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The world of fragrances

How washing and cleaning can affect the senses


Capable of invoking memories and conjuring up specific images in the mind’s eye, fragrances directly address our feelings and color our perceptions. Laundry and home care products are also characterized by unique scents that have a significant effect on the consumer’s decision to buy. Moreover, the same fragrance can affect the human senses in a multitude of different ways – be it due to cultural mores or individual experiences.

Flowery and spicy or fruity and fresh? Even though the washing and cleaning performance of laundry and home care products tends to take top priority in the eyes of the consumer, fragrances still play a significant role in their attraction, stimulating feelings and engendering different associations. Brandname products are identifiable by unmistakable fragrances, enabling them to develop their own individual brand identity – one of the prerequisites for consumers remaining true to “their” brand or, perhaps, deciding to pick a different product from the shelf.

Culturally related preferences around the globe
Nations have more than just their own language. Frequently, peoples are also distinguishable by which odors they find attractive or repellent – because scent conveys a message which each individual interprets differently, depending on the cultural and social environment in which they live. As a rule, people like to stick with the familiar. And that may be the aromas of the natural environment that surrounds them or perhaps special traits of their regional cuisine.

But how does cleanliness smell? Well, this question too is answered differently in each country. The fragrance experts at Henkel therefore conduct consumer research in order to determine precisely which fragrance preferences the consumers of the various nations have. Frank Rittler, Senior Perfumer at the Henkel Fragrance Center explains: “In Norway and Portugal, household cleaners smell of pine, while in Germany and Austria they smell of lemon and orange. Aromas such as lavender, rosemary, basil and thyme are preferred in the Mediterranean countries – all herbs that are frequently used in the local cuisine. The Japanese find the odor of dried fish particularly pleasant. Meanwhile, chlorine plays a major role in Spain and Italy as an indicator of cleanliness. North Africa offers a particularly striking example: there, the soaps have a very chemical, leathery odor, at least to the European nose – for Africans, this is the absolute epitome of freshness.”

The world’s noses also react differently with respect to laundry care products: in the USA, the wash will frequently smell of musk and vanilla, while in Germany this would be unthinkable. Generally, it can be said for laundry detergents that it is not just the odor but also the strength of fragrance that make a difference. For example, in Nordic countries fragrances are incorporate in substantially lower doses so that the wash emits no more than a discreet scent.

Consumer expectations as to how long their laundry should retain its aroma have changed with time. “Nowadays, consumers want a more lasting fragrance, one that also remains for an appreciable time after the fabrics have dried,” comments Frank Rittler. However, this too can change, depending on regional variance: “The strength and penetration of a scent based on the same aroma can differ considerably from one place to another, with temperature and humidity playing a particularly important role.”

The influence of emotion
In addition to individual preferences, feelings can also affect which fragrances consumers like – because aromas engender certain emotions and can also cause a degree of mood change. While exciting and refreshing fragrances may be preferred in certain situations, in others consumers will go for the more relaxing, weightier notes.


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