First impression versus extended usage

Date of publication: June 15, 1991

Author: Ivor Shalofsky


In the fine fragrance industry, unlike many other fmcg industries, systematic consumer product-testing has usually been conspicuous by its absence. The reasons are varied, including perfume's own traditions rooted in fashion rather than in marketing, the reluctance of perfumers to see their creations tested, the frequently (and perhaps, surprisingly) short lead times accorded for new product development, and, of course, costs. When consumer product-testing is carried out, it is often limited, for these same reasons, to "sniff-testing", which, in the perfume industry, is equivalent to "first impression" testing. This paper suggests that such sniff-testing may not only be unreliable, but perhaps more unreliable for the perfume category than has been realised hitherto. Reference is made to two consumer research studies on perfume, a qualitative project in France, followed by a quantitative exercise in the U.K.. A comparison is made between in-home test and sniff-test results for the same set of perfumes, which illustrates the limitations of sniff-testing in general, and the misleading results that it may produce, in particular. A major implication is that perfume is one product category which should be tested in extended usage, and not just for "first impressions".

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