It's no secret: We gingerly open up the fabric softener's and even the floor cleaner's cap to take a whiff of the liquid inside in the super-market to make sure we approve of the scent. We check with our nose, since our brain cannot register how analytical chemistry can help get us a cleaner laundry basket at the end of the day or a shinier floor just by briefly looking at the label. Eschewing logic over emotion is all too human. Big conglomerates are aware of it. And no other sense is more emotional than our sense of smell.
[...]P&G’s big winner New Zealand Springs—which is a fresh, green fruity-floral [aroma] ‘inspired by New Zealand's South Island where springs feed glacier-carved streams and verdant vistas’—is making money for Febreze room and fabric sprays, oils and home fragrances, Mr. Clean’s hard surface and multipurpose cleaners, Dawn ultra-concentrated dish liquid, and Cascade dishwasher detergent. [...] If a limited-edition fragrance truly connects with consumers, the scent can be upcycled—perhaps even renamed—and made part of the brand’s offering long term. This is a strategy that strategically improves marketing effectiveness. [...] Expectations for great fragrances have never been greater"
The intricasy of developing complex scents for non fine fragrances (i.e. fragrances for functional use, such as detergents, air care, shampoos etc.) is increasing and for good reason: There is an intense competition between the big companies into who will release something that will grab the consumers and can then become (by the standards of recycling the same scent in new names, as delineated above) a lifestyle product. Smell and scents have become a firm element of lifestyle; an experience that seals a moment of living. If this isn't the height of commercialisation, I don't know what is. But let's proceed with a specific example.
"In the commercials [of odor-eliminating Procter & Gamble product Febreze], each setting is shown being treated with a Febreze product, like fabric spray or room spray, before the blindfolded subjects are led in. In one spot, two women approached on the street in the SoHo section of Manhattan are led blindfolded into an abandoned section of a building, where they are seated on an old, torn couch that has clumps of dog hair. As two dogs dart around the room, they are asked by an off-screen interviewer to take deep breaths and report what they smell. [watch the Febreze couch experiment clip here, part of their Breathe Happy campaign]
One of the women says, “Light floral, lilac,” and “Like when you have fresh laundry.” The other adds, “Maybe even a little bit of citrus,” “a little bit beachy” and “wispy white curtains.” They are told to remove their blindfolds, and the squalor of the room registers on their shocked faces, with both saying, “Oh, my god,” before two members of the film crew approach them wielding Febreze. [...]
Tor Myhren, president and chief creative officer at Grey New York, said the impetus for the campaign came from a consumer focus group. “Someone said, ‘You can close your eyes, but you can’t turn off your nose,’ and that’s a brilliant insight,” Mr. Myhren said. “We said that’s a big, big, big idea that we need to bring to life.”
~from an article on the advertising of Febreze in New York Times
Procter & Gamble swears their product is "absolutely non-toxic", safe to use in homes with pets and acts on the power of beta-cyclodextrin to bind big molecules into its own doughnut shape, thus disallowing the dispersion of malodours molecules into the air where they would be perceived by human noses. Some sources state that Febreze also contains zinc chloride, which would help to neutralize sulfur-containing odors (e.g., onions, rotten eggs) and might dull nasal receptor sensitivity to smell, but this compound is not listed in the ingredients (at least in the spray-on products).
Interestingly, a cultural aspect enters the marketing and distribution of Febreze. Even though P&G reaches hundreds of countries around the world, some markets are excluded from this artificial smell of clean. Pat from Olfactarama recounts how the original formulation of Febreze died a slow death in the US when it was first introduced, as the cultural mantra is to feel (intellectual and sensory) elation at the cleansing task after it has been actually performed. The re-introduction of Febreze to staggering sales numbers currently is largely attributed to re-introducing the product with added fragrance!
"A breakthrough came when [the product development & marketing team] visited a woman in a suburb near Scottsdale, Ariz., who was in her 40s with four children. Her house was clean, though not compulsively tidy, and didn’t appear to have any odor problems; there were no pets or smokers. To the surprise of everyone, she loved Febreze.
“I use it every day,” she said.
“What smells are you trying to get rid of?” a researcher asked.
“I don’t really use it for specific smells,” the woman said. “I use it for normal cleaning — a couple of sprays when I’m done in a room.”
The researchers followed her around as she tidied the house. In the bedroom, she made her bed, tightened the sheet’s corners, then sprayed the comforter with Febreze. In the living room, she vacuumed, picked up the children’s shoes, straightened the coffee table, then sprayed Febreze on the freshly cleaned carpet.[...]
“It’s nice, you know?” she said. “Spraying feels like a little minicelebration when I’m done with a room.”
~from an article in the New York Times about mapping consumer behavior
In Greece, Febreze never caught on: it was introduced sometime around 2000 if memory serves well, promoted in super-markets as just the thing for difficult to wash car seats, but the Greek culture that adbhors "masking" dirt instead of getting down on your knees and scrubbing, scrubbing, scrubbing that floor to a shiny shine quickly purged it. No attempts for re-introducing it have been made, added fragrance or not, and I would assume that with our national streak of disliking "artificial" scents that are not actual perfumes for one's own skin it would not have sustenance.Unless it promised a mini-celebration of discovering the surefire way to make away with sovereign debt, naturally. P&G, there's hope yet.