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A consumer goods company was interested in better understanding the role of home fragrance to support their brand’s growth. In a category that consists of multiple product types, the client was focused on driving growth of one of its key forms that is met with strong competition from a value-focused brand. The team wanted to understand how best to innovate so they could drive purchases at shelf (not based on price). The team needed fresh thinking to enlist an approach that worked to uncover opportunity areas for growth, with a lens on the Multicultural consumer. 


In a category such as home fragrance, the experience is both functional and emotional. Scent is a powerful sense -- it can be functional in neutralizing or eliminating odors. It can also be experiential by transporting you to places, evoking a range of feelings and conjuring up memories. Because of these experiences related to home fragrance, the team had a wide territory to explore. 

For this category, innovation is not only rooted in product innovation but also scent innovation. Therefore, a key objective was to understand the role of fragrance in consumers’ lives by exploring scents with respect to personal use and the household, such as cooking, cleaning, freshening, etc. C+R’s client needed to understand how their target consumers’ attitudes toward fragrances connect to their everyday life and as well as to the client’s product. What are those top of mind fragrances? Where are the opportunities to innovate?

Purchases are not made based on scent alone. Therefore, the client needed to develop a deep understanding of how consumers use their product in order to understand the need states in driving usage. Through this, the client wanted to uncover frustrations and delighters in order to inform innovation and marketing efforts. In addition, the client wanted to uncover key drivers of choice with respect to product features and benefits in order to drive purchasing at shelf and differentiate the product of interest vs. other home fragrance categories. 

The home fragrance marketplace is saturated with a wide variety of products to serve as home fragrance or odor elimination solutions. Hence the team needed to identify motivations to purchase the product of interest vs. other category offerings in order to differentiate it and not cannibalize their brand offerings in other home fragrance categories. To achieve this objective, the client needed to understand the larger competitive landscape so they could identify how the various product and brand offerings clustered within the marketplace to pinpoint key product and brand strengths and weaknesses.

To round this out, the team needed to understand these attitudes, habits and practices, and psychographics among general population consumers as well as Hispanic and African American consumers. This was particularly important from a scent perspective since differences were likely to exist due to cultural differences.


The research team uncovered key findings about the home fragrance sub-category of interest, as well as the brand’s position that helped highlight areas of innovation for the brand. 

One key finding was that the sub-category of interest is a gateway to fragrance in the home. Users of this sub-category are more engaged in home fragrances and place value on a fragrance’s  ability to extend beyond the basics and provide insurance that their home is fresh and fragranced. As such, this sub-category is a key driver of the home fragrance aisle and carries a great deal of clout in setting perceptions and potential brand preference. Based on this, the client realized the importance of prominently featuring their brand’s sub-category in all integrated marketing communication.

Still, the research uncovered that awareness of this home fragrance sub-category was lower than expected. The team assumed that all home fragrance users knew about this sub-category and its benefits but learned that was not the case and they were missing a key opportunity. To this end, the team set priority to drive awareness among these important consumer targets. Of particular note, the team learned that home fragrance category users who were unaware placed more value on odor elimination than fragrance This suggested an opportunity for scent innovation that focused more on neutralizing odors rather than fragrancing the home. 

Another key learning was that the client’s brand in this sub-category lacked differentiation from its key competitor – a value-driven player. With no differentiation, decisions are typically made at shelf where the competitor had an advantage with value. The team recognized the importance of using their communications to better own the attributes that these sub-category users care more about. For the longer term, the team realized the importance of an overall, sustainable point of differentiation vs. their key competitor. They recognized that product innovation would be a path to sustain differentiation. 

From a consumer perspective, the research team learned that this sub-category, and their brand, was currently losing among this group of consumers. They needed to turn this around to regain share leadership. They learned that this sub-category skewed more Caucasian, but with the growth seen among Multicultural consumers, the brand was not well-positioned to benefit from that growth. They needed to set a strategy to attract the growing multicultural population to this home fragrance segment. In particular, they recognized they needed to invest in multicultural media and tout the benefits of their brand that resonate with multicultural consumers. They also recognized they needed to offer scents that resonated with Hispanic and African American consumers.

The research team learned that fragrance trumps brand, so the client team embraced the fact that they needed to put fragrance first and place critical importance on a fragrance strategy to meet the needs of gen pop consumers with a particular lens on Multicultural consumers. In a limited set size at shelf, the team accepted that the trade-offs between the number of forms and fragrance variety must be made. They realized that their brand needed to lead with a fragrance innovation strategy that provided breadth for the brand, with a critical focus on limited time only and seasonal scents. 

Through an attitudinal segmentation, the research team uncovered that the client team needed to think differently about these sub-category users. One mass message would not be the most fruitful. It was important to instill different messages to go after different targets. The team identified five segments that were distinct in their attitudes toward home fragrance, what it means to them and the jobs it fulfills. By profiling these segments on a whole host of lifestyle and demographics, the team was able to bring to life to each of these segments. This process enabled the team to not only identify and understand these segments but also uncover the appropriate claims and marketing tactics to move forward with to target and grow the more valuable segments. In addition, the team applied the attitudinal segmentation to the Multicultural groups. By synthesizing the home fragrance habits and practices of Hispanic and African American consumers, in conjunction with the attitudinal segmentation, the team was able to identify key strategies to move forward with in order to grow their business among the growing Multicultural groups. 


C+R conducted a multi-phase research study that started with immersion and culminated with in-person activation. 

Multicultural 101 and Pilsen Tour

In order to immerse the client team in Multicultural consumers, the first phase commenced with a Multicultural 101 presentation, more heavily focused on Hispanics since this was the group where the team felt least knowledgeable. The team met in C+R’s Chicago office where members of C+R’s Multicultural division, CultureBeat, shared their Multicultural 101 presentation. From there the team took a tour of Pilsen, a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood, and visited particular stores and sites to continue the immersion. This concluded with dinner in Pilsen where the team shared their learnings and brainstormed implications. 

Multicultural In-Homes

The next phase of the research encompassed in-home interviews with Bicultural Hispanics and African Americans. The goal of this phase was to dive deep into less acculturated Hispanics’ and African Americans’ attitudes toward and usage of fragrance/scents/aroma throughout their lives and world. 
The focus of this phase was to provide a fresh perspective and foundational understanding of fragrance overall and the category from the inside of their homes. It was to provide insight and depth to the quantitative survey.

A Half-day, Onsite Team Discussion

After completion of the in-homes, C+R hosted a half day onsite team discussion to review the findings from the in-homes and discuss other learnings to date. This included covering off on what the client team already knew, their hypotheses and their unknowns. Both the C+R research team and the client team rolled up their sleeves during this workshop to also review sales data on distribution and buying patterns by ethnicity. This was a critical phase to review and confirm business objectives and research questions before moving into the next phase – the Quantitative A&U and Attitudinal Segmentation.

National Online Survey + Segmentation

The goal of the quantitative survey was to focus on attitudes and emotions to fragrance and home fragrance, category usage, brand awareness, brand usage, brand perceptions, usage habits and practices, purchase patterns, and barriers. The survey was designed to understand the role of the client’s product in the world of its users and how it works along with other home fragrance products. To develop a complete understanding the of sub-category marketplace, C+R’s research team performed an attitudinal segmentation to identify segments based on their attitudes and emotions associated with fragrance and the usage of the category. The entire quantitative phase consisted of iterative analytic work sessions with the client team which culminated in an interactive share out. As part of the interactive share out, C+R recruited consumers who fit the various segments identified in the attitudinal segmentation. These consumers acted as a panel and were fielded questions from the client team, led by a C+R moderator. After the panel discussion, the panelists broke into “speed-dating” groups with members of the client team to learn more about them up close. 

In the end, the client was able to walk away with fresh ideas on how to optimize their home fragrance brand based on product and scent innovation. They also identified their most valuable segments to target and the key messaging strategies to use to develop these targets. These learnings could all be applied to grow their brand in this home fragrance category. 

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