Though I consider myself a conscientious consumer of many products, cosmetics are not among my more researched and careful purchases. When it’s time to buy new razors, for example, I buy like a person in the dark: I reach for a product vaguely in the same shape as my last set of razors, at a price point somewhere between “too expensive” and “will probably cut me.”
Given my lack of attention, I was entirely taken by surprise when I opened my most recent razor purchase and released the fragrance of. . . fruit? Strawberries and tangerines, in fact. The scent was embedded in the rubber handle.
“Why do razors need to be fruit scented?” asked a Facebook friend incredulously when I overshared this information.
“Women like fruit,” I joked. “In caveman days, women were gatherers and developed sharp senses for the pinks and reds and delicate fragrances of berries hidden in the grass. Women also like fruit because of fertility, I think. These razors look and smell like orange fruits so that I can find them in dense foliage and also so that I remember to give birth.” (I was only half inventing this ridiculous explanation. A few years ago, there was a published hypothesis that women liked pink because of ancient ancestors looking for berries and fever in small children, while men–and everyone else–generally like blue because of scanning the horizon or something.)
But I decided to do a little googling, and to my complete surprise–I told you I was an unobservant cosmetics consumer–scented razors for women and men have been around for several years, and there is a moderately reasonable marketing explanation for it.
You’ve probably heard of scent marketing in more dramatic examples such as movie theaters with ambient smells released through air condition vents or whathaveyou, but many marketers have been looking for more direct means of reaching customers through smell. You can look away from colorful advertising and block ambient noise with your headphones, but you can’t turn your sense of smell off. Every breath is a marketing opportunity (as one creepy-sounding researcher put it).
Additionally, scent is thought to be primally associated with memory and emotional response. That is to say: the link between a scent (delicious food, dangerous chemicals, a fresh-from-factory scent) and your reaction (increased appetite, avoidance, excitement) can be so immediate and involuntary as to affect your behavior without your conscious awareness. For example, some realtors find a way to infuse new homes with the smell of fresh baking to stimulate positive and warm feelings, or stores may use ambient scents to associate their products with pleasant, clean, or appetizing smells.
But the razor with a scented handle extends this scent-and-emotional-response tactic to the next possible step. The scents–fruity and floral aromas for women’s razors, and citrus or herbal scents for men’s razors–are meant to create an overall positive impression of the product, but some razor marketers are also hoping to use the scents to encourage brand loyalty in new users. (Source: NYT.) If your first razor, wielded in a ritual that for young men and women both can signify a benchmark on the path to adulthood, has the scent of strawberries or a vague “refreshing scent” (men don’t smell like discrete objects), theoretically you’ll want to keep reaching for the brand whose sweet or refreshing smell reminds you of the excitement or empowerment of your first shave.
I guess. I’m not convinced that human scent-memory associations work in such a Pavlovian way. But in any case, the razors definitely do not work that way: after about two weeks in the shower caddy, my new razors entirely lost their fruity scent. Even digging my thumbnail into the rubber handle released not one whiff of tangerine.