Sunday, February 10, 2013

Perfume by the Numbers: Growing Influence of Fragrance Bloggers

Here at FirstNerve we love data. In the past, we’ve data-mined Google Trends to explore various aspects of perfume. When she signed a new multi-year fragrance deal in 2010, we asked “Is Paris Hilton played out?” The answer, based on the volume of web searches for “Paris Hilton + perfume,” was yes.

Google web search data also revealed precise seasonal peaks in perfume interest. There is a huge spike just before Christmas, followed by a tiny but reliable peak before Valentine’s Day. And there is another peak for Mother’s Day, the exact date of which varies from country to country.

We’ve mused before about the health of the smelly blogosphere and it occurred to us that it was time to take another look at the numbers. So we fired up Google Trends and looked at search volume for “perfume.” Here are the U.S. data from 2004 to present:

The nine big spikes correspond to Christmas-time searches from 2004 through 2012. There are two little blips after each Christmas spike: the first is Valentine’s Day and the second is Mother’s Day. After recession-related decreases in 2009 and 2010, Christmas-time volume picked up noticeably in the past two years.

How does interest in perfume contrast with other luxury good searches? The chart below adds “wine” and “jewelry” to the mix. Wine has the biggest volume and also shows the post-recession dip and recent recovery at Christmas-time. There is a similar pattern for jewelry. (Note the pronounced Valentine’s Day peak.)

Now let’s turn to the blogosphere. This chart shows search volume for “perfume review,” a concept of recent vintage.

The big peaks once again correspond to high Christmas-time search volume. “Perfume review” search volume began rising dramatically in 2009 and shows no sign of slowing down. With rising search volume, Valentine’s and Mother’s Day blips are now clearly visible.

What does this mean? It means that more and more people are turning to online fragrance reviews as they do their seasonal perfume shopping. That’s testimony to the growing influence of fragrance bloggers.

UPDATE February 12, 2013

Commenter Persolaise asks for more data. (Our kind of nerd!) We’re happy to oblige. Here’s how “perfume review” stacks up against “wine review” and “jewelry review”.


Perfume review searches on Google have been climbing steadily and in 2012 caught up and passed wine review searches. Take that, wine snobs!


Persolaise said...


How would that final graph look if you placed equivalent lines for 'wine' and 'jewellery' onto it?

Avery Gilbert said...


Good question! I ran the numbers for you. See the post script above.

Persolaise said...

Wow! I wasn't expecting to see that! Even more fascinating. I can see why 'jewellery review' might have remained fairly steady, but I'm surprised 'wine' is currently below 'perfume'.

Thanks for doing that. Feel free to send more data our way any time.

+ Q Perfume Blog said...

I am not sure if this is a good or bad thing - people are migrating from commenters in blogs to blog writers... the exchange of ideas are becoming rather arid...
I also don't like the idea of perfume writing becoming banal...
To much to read also leaves no time to comment...
In the other hand...the more interest in perfume....the better...hard to decide if this is good or bad...

Avery Gilbert said...

+ Q Perfume Blog:

You raise an interesting point: is the audience for fragrance blogging changing?

The rise in review searches might mean people are using perfume blogs as pre-shopping. This would be consistent with your observation that fewer people are stopping to comment & discuss.

But a decline in comment activity is interesting on its own. (How can we measure it?) Also, I'd like to know how many fragrance blogs the average perfumista actively reads. (Again--how find out?)

+ Q Perfume Blog said...

Ok, I will answer to those question according to my very own experience:

When I did not have my own blog, I used to make a round in the most popular ones, read the articles and leave comments - engage into some of the discussions there, ask questions, etc etc. When I started my own blog I still used the others as reference in the beginning, but stopped to comment. Today I have very little time to read these blogs - I do maybe once a month, or once every 2 months. Some of them I just don't read anymore. I have no time for them.

About facebook - To me it became a micro blog. I noticed that the day I began to link my articles to my facebook page, many of the people who used to comment in my blog just started to comment there, because it is easier and faster. Some just became lazy and just fire a thumb up (like it) and that is all.
So I got more public - a LOT more, but less comments - so I have no idea if this was a good idea in the first place.

I do think that perfume blogs have different objectives - therefore different publics.
The ones who became "elle, vogue, marie claire" kind of blogs, with posts of new launches and reviews and top 10 lists for every special date or season - like all women's magazines - are the favorite of perfume shoppers. The are very popular, sponsored and I am not sure if the opinions are 100% honest and not bought by the ones sponsoring them. You know, if you criticize you don't get the samples or the perfume bottles to review next time... Brands don't like to pay/invest to get bad reviews. So they are good for shoppers as long as they sample before buying.

The ones that are discussing more than just reviews are the favorite of people who study chemistry, are in the industry, or see perfumes in a different angle rather than a good purchase.

Some blogs became perfume magazines - so people are also liking this format better.

Too many blogs certainly decrease one blog's public, but increase in the general graph of perfume interest.

Also quality x quantity is an issue - because now a days everyone calls himself a perfume critic. I have also seen new blogs translating from other blogs and adding a shop cart... that is the risk we are get our content stolen...

In general, I think people today are migrating to perfume groups in facebook, and leaving the blogs just as reference to purchase, which to me it is a pity indeed. I would get very bored just to review fragrances for shoppers. I need to write about fragrances in general - trends, advertising, a bit of chemistry, a bit of perfume bottle design, the sense of smell, and reviews...

I also notice that perfume blogging became a huge competition of egos - who gets more launches, who gets to go to the big events, who gets to have others writing in the blog for free (get a team of writers), who gets more sponsorships etc etc... since I am in the other side of the Equator, I live all that far from me. I am not competing with anyone. I find that ridiculous. But it does exist!

But this is IMO!

How to quantify? Well, you are the professor of database here, not me...I am the caipirinha and barbecue expert dear...we can have drinks and eat a good steak that I will prepare, while you do the math!