RE|CONNECT: Smell is the new touch

Whatever they may be, fresh or sensual, intimate or bold, abstract or
figurative, fragrances truly reflect our history. During the Covid-19 crisis,
perfumes have gained new functions: they support and transport. They make
us feel reconnected. Smell is the new touch.

In recent months, we have experienced an unprecedented situation: we are deprived of touch—a sense of connection, safety, comfort and affection in a time when we need it most. We are forced to distance ourselves and to change our lifestyle in ways we couldn’t have imagined only a few months earlier. Yet, the void that this unnatural sensorial absence left was filled in by another sense:olfaction. Controlled by the brain’s limbic system where emotions lie, the sense of smell is a powerful trigger and we experience its unmatched impact on our mood, conscious or not. Olfaction plays an essential role by transmitting reassurance, protection and pleasure.

“The sense of smell is our most primal sense and wired to the brain for survival instincts,” comments David Suffit Reedman, head of fragrance development in Paris. “In the most challenging situations, the human body is a fantastic machine that can find comfort in what often seems like the smallest pleasures in life.”

Smell is the new touch

Fragrance now occupies a larger place in our lives, allowing connection through positive emotions, escapism and memories despite contextual restrictions. More than ever we are using perfume for ourselves rather than for the others, to feel good and reassured rather than to seduce. We are turning to scents to remember our loved ones or to be transported to a favorite place or time.

“In a stressful, sometimes distressing context, fragrances will definitely have a major role to play in bringing more wellbeing and comfort to people,” adds Louise Cranz, Director of Consumer Insights in Paris. “This is why understanding the link between emotions and olfaction is, in my opinion, one of the major challenges ahead. It’s a question of capturing what is underlying, unconscious rather than declarative. Unlocking emotional responses through fragrances is a key focus.”

As our relationship to perfume evolves, new consumer expectations are emerging in a new context. In a Firmenich Social Media Insights study, 60% of consumers are looking for scents that make them feel clean and 50% of them expect to feel comforted while wearing a fragrance.*

Although a quest for a new type of scent was already emerging, for Dora Baghriche, Senior Perfumer, the Covid-19 crisis accelerated the shift. As she comments, “We yearn for a fragrance to reconnect ourselves with who we are and to remind ourselves of what we really need. We want a perfume that sublimates, emphasizes, and reveals our inner self. A perfume that makes us say, ‘This is me, but better.’”

* Firmenich covid 19 global survey ‘The worldwide quarantine’, April 2020

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