PLEASURE PRINCIPLES: Putting Purpose in Perfume

Pizza and chocolate, cookies and cakes, these are a few of my favorite things. They are also a key part of wellbeing. The Firmenich Social Media Insights team found that these indulgences make up 25% of foods associated with wellbeing. This learning is integral to understanding today’s consumer. Get ready for the evolution of wellness to wellbeing—a category not solely obsessed with sacrifices and rigor, but inclusive of rewards and pleasure.

This past Spring, trend reports recommended future innovations concerning cleanses, clinical and conscious. In order to feel relieved of stress, people were encouraged to meditate, detox, exercise, eat their vegetables and tidy up. Sounds exhausting. Couldn’t I just light a candle and take a bath? 

Consumers desire “creature comforts.” Influencers might be praising the power of green cocktails and chia puddings on Instagram, but increasing sales of cheese and processed foods illustrate a more honest (and possibly more human) story. Likewise, sales of wine and comfort foods exploded globally during quarantine. Such pleasures might seem guilty, but as Glamour journalist Jennifer Weiner suggests, in times of crisis, the act of feeling secure and comforted provides enough benefit. Perhaps we can take a break from exercising, optimizing and making everything look like a yoga retreat. The New York Times, went so far as to give their readers permission to “stop trying to be productive.” 

Not just an extravagance, perfumes have a necessary role to play as antidotes to stress. The challenge will be how to play it well. The 2019 Firmenich Conscious Consumer study asked consumers to rank their expectations of naturality for different consumer goods. At the top of the list (desiring more naturality) were fresh fruits, vegetables and facial skincare. At the bottom of the list were perfumes, spirits and candy. There we were grouped with the vices. If that is the case, can perfume be considered healthy? First, let’s broaden our understanding of healthy, and recognize that treating ourselves is an essential part of healthful living. Guilty pleasures are what people use to celebrate and feel good. Second, while the world is racing toward wellbeing, let’s be sure to include a guilt-free space to indulge as well.

The delight and inspiration that consumers find through perfume makes it a unique product. Fragrance can transport the wearers to feelings of joy. It can bring back positive memories. It can even satisfy wanderlust—an especially relevant function, given that travel restrictions are still in place.  As editor Erika Stalder observes, “A scent’s power to evoke the aura of beloved people, places, and things that we can’t interact with while sequestered at home may also explain why fragrance sales have held steady despite widespread job loss and financial insecurity amid a global pandemic.”

Fragrant indulgences are both guilt-free and gratifying. Remember to leave room for the pure pleasures of perfume. Until then, try and “take it easy.”


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