What’s in a name? Whether you call them tester strips, sampling papers, odour cards, perfume blotters or the more poetic ‘mouillettes de parfum’, there’s no doubt that scent blotter strips now play a huge part in the marketing of perfume. Of course brand image still goes a long way towards selling a fragrance but, however cleverly it’s promoted, at the end of the day the customer will only buy it if they love the smell.

The concept of perfume sampling is not a new idea – in fact its history goes back around a hundred years; but scent samples first became widely used when American women’s magazines started featuring them in the 1960s. However, at that time what you sniffed on the paper or card didn’t usually compare too accurately with how the perfume smelt in real life, as the composition of the sampling medium usually had some effect on the aroma of the scent. Contemporary sampling has come a long way since the days when you’d eagerly rip open a strip in a magazine and rub it onto your wrist.

Nowadays, with so many manufacturers competing at the perfume counter, a considerable amount of technical effort goes into making sure that fragrances smell as good as possible on a scent strip. To start with, there are several different grades of absorbent board to choose from; this is usually dependent on brand and budget. Perfumers will typically test several different types of board, evaluating their suitability by spraying them with, and dipping them into, the proposed scent, as well as using a roller to spread it around, noting the various effects on the fragrance. It’s important that the medium used for sampling is pH neutral to avoid cross-contamination. This may all seem slightly over the top, but manufacturers and retailers are well aware that how the perfume smells on these cards can have a major effect on a consumer’s purchase decision – crucial when a company has invested a huge amount of time, money and high quality ingredients in developing a new fragrance.

Blotters can now also be custom designed to order rather than just plain and blank, available in just about any shape or size and fully branded, using low-odour ink, if required. Obviously this has the marketing advantage of helping the customer to remember which perfumes they sampled after they’ve left the beauty counter, imprinting your brand in their mind! And, in this digital age, they can even feature QR codes or NFC tags so that potential purchasers can find out more about the product online later.

Although the supply of scent strips is something of a niche market it’s becoming an increasingly important one, with demand on the rise from sectors such as food and drink, scented candles, aromatherapy oils and now the massive e-cigarette industry with its wide range of flavours. Smell is a more powerful sense than many people realise, and can evoke all sorts of feelings and memories within a consumer – potentially having a huge subconscious influence on what they buy. Adding scent to product advertising can raise it to a whole new level and make it stand out from competitor’s offerings. It’s not just the perfume industry that can benefit – smell can be included in an imaginative way in almost any marketing campaign with a bit of creative thought.

So whatever you call them, scent blotter strips are here to stay, becoming increasingly sophisticated and clearly one of the most powerful tools in the perfumer’s marketing mix.

Written by Andy Hudson
Andy’s business is one of the world’s leading providers of fragrance tester strips through its two websites; www.maxi-mise.co.uk and www.scentblotterstrips.com
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