Skip to main content

A Multisensory Process: Fragrance Panel Discusses the Five Senses

A Fashion Group International Panel in New York on February 23 included Chef Roblé Ali, Kelly Jones, David Apel and Lior Lev Sercarz.

Fragrance calls specifically upon the sense of smell, but certain marketers believe incorporating the other four senses is an integral part of the scent creation and selling process.

“Essentially [fragrance] is emotions, [and] what you’re using to create these emotions is a sense of smell and also a sense of taste,” said David Apel, a vice president and senior perfumer at Symrise during a Fashion Group International panel at the company’s headquarters in New York last Tuesday.  “You’re subliminally putting in something that someone has an affinity towards. Vanilla is a really key component in things because it’s such a universally accepted taste, and then you have local triggers — in America it could be cinammon, or [elsewhere] it could be different little things that are cultural in their triggers. All of it is about getting to an emotion, some sort of feeling that you’re trying to translate.”

Related Galleries

With globalization, a multisensory customer experience becomes even more relevant, as local triggers become universal. Chef Roblé Ali, a chef, restaurateur and creator of the Clique by Roblé fragrance line, grew up with an East African father, who introduced him to turmeric, a spice commonly used in Indian cooking. Back then, he said, he wouldn’t have known what turmeric was without his heritage. Now, it’s a different story.

You May Also Like

“Turmeric isn’t American but it’s very much American now. They’re selling turmeric root in  Whole Foods,” said Roblé. “You can’t put anything anywhere, it’s all moving around.”

Kelly Jones is an entrepreneur with her own line of wine-inspired fragrances, which she created after realizing fragrance notes could help educate aspiring connoisseurs — and vice versa. “One of the goals of my line is to help others explore how we can find one fragrance note in [different] varietals—for example, a white grape from California versus a white grape from Europe.”

Though the panelists agreed consumers don’t have to know they’re in a multisensory experience to reap the benefits, one obvious example is the interactive in-store experience.

Apel cited the rise of artisanal fragrances for their carefully curated, dynamic approach to fragrance shopping. “Something as simple as the Le Labo shops where you go in and find your own little [scent],” said Apel. “It’s not multisensorial where you’re overwhelmed — they’re curated moments where you can find something that appeals to you in person.” But, he cautioned, “it can’t be this set-up where you go into some place and you’re inundated by a show.”

The panelists were optimistic that the hard-sell at the department store fragrance counters will soon become a thing of the past.

“Three years from now we’re probably going to be doing 3-D presentations. This sense of multilayering to all of our senses is here and it’s coming at us so quickly,” said Jones. “We have to prepare, and it will make consumers more and more ready.”