The Fresh Scent of Innovation

How we brought perceptions of laundry and scent from around the world straight to the world’s leading fragrance makers.

By Marieke Boers, qualitative research director at Winkle and Jose Manuel Santiago Moreno Wolters, global innovation CI manager at International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF)

Can online consumers contribute to market research about fragrance if we can’t digitally transmit scents yet? Short answer: yes, most certainly. International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF), a leading global designer and manufacturer of fragrances and flavours and innovation research company Winkle have recently begun adding input from online consumer communities to IFF’s fragrance development process.

IFF aspires to always be a leading innovator of sensory experiences that move the world. Part of that ambition is to bring the voice of the consumer to the heart of their fragrance development process. To achieve such ‘consumer-centricity’, the IFF Fabric Care team realised that their data-driven approach to consumer research would needed to be replaced by a more systematic, global one that focuses more on insight generation and future outlook. As such, the idea of an online, context-based tactic was born. This would enable IFF to connect with consumers regularly, and in a sufficiently early phase of development to uncover insights that could result in genuine consumer-driven innovations.

 If the internet has no nose… how can it smell?

Changing habits isn´t easily done, however. Research into how consumers experience fragrances had so far predominantly been conducted in a controlled environment, in laboratories and with associated agencies. From that background, the idea of using online methods immediately runs aground: online connections can’t convey smells, period. To convince stakeholders they should invest, the market researchers at IFF Fabric Care needed a clear vision, showing a ‘win-win situation’, and best of all, proof of concept.

To explore this new and promising research avenue, IFF approached Winkle with the request to create a global research programme for their priority markets: UK, Germany, USA, Brazil, Mexico, China and Vietnam. The programme should:

  • Connect local and global IFF multidisciplinary teams (Scent Design Managers, Perfumers, Technical, and Marketing teams) with the consumers’ world;
  • Accelerate internal team feedback for insight generation;
  • Generate insights and turn them into business opportunities, driving the future of the Fabric Care category.

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