Saturday, 28 November 2015

A Swiss student's thesis on the influence of perfume blogs - one blogger's view!

Source: Wikipedia
Further to my recent post, requesting readers' help with a Swiss business student's online survey on the influence of perfume blogs, I feel enough time has passed since I published it to present my answers to Nina's survey for bloggers. I have added the odd thing I have thought of since, and made a couple of slight edits here and there, notably to the formatting. So here goes...

What is especially important to you when choosing a scent?

1. Trend
2. Recommendation
3. Ingredients
4. Origin
5. Price
6. Breakdown of scent
7. Design

"I sense this question is about buying a perfume, which I rarely do these days as I have so many already, and must not be encouraged to add to my existing (ridiculously big) collection! But if something did overcome my resistance at this point in my perfume hobby I would say ‘the way a fragrance smells’, which is different from ‘breakdown of scent’ in 6. I would not look for it to definitely contain x or y notes, though I would be curious after the fact to see what notes were in it to explain why I liked it so much. And sometimes it is not possible to detect the individual notes in a perfume but just be transported by a generally pleasant scent. So ‘how it smells’ is No 1, and then probably ‘Price’ would affect whether I actually bought it at all! ‘Design’ would be a factor of some importance - I recently blogged about how a cheap box that looked like it might contain condoms(!) would hamper sales of a perfume that was recently launched. The packaging must be broadly commensurate with the fragrance. But I am not bound by trends or origin, and tend to go on my own nose’s findings, though a fellow perfumista’s recommendation might steer me towards something now and then."

What is special about a perfume blog compared to a fashion blog, for example?

"Pass - I don't read fashion blogs so don't know what they are like or what they set out to do."

How often do you blog?

"Nowadays I aim for once a week, but work and ‘life’ sometimes sidetrack me, such that the frequency is a bit less often. At the start, nearly six years ago, I posted 2-3 times a week, but that is hard to sustain unless you are a professional."

Source: Wikipedia

How many followers do you have?

"172 at the time of writing. These are people who have actively chosen to follow the blog. I believe Wordpress has a different way of calculating followers, and may just ‘sweep up’ all your friends on Facebook, which is not the same thing at all, hehe. ;) I must be honest and say that if I lose a follower - I can never even work out who, never mind why, for I just see the tally change - it is surprisingly unsettling. I would like to talk to the person to find out what prompted them to stop reading, in case it is anything I can readily fix!"

Why do you blog?

1. Because you want to influence people
2. Because you want to inform
3. Because you would like to warn
4. Because you would like to educate
5. Because you enjoy it, because you are communicative
6. Because your followers value your opinion

"Quite simply - to entertain, which is closest to your #5, though not the same. Perfume is a hook on which to hang what I hope are amusing posts - oh, and I also write travelogues, which have the same aim, and may feature perfume sniffing along the way."

Are you able to describe a scent so well that people buy it without having smelled it beforehand?

"I doubt it very much, in fact I think I am quite bad at this. Yet somehow by dint of using metaphor and various images to conjure up a scent in different ways, I can convey something of its character, and some readers have said they have an idea of whether they might like a perfume or not from my reviews. But I would hope they would read quite a few more reviews before doing anything so rash as to blind buy a scent! That is a practice I don’t approve of - though I am guilty of it myself in the past, haha. I certainly don’t want to encourage it in others, because that way can lie disappointment and buyer’s remorse…;)"


In general, how do you estimate the influence of a perfume blog on the market?

"It depends which one you are talking about. There are some very authoritative, ‘senior bloggers’ with large followings and excellent noses - a couple of the ones I am thinking of are industry insiders, indeed - so their blogs would have influence, maybe more on the subset of the public who like niche perfume. I don’t know to what extent the mainstream market would be influenced by blogs - it tends to operate on woolly copy, pushy sales staff and glossy advertising, and to rely on impulse purchases at the point of sale. They are two different markets in my opinion."

Do you have the feeling that you can influence your readers?

"I really don’t know, because I only ‘engage’ with the small number of readers who leave comments, most of whom are also bloggers. ;) I have no idea what the 95+% of people think or do as a result of landing on Bonkers - or who they even are. It is possible that they do check out perfumes - and the beauty products I also occasionally review - on my blog and take my opinion into account, but I have no way of knowing."

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Do you read other perfume blogs or do you exchange ideas with other bloggers?

"Oh yes, routinely, and I comment on them. And sometimes we have done group blog post-type collaborations, though I haven’t been involved in one lately. I have met quite a lot of other bloggers in person, and they have become proper friends. We often email and message one another - every day I would have some conversations like that online."

Do you only present perfumes that you like?

"Mainly, but not exclusively. When I write a negative review it is usually of something spectacularly bad for whatever reason. The type of perfume I find hard to write about is the kind that merely leaves me cold. Then I do also write reviews of perfumes I admire, but which may not be quite ‘me’."

Do you feel that you are a relevant source of information for your readers’ purchasing decisions?

"That goes back to your earlier question about influencing readers. I would say I am a relevant source up to a point, if they choose to use my reviews in that way. Whether they actually do is another matter that I can have no handle on."

The band at worship ~ Source: A Secret Picnic

What information do your readers look for on your blog? Information regarding:

1. Trend
2. Recommendations
3. Ingredients
4. Origin
5. Price
6. Breakdown of scent components
7. Design

"Probably similar things to me as in your earlier question ie how a fragrance smells, plus maybe a note list for reference and an indication of price. A pack shot, so they can see how the box looks. But I can only speculate here as to what matters to readers. Perhaps I should ask people just that! ;)"

What is your relationship to companies? (influence of companies on blog entries)

"I retain an independent stance in my dealings with companies. I get solicited a lot to write reviews in return for samples - or full bottles, even - but I never agree to do that. I say I will try the perfume and may or may not write about it as a result. And if I do decide to do so, the review may or may not be positive. So the only influence on the blog is the fact that if people send me samples, they are de facto on my radar and if I feel moved to feature the perfumes sent to me, I will. But that only occurs in a minority of cases, and often only months after the event when the muse strikes me!"

An art card bought in a bookshop in St Gallen

To what extent do you represent the interests of certain companies on your blog? (Specific influence of companies on blog entries)

"Not at all - see above. I will qualify that slightly, as there are some companies I have featured repeatedly on Bonkers and may do again, notably Papillon Perfumes, Puredistance, 4160 Tuesdays, and the company that makes Travalos. That is not what I would construe as a formal 'representation', but more a case of my liking those companies and their products, and genuinely wanting to write about them. What is also important is that there has to be a certain something about a perfume house/fragrance - it could be anything! - that is a good fit for the Bonkers 'house style' of nuttiness and frivolity. However great a perfume, if I can't spot a slightly left field angle from which to review it, I probably won't.

To what extent do companies try to influence your opinion? (influence on the blogger)

1. Sample copies
2. Personal contact
3. Newsletter
4. Other

"#1, #3 and #4! I get sent things in every media, including newsletters and press releases, samples and whole bottles. I have also met a number of perfumers, but they have never tried to influence me through that personal contact. It’s the PR companies who do that, but they do vary. Some are quite respectful and low key, others more pushy in actually requesting a ‘tit for tat’ arrangement - product in return for copy. It is my impression that as a sector beauty blogs are more open to that kind of remunerative MO, but that is a very broad generalisation."

St Gallen shoppers!

Is there a link on your blog where you can buy a specific perfume?

"In the body of individual reviews I might link to the website of the perfume house, and maybe to a store where you can buy that perfume, but not in any systematic way. They certainly can’t buy any perfume through the blog as such."

Do you recommend buying a perfume?

"No, only ever trying it! (See previous.)"

Are you compensated by other companies for:

1. The sale of perfume directly on your blog

2. Advertising
3. Production introduction


Dom Hotel ~ Source:

How do you handle complaints or critique regarding one of the products that you introduced?

"Not applicable, if by ‘introduced’ you mean ‘recommend’. My reviews are just opinions, so people are at liberty to say in a comment that they didn’t like something I was raving about in my post! I am not personally involved in promoting a scent in the sense you may mean?"

How would you describe the relationship to your readers?

1. Interactive
2. One-sided
3. Regular 

"I would say I have an interactive relationship with the small minority of readers who comment - who are mostly fellow bloggers as I say. People come and go, but some are regular visitors and commenters. Other readers may in fact visit regularly yet never comment. To the vast majority who don’t interact with the blog through comments, I guess the relationship may be what you mean by ‘one-sided’, but that's normal with blogs."


To what extent do you entice the readers to try a new scent or to purchase new perfumes?

"That’s for them to decide really, hehe. Where I absolutely love a perfume, I may try to arouse people's interest in it by writing an appealing, sensuous review, because I would be happy if the scent gave others the same pleasure as it does me. But I would never try to get anyone to purchase it, merely to take the step of trying it for themselves."

PS Coming soon...I break my own rules above about blind buying, hehe. Or as good as break them.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

A Swiss student's thesis on the influence of perfume blogs - online survey request!

A picturesque place in Switzerland which is a little bit off the tourist trail - and for which I have a soft spot for that very reason - is St Gallen. Long term readers may recall that I based myself there one weekend in late October, 2011. I caught a gig by The Monochrome Set (I know - they get everywhere!) on the Saturday night, following a meet up with Swiss perfumistas in Basel and a solo perfumery crawl in Zurich. The impressive baroque cathedral in St Gallen gets a brief mention in this airport sniffing post.

So when I received an email out of the blue from an undergraduate student there, my ears pricked up:

"My Name is Nina Meier and I am currently writing my bachelor thesis at University of St. Gallen (HSG, Switzerland) about 'the influence of blogs on the perfume market'. In course of  my thesis I am now looking for qualified interview partners who are willing to answer a few questions regarding this specific topic."


Nina's degree is in business administration, and her professor, Claus Noppeney, has a special interest in scent. Nina drew my attention to an interesting post on the Scent Culture Institute within the university, which I see counts Andy Tauer as one of its collaborators. Here is an excerpt from the About page of the Institute's website, explaining the olfactory tie up in more detail.

"The sense of smell has long been disregarded as one of the lower senses. More recently, however, the cultural and social relevance of the sense of smell is increasingly recognized. The formation of the Scent Culture Institute reflects this development. It is involved in different kinds of projects focusing on the sense of smell in culture, business and society. Projects vary in orientation: research, consulting, education, scent design, etc. The growing number of projects show how olfaction, scent and smell are increasingly the focus of cultural studies, art and design practice, as well as management research."

Me in St Gallen - wearing my sample scoring coat!

Well, as a market researcher myself, I am always happy to help out where I can - I am often excluded from surveys by virtue of being a professional 'insider' - but no such criteria applied here. So Nina sent me - along with a whole clatter of other bloggers, many of them familiar names on the scene - her survey questions, and I plan to post my own answers on Bonkers shortly. I am holding off from doing so for a while longer though, so as not to bias any readers who wish to take part in a short online survey Nina has also devised.

"Furthermore my current research design is also intending a qualitative part, in which course I would also like to make an online survey with the followers/readers of your blog."

The aim of this parallel line of inquiry is to see what sources of information about fragrance are consulted by the perfume wearing public, and how relatively influential they are in shaping people's views of brands or individual scents. So clearly my saying whether I think Bonkers about Perfume has any part to play in all of that might prejudice the results of this related 'consumer' research.

So without further ado, here is the link to Nina's online survey. It only takes a few minutes - no, really, I did a dummy run myself to see! - and your participation would be very helpful for her thesis.

Online survey link

My answers to the bloggers' survey to follow...

Friday, 13 November 2015

The Bonkers Kitten has landed! A tale of litter picking, bed hopping, and (playing) furry sardines

Sorry for the posting hiatus, but this week has been a bit full-on, settling the new Bonkers kitten in. I am not a mother, but I sense there are definite similarities between a newborn baby and a tiny kitten. I have caught myself thinking: 'Do I have time to take a quick shower?' and 'If I nip out to the shop, will it still be alive when I get back?' One key difference of course being that you are supposed to take the baby with you to the shop. But I am running ahead of myself again - first of all there was the 110 mile round trip to pick her up on Monday. When I arrived, Truffle and her grandmother Daisy were engaged in a slightly disconcerting 'top and tail' / '69'-style multi-tasking kind of arrangement whereby Truffle was feeding at one end, while her foster mum cleaned her bottom.

It was quite apparent that Daisy - who had stepped up to feed her three orphaned grandkittens in addition to her own litter when her daughter Nala was sadly run over - was heartily fed up of this whole breastfeeding lark. All the kittens had now gone to their new homes except Truffle - leaving aside the small matter of a random ginger kitten who had appeared out of the blue the day before to assuage the owner's nascent empty nester syndrome - and Granny was clearly looking forward to giving her chest a rest. Anyway, eventually Daisy batted Truffle off with a brisk clip of the paw, and the owner's daughter skilfully lured her into her travel basket using a catnip banana.

Truffle's last stand - while Daisy's gaze is firmly fixed on the pet carrier

I am sorry to report that on the long, dark drive home, Truffle mewed piteously non-stop, which was quite harrowing for me as the driver, trying to concentrate on the road ahead. At one point I had the idea to play a CD quite low on the car stereo to soothe her, Super Plastic City by The Monochrome Set, and interestingly - and possibly by way of coded mixed message? - her miaows were more intermittent / muted during the songs 'If I Could be Woebegone', 'Strange Young Alien' and 'It's a Wonderful Life'. And then she almost stopped mewing completely during 'Dark Red Rose', which happens to be my favourite track too.

Oh, the bike has now gone. Oily chains? Not going there...

I should add at this point that in advance of the new pet's arrival, I had taken some steps to kittenproof my home. I put a mosaic of cushions and pillows on the hall floor, for example, their degree of bounciness cunningly correlated with the height of the drop at each point. Meanwhile, I blocked off the landing banisters directly with perspex double glazing, a hardboard sheet, a huge picture, a V & A calendar, and a teddy bear wedged in the remaining gap. In the utility room, which is supposed to be off limits anyway on account of all the warm tempting crevices at the back of appliances, I managed to squeeze four gym shoes 'on pointe' in between the freezer and the washing machine. Though as will become apparent later, my nook and cranny coverage was to be found seriously wanting...

Having safely brought Truffle home, as is the standard drill I introduced her to her litter tray straight away (of which more anon), and to the smallish area where I was going to keep her initially, comprising dining room, kitchen and the back corridor. I had erected a camp bed in the middle of the dining room floor, which looked most outlandish, but I figured it would enable me to bond with the kitten in situ for the first few days - or however long I could stand sleeping in a main domestic thoroughfare with multilateral draughts and no socket within reach for my phone.

I can report that by lunchtime on Day 2 Truffle had finally flaked out in her basket for the first time in nearly 24 hours. I had lain on the camp bed all night, weathering seven hours of frenetic nocturnal activity on the kitten's part, which according to the RSPCA website, is perfectly normal 'crepuscular behaviour'.

'Night time activity is quite a common issue for some cat owners and can include cats that nibble or pounce on the owner's ears or toes in bed, walk across the sleeping owners, night time vocalisation, or highly energetic play sessions across the furniture and/or owners during the night or early morning.'

Yep, we had all of this behaviour, except, crucially, the 'sleeping owner'.

That bleary-eyed day was largely devoted to inducting Truffle in the important life skill of litter recognition, and to picking out a user friendly sort. I had got in two types already: the hygienic white crystals kind and the wood pellet variety. The former she tried to eat, while the latter she batted around for the hell of it like a plaything. So I dashed out to a local pet store where - under the watchful eye of Smudge, the feline sales assistant, pictured here sitting rather ironically on some dog food, for all the world like those promotional girls who perch on car bonnets at the NEC, or used to - I bought some regular Fullers Earth. This immediately computed with the kitten, as evidenced by her frequent and copious christening of the size-appropriate tray I had also bought. The original one was like the hull of the Titanic and had really taxed her clambering skills.

Sponge bag had been blocking it, but clearly not enough!

On Day 3 - possibly as part of her owner training - Truffle went and upped the ante... For I spent a frantic six hours turning the house upside down after she decided to well and truly hide in - as I finally deduced by a process of 'elimination' - the boxed pipework behind the loo. I was so distressed at her disappearance that I even had to switch Women's Hour off, imagine that. I felt so irresponsible, like a mother who loses her toddler in the supermarket. But in the end, having watched a YouTube video by a behavioural expert (thanks Anka!) on how to lure out your lost feline, and right before I turned to God in my desperation - or the fire brigade, or a plumber, or a joiner, or a truffle pig or dog - she was successfully 'flushed out' by the tried and tested bowl of wet tuna trick.

So Truffle is clearly living up to her name as 'something special, inaccessible and highly sought after'. Oh boy, did I do epic levels of 'seeking after' that day, involving a stepladder, screwdriver, torch, catnip wand and sundry other utensils. I must also confess that the scale of dust under and behind my furniture is as spectacular as it is shaming.

Day 4 saw the arrival of the kitten's first parcel, from Auntie Tara, formerly of OT. It contained a bee toy and some food and treats, but for me the real kicker was seeing my new housemate's name on the typed label, initials all present and correct - looking so very official:

'Miss Truffle G. S. Bonkers'

Then that night, Truffle found her way to the 'mothership' bed to which I had eventually retreated in my state of cumulative exhaustion. She promptly curled up between the two sets of pillows and didn't budge - or make a sound - for eight hours straight. I didn't sleep very well, mind, as I was worried about squashing her, but I am sure we will figure out some kind of workable system by and by.

So looking back over the first few days, I can confirm that I don't feel remotely 'alone' in the house anymore - it has a completely different atmosphere. The kitten feels like my immediate and obvious 'family', even though she is a tiny little ball of fluff who seems only to emit a noise if you drive at speed up the M1 or kick or tread on her - something of an occupational hazard at this early stage. But even if she doesn't communicate verbally, Truffle Ganache Salome Bonkers (to give her her full name in all its ridiculous splendour) really does tug the heartstrings with that beautiful face of hers. Asali was right to predict that I would be just another 'spineless owner', pliable as putty in this puss's paws...

Could you not find one more size-appropriate like the litter tray?

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Luca Turin hosts Saturday Classics on BBC Radio 3, presenting a selection of music that conjures up some of his favourite scents

Quick interim post to pass on a tip off I received last night from my friend Jessica - she of the apparently still ongoing rose scent quest! - about a marvellous two hour programme on BBC Radio 3. It was on air yesterday afternoon, but is still available online for 28 days at the time of writing. Luca Turin hosts the entire programme, talking about some of his favourite scents and playing pieces of music which capture the essence / structure / character / 'timbre' of each, including quite a few I had never heard of, or had no clue as to what they were like, such as Diorama. To be truthful, I couldn't quite make out the names of one or two, and he didn't always cite the perfume house concerned, so if anyone was able to compile a complete list of the fragrances covered, I would be most interested to see it!

Oh, and being Radio 3, the music featured is mostly classical, and as well as enjoying Luca Turin's eloquent commentary on the link between each scent and its paired piece of music, I am indebted to him for introducing me to the stirring composition Lento, by Howard Skempton. I was also pleased to see contemporary jazz guitarist Ralph Towner on his playlist, who was part of my musical education during my time with Mr Bonkers, and whom I have even seen in concert once!

I must admit I skipped through some of the classical pieces, as they weren't quite my thing, but I can't recommend the broadcast highly enough for Luca Turin's fascinating descriptions of his chosen perfumes.

Here is the link - catch it while (and if!) you can:

Luca Turin hosts Saturday Classics on Radio 3

Apologies for the fact that I can't seem to embed the link in a directly clickable way - I just did a screenshot of my computer as a rather poor second!

However, I can give you a link to Lento, which is something. Blow me if I can't recall which perfume was associated with it - all the more reason to listen to the programme again, which I was minded to do anyway...;)