDP

    I think it’s the bottle. The first one I got (the fragrance, that is) was far stronger than the other one. Shame really ’cause I have no idea what to do about it. Best.

  13. EDP

    PS What’s really strange is that when I first applied it it lasted and projected most wonderfully. And then it suddenly ‘vanished’ if you get my drift. Regards.

    • So, do you really think that within it a very short period of time it became super-weak? What you are describing seems consistent with the scientific evidence about becoming accustomed to an odor. Did you read that report on yahoo that I cited the other day?

  14. EDP

    Oh, silly me! I forgot to say that, yesterday, I found an ACM tester in a shop – and the juice I applied behaved just the way the one I own. Namely, it died in a matter of an hour.

  15. EDP

    Dear Bigsly, I’m sorry I’m writing this here — I need your advice though. I cannot test Kouros where I live, so I have no idea whether its new, L’Oreal incarnation makes any sense at all, and I would like to ‘revisit’ it, so to speak. I’d be happy and thankful to read your opinion on this new Kouros (incl. its longevity and projection). Respect.

    • If you mean the newest one without the “chrome shoulders,” I was not able to try it. The local Ulta told me they no longer stocked it. I would say that you should try for a bottle from around 2003 or earlier. You can read the Radiers of the Lost Scent blog post about Kouros and also YSL batch codes. The earlier formulation is richer and deeper, IMO, so it’s best to get that one and if it’s too strong you can just dilute it with perfumer’s alcohol. Doing that the richness and depth should be retained better, in my experience.

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