This holiday season, most of us spend our free time looking for an appropriate gift for our family and friends. When we are invited for parties, of course we shouldn’t arrive at our hosts’ door step empty-handed. It can be quite stressful looking for that perfect gift. Fragrances are popular gifts as just about everyone loves scents.
In Europe, where fragrance is a large part in the daily beauty routine, research carried out by P&G Fragrances revealed that more than 70% of participants gave or received a fragrance in 2008, proving that perfumes undoubtedly remain one of the most popular gifts. In fact 60% of respondents said they would be impressed if their partner made the effort to select a fragrance for them. Which is not surprising, given that over a third of respondents (35%) rate fragrances as the most thoughtful Christmas gift of all, above clothing, electrical goods, fine food & drink, CDs & DVDs.
Clearly, one of the reasons why fragrance is so well appreciated by the receivers is that it requires you to put in thought, and understand the receiver. But as a gifter the challenge is making sure that we get it right. Almost two thirds of gifters admitted that they find it difficult to select a fragrance as a gift, because it so personal to the wearer. So where exactly do you start?
The truth is to find the ‘one’ we need to go on a journey to understand the recipient’s preferences, and have a few perfumes in mind before we even venture into the stores. So let’s get started!
Go Detective: Choosing the Right Fragrance
The first step of the journey is to find out if the receiver currently wears a fragrance or not. It’s an important first step, as it will affect how you will go about choosing “the one.”
For those purchasing for someone already wearing a fragrance why not take a bit of time, have some fun and “go detective!”
If you have access to the place where the recipient keeps their current fragrances, or can ask their partner to have a look on your behalf, then look to see which bottles are being used the most and take a note of their names and brands.
You should also check their strength, which is normally printed on the bottle as Eau de Cologne, Eau de Toilette, Eau de Parfum or Parfum – in order of increasing concentration of perfume oil, giving a good insight into how the recipient likes to wear fragrance from day-to-day (lots of light spritzing or a single, indulgent application!).
This information is important as it helps you to determine the receiver’s olfactory preferences – the smells which they like. Every fragrance belongs to a particular olfactory family, the main families being Citrus, Aromatic, Floral, Woody, Chypre, and Oriental (in order of increasing richness and complexity), which helps categorise the type of scent.
By logging on to the internet and searching the name of the fragrance you can discover what olfactory family it lies in. Then you can go further, exploring other fragrances within that family, irrespective of brand, and you should find many which will potentially suit the receiver!
Then you can choose them a new fragrance from any brand, of the same fragrance family, of a similar strength, safe in the knowledge that it should be familiar to the wearer and therefore much loved.
Top Tip: Most in-store Beauty Consultants have a good understanding of the fragrance families, so knowing providing them with any insights will help them navigate you through the wealth of choice in store.
If you don’t have access to the wearer’s current perfumes, try and identify their perfume smell when you meet them – is it light or rich, fresh or warm, powerful or conservative, sharp or soft, acidic or sweet? And even better, try and identify its actual key signature – is it floral, woody, oriental, etc. Once you have made a mental note of these, you have a better chance of buying a similar fragrance which will be well received. You could also subtly ask them what they are wearing and if they tell you the name, then you’ve got the information you need!
Matching the Fragrance
If you need to run into a store and want to buy a perfume as a gift, without any knowledge of what the recipient currently wears or whether they even wear any, then buying by the look and attitude of a brand is a great way to start.
So think about the person you are buying for and match their lifestyle and personality to the character, style and colours of the brands as you look around the store. There should be one or two good fits. Once selected, there will typically be a choice of fragrances within the chosen brand.
Start by spraying a paper blotter with each perfume. The first few minutes will give you an idea of the top notes of the perfume. Then wait for 20 minutes and re-smell the blotters. This will give you a better idea of how the fragrance will smell from day to day once the initial freshness (the ‘top notes’) has evaporated.
Top-Tip: If your nose is having difficulty in discerning differences in the fragrances, because you have smelled so many, then smell the un-perfumed skin on your arm. This helps to re-calibrate your nose and is a technique used by perfumers. A lot of people in department stores also reset their noses by using coffee beans. Although there is no scientific proof that this method works, it might help to clear your nose and the smell of the coffee beans does help perk you up!
As you’re selecting which fragrance is “the one”, there is one very important point to remember: the scent you like is likely to be very different to the scent your loved one will like! Not too surprising considering that fragrance liking is based on an individual’s olfactory preferences, which differ from person to person, based on their upbringing and life experiences. So, as you test the fragrances on the paper blotters, picture the person you are buying for, think about what they like and dislike and it should help you fit the fragrance to their personality.
Layering the Love
At the end of it all, the main goal of gifting a fragrance is for the recipient to absolutely love the scent and to enjoy the luxurious experience of wearing it. Gift sets normally include other scented products, which compliment the main perfume, typically including fragranced shower gels, body lotions and deodorants. These all help enrich the luxurious experience of wearing the fragrance, particularly if one uses them one after another: shower with the scented shower gel, then apply the body lotion and finish off with the perfume; this ‘layering’ approach leads to a wonderful, long-lasting, halo of scent around the wearer, without being over-powering. And of course, the actual process of using each product in turn is very luxurious in itself and the result is a beautifully scented, steamed-up bathroom, which is certainly one way to mark your territory!
Top Tip: Buy a gift set or one or two accompanying scented toiletries, since you are then giving more than a scent – you are giving a whole pampering experience and that is a wonderful gift.
The Magic of Scent
The best part of fragrance gifting is that if we choose correctly, it will quickly become an essential part of their life; always the essential final step in the recipient’s daily beauty regimen. And we would have succeeded in accomplishing the main goal of gifting a fragrance – for the recipient to absolutely love the scent and to enjoy the luxurious experience of wearing it.
 2009 Pan-European study carried out by Ipsos across the UK, France, Italy, Spain and Germany, polling 100 women and 100 men aged between 16 and 49 in each market.
Images and press release courtesy of P & G Prestige.