The Simmel’s Barrier

Quick Read: A Milan store with debranded perfumes helps consumers find the perfect scent without being distracted by the label. But is branding a barrier in consumer experience?

Wine tasting is arguably a junk science.


There have been several studies conducted over the years to debunk the accuracy of wine tasters in assessing the attributes of wines. A common theme of most of these experiments is an assessment of our capability in being able to accurately identify and analyse multiple sensory stimuli at the same time.

One such landmark study in debunking the expertise of wine tasters is called ‘The Color Of Odors‘. It investigated the interaction between our vision of colors and odor determination and found out that by a simple act of artificially coloring a white wine with a an odorless dye,  you can fool not 1, not 2 but an entire panel of 54 wine tasters into getting it classified as a red wine!

The insight? By just throwing in some basic visual stimuli you can effectively screw up your olfactory assessment skills.

Now add in the other 3 senses and it is not hard to begin pitying ourselves for the sensory overload that we subject ourselves to on a daily basis.

Sensory Overload

The wikipedia page on Sensory Overload speaks about Georg Simmel – a renowned sociologist who writes about an urban scenario of constantly appearing stimuli that trigger our brains’ senses. Interestingly he calls for a barrier that must be erected to protect the individual from this constant stimulation in order to keep one sane.

The new Desirée Parfums store in Milan has identified a particular marketing element as its ‘Simmel’s Barrier’ to protect its customers from sensory overload. What does it do?

It organises its fragrances by aromatic quality, rather than brand. According to this source, when walking into this store, customers aren’t subconsciously guided towards the most expensive perfumes like they might be in another store. Instead, the outlet has decanted all of the fragrances it sells into nondescript tester bottles, which are organized by their olfactory quality.

Assistants guide customers through the options available, helping them to find their perfect scent while also teaching them about the different qualities that make up a perfume. Only when they get to the counter so they get to find out which fragrance they’re buying.

desireeparfum store

(Image source)

With perfume stores using branding as their ‘Simmel’s Barrier’, wine stores might not be far off from adopting the same.

Have you heard of any other examples?

(Featured Image: Jacquelinewilkinson)

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