Monday, September 19, 2016

Perfume Creation: How Focus Groups Work

If you've been reading about perfume and fragrance creation for some time (and if you've been following the Perfume Shrine specifically) you must have come across the mention of focus groups, employed by large companies like L'Oreal or such, to test the "mods" supplied by the laboratory in order to gauge whether the perfumer and his/her team should go back to the drawing board or not.

I have managed to unearth through some research a few concrete examples of just how this works exactly. The following pictures you will see are the actual questionnaires that people participating in focus groups (people off the street, so to speak, without perfumery training) were asked to fill. As you can see, and as has been mentioned on the Perfume Shrine before, the purpose of the focus group and the tool for gauging market reactions is always within the perimeters of comparison. It's always against a current best-seller. This makes for much perfume sameness to be sure; we tackled that in the past as well. But at least now you can see with your own eyes.

The two rival companies below are Lancome/L'Oreal and Dior/LVMH. They're a bit older but the point remains. Makes for fascinating commentary I bet!

Right click and open in new window to see in full size. 


  1. Well, that was depressing!

    And what did we learn? 1) Quite properly, nobody likes the newest iteration of the once-glorious, now-ruined Trésor. 2) Only a quarter of the focus-group women think that the smell of perfume — in other words, its only actual quality — is the most important thing about it: the rest of them shop by brand, which I guess is what the companies like to hear but is bad news for the art of perfumery, since all the money will therefore go to establishing and extending the brand rather than the contents of the bottle. But it's been that way for a couple of decades now, hasn't it?

    1. Indeed!

      I need to point out that this is 15 years old or so. So Tresor wasn't that ruined to begin with. But still, the fact that it was ubiquitous meant that people were fed up with it. (Everything was mimicking it too, back then, which I believe is the MAIN reason for being fed up with a popular fragrance: when the fabric softener and the anti-moth sachet start smelling like a best-seller it's the kiss of death....)

      The main thing however transpiring is -exactly as you point out- that most people shop by brand. I buy X perfume from Y brand, so Z perfume from same brand has to be amazing. Not so, but try to shake this belief out of anyone's head...Branding is crucial and they seem to be making the most of it.

    2. I hate to correct you but it can't be 15 years old because one of the focus group members mentioned Lady Gaga, and she's only been properly famous for seven years or so (her début album was released in 2008 and I think it took another year or so for her to really saturate popular culture). Even if this focus group was in 2010, Trésor was 20 years old while J'adore was only about 10, so maybe people were sick of Trésor but not J'adore (which is still a top-10 seller). But Trésor was definitely ruined by then (although if it was modified to fit popular tastes — with the addition of that disgusting ubiquitous fresh note up top, which has also ruined Poison and Lolita Lempicka, for starters, and contaminated nearly every men's scent in existence — then you'd think that would make it more popular since it would fit more people's idea of what something should smell like).

    3. Lolita Lempicka is ruined!?! NOOOOO!!!!
      I just finished my bottle from 1997 when it first came out & need to replace it.

    4. NO correct me if need me. I can handle it!

      Good to notice and good to know. I don't know what they're thinking anymore. It's totally lost the smell criterion and it's something else.
      I can't really pinpoint the common thread. I suppose it's an overabundance of ambrox in most of everything because it's such a good fixer. But it does give sameness.

  2. annemarie10:54

    Ouch! Well, I guess the purpose of focus groups is to get an honest opinion. (Poor old Tresor. I dislike it but I never smelled it back in the day.) I can see how this sort of data would present a powerful message back to the brands. :(

  3. Helg... I have tried 3 times to stop dying my hair and go grey. Well - third time lucky ( you know - mother , daughter and darn husband tells you to dye it and ... bloody hell - you do . Then you think - Oooo why!!! LOL ) I am now completely grey and so glad I have done this .... I guess I should LOVE Tresor!! You know ... I am now ofically a Old Lady! LOL
    I have always hated Tresor and I was around when it first launched !
    Helg ..... whats become of Isabella Rossellini coming back to Lancome and being one of their "faces" once again ????? Its gone cold! I do hope they use her again as Lancome needs to be "updated" ... not very popular now but ..... Oh in the 80's and 90's Lancome was HOT !!!

  4. Ms. Rochambeau02:52

    The very reason I dislike the commercial "perfumes" and avoid department store perfume counters.


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