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Defining the smell of success

Jasmine Alimin
Jasmine Alimin • 7 min read
Defining the smell of success
What turns a perfume into a powerful scent for winners? Here's how to define the scent of success.
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The late great Gianni Versace once said: “Perfume puts the finishing touches to elegance — a detail that subtly underscores the look, an invisible extra that completes a man and a woman’s personality. Without it there is something missing.” To him, perfume reveals more about a person’s identity than their own handwriting, and is just as important as the clothes one wears.

That is why in this billion-dollar industry, so much time and effort is spent on creating extraordinary fragrances that strike an emotional chord with users, and helping them find the scent that makes them feel like winners.

According to fragrance expert Danielle Fleming, aromas can enhance your mood and change your behaviour. That’s because your olfactory system (aka your sense of smell) is directly connected to the limbic system, a primitive part of the brain responsible for interpreting memories and emotions. “When you put on a fragrance that you connect to positively, it can instantly make you feel confident and in a great positive mood — I see clients literally light up, stand a little taller and have a smile on their face when it happens,” says Fleming.

Wearing perfume is like finishing off your makeup with lipstick, or in the case of men, enhancing your look with a great hairstyle. It’s become a necessary item in a person’s grooming arsenal that contributes to their personal identity, and one that sets their frame of mind. As multi-faceted human beings, our choice of perfume coincides with the mood we’re in. And just like clothes and accessories, it’s not uncommon for one to possess more than one scent to suit different emotions or occasions.

The question is: what makes a great scent for success in the workplace? Just like a perfect pair of jeans, perfume is very individual and not one size fits all. It’s almost instinctual you’ll know it when you smell it — which is why perfumers always tell you to smell with your brain, not your nose.

Of course, if you really don’t have the time to sit through sniff tests, Fleming does have a confidence-boosting cheat sheet for easy reference. If you are naturally extroverted, go for chypre fragrances with notes of patchouli, jasmine, rose, bergamot, labdanum and oak moss. They typically have a Mediterranean scent that contrasts citrus top notes with a warm, woody, mossy foundation.

Oriental perfumes with alluring notes of vanilla, spices and patchouli are scents that also help you make a glamorous impact at the workplace.

If you are more of an introvert, you want a scent that makes you feel confident but doesn’t draw too much attention to yourself, such as clean aquatic scents with a hint of sparkly citrus notes.

The allure of patchouli
In a 2014 survey conducted by UK-based marketing communication agency, Creston Health, a panel of 200 “sophisticated noses” sorted through over 100 scents — from stale dirty linen to fresh lavender, candy floss and many luxury perfumes, to determine if any of these fragrances were associated with successful business people.

To the researchers’ surprise, expensive designer fragrances were shunned in favour of patchouli — a popular olfactory note associated with joss sticks — as the scent most strongly associated with successful men and women.

However, Creston’s Sensory Unit reported that it is not enough to wear patchouli on its own as the singularly smoky scent can be overpowering to some. It’s believed that men who want to smell powerful need a musky perfume that blends patchouli with deeper base notes like sandalwood and black pepper.

Success for women is sweeter: think patchouli mixed with florals, tropical fruits, and honeysuckle. And according to the study, the least inspiring scents identified were pencil shavings, coal, leather, cedarwood and medicinal scents.

“We all know how important first impressions are in business so we’re hoping these findings could be useful for people going for job interviews and those going through the new business pitching process,” says Don Elgie, Creston’s CEO.

A study of successful scents
To help perfumers improve future formulations, a study was carried out by the Department of Physics at Imperial College London in 2019, which looked at 1,000 fragrance notes in more than 10,000 perfumes and their success in online shops.

It was revealed that while typical notes like lavender and geranium were found in many successful perfumes, less common notes like musk, vetiver and vanilla had high enhancement effects and a stronger link to better selling fragrances.

The conclusion is that while a brand name can influence per- fume popularity, it is ultimately the smell that is largely responsible for its own sellability.

The institute’s researchers say this data could help perfumers look more closely at using the right ingredients to create more successful scent combinations. “Our work provides insights into factors that play a role in the success of perfumes. It also sets up a framework for a statistical analysis of fragrances based on simple properties and customer reviews. It could be a beneficial tool for systematic ingredient selection and act as an artificial ‘nose’,” explains lead researcher Vaiva Vasiliauskaite.

While these findings may be helpful in determining what you can add to your fragrance wardrobe, the beauty of a perfume is still dependent on the nose of the beholder. What may appeal to one person may smell detestable to another. And depending on your body’s chemical makeup, the same perfume can smell different from person to person. All you can really do is give it a spritz and see where your emotions take you.

Oriental scents for her

Guerlain Mon Guerlain Sparkling Bouquet
The modern woman’s Oriental eau de parfum, Mon Guerlain Sparkling Bouquet opens with a fruity accord that transcends into a floral heart of lavender and jasmine, finally settling into a sensual and creamy base of sandalwood and vanilla.

Chanel Coco Mademoiselle L’eau Privée
Billed as a night-time fragrance, L’Eau Privée offers a more delicate and intimate take on the iconic Oriental scent with the signature wood and patchouli notes toned down in favour of mandarin and rose.

Gucci Guilty
A must-have in every working woman’s perfume wardrobe, this fruity floral eau de toilette is a sparkling contrast of soft lilac petals with vibrant peach, raspberry and geranium, rounded out with the sensuality of amber and patchouli.

Yves Saint Laurent Libre Intense
Not for the faint-hearted, this eau de parfum is loud, proud, and unabashedly Oriental, fusing citrusy notes with lavender, orchid and jasmine, and rounded out with vanilla, ambergris and vetiver.

Acqua di Parma Colonia Essenza
A must-have in every man’s scent arsenal this eau de cologne – a timeless classic with a strong magnetic personality. It starts off citrusy with luscious grapefruit and mandarin, brought together by a vibrant woody patchouli base.

Dior Homme
Described by its creator François Demachy as having an “unmistakably virile signature”, this eau de toilette combines leathery cedar, earthy patchouli and woody vetiver notes for a bold, intense fragrance that remains a classic today.

Tom Ford Oud Wood
Oud wood is often burned in incense-filled temples, but it blends magically with other notes to create captivating scents. In this manly eau de parfum, oud meets rosewood, cardamom, sandalwood and vetiver to produce a warm, sensual scent worn only by the most confident of men.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Amyris
A floral-woody eau de parfum that pays homage to the vibrancy of urban Paris, this fragrance highlights the soft, resinous scent of amyris and vibrancy of iris, enhanced by the warmth of vanilla.

MAIN PHOTO: Unsplash/Lucas Mendes

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