March 25, 2024
Scent and Sensibility: Unraveling Gen Z's Fragrance Preferences
5 MIN READ

Everyone knows that finding a fragrance isn’t just about whether it smells good; the motivations usually run deeper than that. Each scent tells a story about personality and individuality, where personal and communal narratives are woven into each choice. This is especially true for the diverse and dynamic Gen Z demographic, as they explore their identity and seek comfort in their own skin and surroundings. 

At the heart of the challenge for brands lies the task of deciphering Gen Z's complex emotional landscapes and their unique, ever-evolving scent preferences. With this in mind, our exploration, fueled by AI analytics and rich human insight, sheds light on the core consumer identities and adjacent high-velocity trends within the Gen Z perfume wearers across four markets. 

Our aim was to build foundation knowledge of the Gen Z fragrance discourse, which would aid in identifying key consumer mindsets, sizing emerging and established trend categories, and uncovering opportunity spaces across four markets: US, UK, France, and Germany. We ran a dataset of over 2500 TikTok posts and 600,000 web search signals through our AI, which was able to employ semiotic analysis to group the data. The result? Eight distinct mindset spaces with their own unique preferences, needs, and pain points. 

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synthesizing vast data into actionable insights that reflect each market's unique cultural and economic backdrop

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grasping the distinct consumer perspectives that these diverse regions offer

Market-Specific Nuances & Strategic Directions

There were three main consumer segments that displayed growth in recent months. 

Scent Explorers

Driven by the desire for affordable yet experiential fragrance alternatives, this group gravitates towards brands like Zara and Lidl in the hopes of finding fragrances that offer the same delight as high-end brands without the hefty price tag. They value the ability to experiment with scents before making a purchase, indicating a need for brands to facilitate accessible sampling methods and transparent communication about scent profiles and ingredients. For these consumers, it’s less about finding a signature scent for every day, and more about building a fragrance wardrobe that allows them to express themselves in different ways according to the situation. 

Scent Explorers can be further engaged through localized strategies, such as highlighting affordable finds and dupes available in popular retail chains specific to each country. Providing in-store or online scent trials and creating content around the joy of scent discovery tailored to each market's preferred shopping destinations could enhance the consumer experience. Additionally, creating digital content that educates on scent layering and mixing techniques can empower consumers to craft their unique fragrance profiles, enhancing the overall scent discovery experience.

Consumers from the US tend towards the "clean" aesthetic, which can be leveraged by offering fragrances that are transparent about their ingredients and embody simplicity and purity in scent profiles. Conversely, in the UK, matching perfumes to outfits highlights the importance of versatility in a fragrance. Brands could consider creating collections that cater to different occasions or moods, offering advice on how to pair scents with fashion.

Curated digital profiles:

-Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok (US)

-Weibo and Douyin (China)

Pulled 400 million unique searches to estimate the growth of each segment

Used Quilt.AI’s Sphere language and image capabilities to categorise lifestyle areas into specific segments

Glamour Seekers

These consumers are confident, bold, and comfortable with modern masculinity. They also often turn to social media to express their personal style and interests.

Actionable Insight: Collaborate with high-profile fashion influencers to create vibrant, trend-setting campaigns that resonate with this segment's desire for attention and admiration.

Vanity Vanguards

Highly image-driven, these individuals often seek validation through their appearance and are likely to engage heavily with both grooming and fashion products.

Actionable Insight:Leverage digital marketing strategies that feature before-and-after visuals and testimonials that showcase the transformative power of the products

Conscious Icons

These men aim to be recognized as modern, open-minded, and sensitive – embodying the image of "the woke good guy" in today's society by actively participating in movements related to activism and gender equality.

Actionable Insight:Design marketing campaigns that highlight their participation in these movements, showcasing products that enable them to express and amplify their desired social identities.

Youthful Trendsetters

They value beauty while still maintaining traditional masculine ideals of what it means to be good-looking. These men also tend to seek out methods of maintaining their youthful appearances.

Actionable Insight:Market products that boost physical appeal and suit active lifestyles, and focus on dynamic marketing that highlights masculine elegance.

Trusted Patrons

Despite seeing gender in traditionally binary terms, these men aren’t afraid of behaving in more feminine manners. They own their uniqueness and tend to be deeply loyal to brands that affirm their identity.

Actionable Insight:Focusing on brand narratives that celebrate individuality and personal expression will better engage this segment. Brands can also offer personalized services to maintain their commitment.

Innovation Advocates

As consumers who value knowledge, they embrace technology and innovation that enhances their lives. Wanting to stay ahead of the curve, they prefer brands that offer cutting-edge solutions that reflect their own mentality.

Actionable Insight:Market products to this segment by emphasizing innovation, utility, and exclusivity. Brands can focus on how their products integrate the latest technology and engage these men through intelligent content that speaks to their curiosity.

Visuals illustrated are to bring concepts to life only.

Unique Signatures

They seek perfumes that enhance and work with their unique body chemistry, with the ultimate aim of finding a unique scent that complements their natural essence. The trend towards pheromone perfumes and zodiac-inspired scents speaks to their desire for personalized fragrance experiences that resonate on a deeper, almost instinctual level. However, the lack of opportunities to test how a perfume melds with their skin before purchase and the overwhelming amount of information available can lead to indecision and reluctance to explore outside their comfort zones.

In markets with a strong interest in body chemistry and zodiac signs, like the USA and UK, brands could introduce interactive and  personalized scent recommendations online or in-store, based on astrological signs or skin chemistry quizzes. Marketing content that delves into the science behind fragrances and body chemistry can demystify the process of selecting the perfect scent, fostering a deeper connection between the consumer and the fragrance.

France's focus on the top scent or perfume of the season implies a market that values trendiness and exclusivity. To take advantage of this, brands could engage consumers by highlighting seasonal picks or limited edition scents.

Visuals illustrated are to bring concepts to life only.

Aromatic Achievers

Given an increasing awareness of aromatherapy's benefits for mental states and productivity, this segment looks for scents that can boost mood and concentration. The key challenge here lies in finding scents that are potent enough to be effective yet subtle enough to not overwhelm, especially in shared spaces. For them, fragrance is a functional way to help them switch gears between enjoyment and focus, creating a separation in their environment for different tasks.

For this segment, launching specifically designed functional fragrances that target concentration and mood could meet the growing demand for scents with a purpose. This demand can be met with tailored advice and products in each country. For instance, in the USA, aligning fragrances with the Dark Academia aesthetic for study scents, or in the UK, offering advice on perfumes that boost focus as a study hack. In France and Germany, emphasizing environmental scents and how they can aid focus and mood could cater to the preferences for ambient fragrances and aromatherapy.

Utilizing social media platforms to share tips, tricks, and the science behind specific scent notes and their benefits can educate and engage this audience, making the selection of functional fragrances a more informed and personalized experience.

By integrating these country-specific insights into the broader strategic framework, fragrance brands can create more nuanced, personalized, and engaging experiences for Gen Z consumers, ensuring relevance and resonance in each key market. This tailored approach not only aligns with Gen Z's values and preferences but also enhances brand loyalty and market presence in the ever-evolving fragrance landscape.

Read the full case study here.

Inspired by our insights? Discover how we can craft custom solutions together.

Visuals illustrated are to bring concepts to life only.
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