Entertaining Statistics or Marketing Faux Pas de Deux

Try to remember what was the association that came to mind when you heard perfume name Swan Princess for the first time? Was it one of the images below? Or was it something else?

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While writing this post, I decided to survey my friends, relatives and co-workers. I asked them the same question but since most of them are “civilians” (©Tara) and they haven’t heard about this perfume before, I didn’t want to influence their opinion so I just asked for the associations based on the name, without showing them the pictures I chose for this post (actually, Barbie idea came from my co-worker).

Disclaimer: Since I used a sample of convenience (rather than a probability sample), results aren’t representative of any real trends. This is intended strictly for the entertainment purposes.

I split all of the respondents into two categories:

  • native Russian speakers with English as a second language
  • native English speakers and other native language speakers with English as a second language

The majority of the respondents in the first category (native Russian speakers) correctly guessed the association intended by creators:

The swan is a gracious bird which has been glorified in the folklore of many countries. I can’t say that we were inspired by a particular piece of art. There are many which leave you breathless, like Mikhail Vrubel‘s painting Swan Princess, which we chose to illustrate our creation.

Swan Princess by Vrubel

I’m not sure how much you’ve previously read on the topic so I’ll give a short summary. Pay close attention: this is not a trivial construction. Swan Princess is a painting (1900) by Mikhail Vrubel that depicts a character from the opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan (1899–1900) by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, which was based on the poem The Tale of Tsar Saltan, of His Son the Renowned and Mighty Bogatyr Prince Gvidon Saltanovich, and of the Beautiful Princess-Swan (1831) by Aleksandr Pushkin. Oh, and the painter’s wife – Nadezhda Zabela-Vrubel (see photo below) – sang the role of the Swan Princess in the première of the opera.

Nadezhda Zabela-Vrubel

I’m not surprised that Russian-speaking respondents picked up on the association: even though we all knew well the tale, Swan Princess (Tsarevna-Lebed) didn’t feel like a main character but it was the painting that was firmly connected to that name.

The most common association expressed by participants from the second category (native English speakers and non-Russian speakers) was Swan Lake – a ballet (1875–76) composed by Tchaikovsky. Other associations mentioned were movies and a TV show – Black Swan, Princess Bride, Barbie Swan Lake and Swans Crossings. One person mentioned a children’s book.

Not to waste such an opportunity, I also included a picture of the perfume and asked to guess just by the name and the packaging which age group is a Swan Princess’ target market.

Swan Princess by The Vagabond Prince

Since I didn’t suggest any age groups as possible choices, responses were highly dispersed. The range I got was from 8 to 85 years old with two peaks: 13-20 and 60+. Variations on “teenage girls” and “Grandmother” were mentioned several times each.

Probably ballet isn’t the worst association (Penhaligon’s and Les Parfums de Rosine recently went directly for it) but even in my small poll group there were many… less flattering associations. And with the packaging that says anything but “luxury niche perfume” it can’t be easy to sell $200 bottle of perfume for teenagers.

Why do I care? Why didn’t I just dismiss this release the way I do with most perfumes by which I wasn’t impressed? It’s simple: I did expect more from creators of Fragrantica and I feel disappointed. And I still can’t believe that they, out of all people, decided to launch their perfumes only in 100 ml bottles.

What about perfume? I know tastes differ but, in my opinion, Swan Princess is just boring. It’s not unpleasant. It’s not pleasant. It’s unremarkable. Which isn’t that surprising: as talented as Bertrand Duchaufour might be, nobody can create 10-20 masterpieces per year (and we’re talking only about official releases: who knows how many dictators’ daughters had urges to launch their own brands in those years…)


Entertaining Statistics: February 2015

In February we had a winter heat wave: the temperature reached +26C/80C. And we had just a single rain storm, which was better than nothing but not by far. We are not happy.

I don’t know why this year it dawned on me that February is the shortest month in the year. I read some explanation on how it came to be this way but it still didn’t really explain the need of having 28-29-day month while there are seven months with 31 day. And then I started thinking of different perfume-related things to follow the “shortest” theme.

Shortest Perfume Name

I could think of three perfumes with just single-letter names – Y by Yves Saint Laurent, Pi by Givenchy (the name is a Greek letter) and M by Puredistance. There’s a bunch of two- and three-letter names – №5 by Chanel, Nu and M7 by YSL (it seems they like short names), Si by Giorgio Armani and Qi by Ormonde Jayne but without searching online databases I can’t come up with more short names. Do you remember any other one- or two-letter perfume names?

While looking for the shortest names I checked the general distribution of different name lengths for the perfumes in my database. Out of almost 1,200 perfumes the most popular length is 12 characters (108 perfumes – see the highest red point on the chart below) followed by 9– and 13-letter names (91 and 89).

The longest name – 49 characters (the rightmost red point on the chart) – is brought to you by Guerlain: Shalimar Ode a la Vanille Sur la Route du Mexique. Can you think of a longer name?

My Stats February 2015

Shortest Perfume Impression

Despite what you might have thought, this isn’t about “To the point perfume reviews in 140 characters or less.” by @fragrantreviews – even though it would have been a good illustration for this topic. It’s about my impressions.

In my perfume diary I track perfumes I wear or test every day with some additional information – date, an occasion and my reaction (both from pre-set lists of choices) and a free-text note. I do it for myself, to be able to see later my personal history of each perfume usage and my thoughts about it. I do not try to be too laconic about it so that field allows up to 255 characters. Sometimes it’s not enough and I start shortening what I wrote. But mostly I do not use them all up. So I decided to find the shortest one(s). First I thought that the shortest perfume impression would be a negative one – something like “No!” But no. What I discovered was that negative impressions, as well as positive reactions, evoke an emotional response that translates into more wordy description. The shortest impression recorded in the diary was


In four years I’ve been writing that diary I used that exact impression 12 times. I was so underwhelmed by a perfume that I didn’t even want to spend time explaining to my future self what exactly I smelled/felt about it.

Shortest Perfume Bottle

I decided to end the post on a more positive note – hence one last and the least serious category.

I looked at my collection only. Not considering mini-bottles, though even with those I’m not sure I would have found a better candidate for the proper ratio of height/width, the shortest perfume bottle I own is Bvlgari Black.

Bvlgari Black

Can you think of any other perfume bottles that are wider-than-tall? Any other “shortest” perfume-related ideas?


Images: my own

Entertaining Statistics: January 2015

For the first time in 165 years January in San Francisco was completely dry. A curious fact on its own, it gets a little scary when put into the context of three years of drought. If that wasn’t enough, January was extremely warm: an average temperature for the month was 12C (54F) with nine days at 20C (67F) or above mark. It felt good, especially while reading about cold fronts and snow storms in many areas of the country and in Europe. But at the same time it worries everybody here: we need water. Desperately.

January was also a dry month perfume-wise for me: I haven’t bought a single ml of any perfume. I can’t say it was a record since over the course of the last 5 years there were one-two months per year when I wasn’t buying even samples – but it’s somewhat unusual. And it wasn’t even due to austerity measures or anything like NY resolution!

Since I was amused by that fact and looked up my acquisition habits, I decided to build this month’s statistics post on the observations I made.

I looked at perfumes I bought in the last four years – as long as I have this blog. Samples, blind buys and perfumes that I liked from pre-perfumista times were excluded from calculations since they wouldn’t fit the parameters I considered for the statistics. I’m not going to divulge the absolute numbers for bottles/decants purchased (it’s between me and myself) so all results will be in % of the total number.

Most of my purchases (68%) were full bottles. 17% of my acquisitions fell under my definition of large decants (from 10 ml). Travel bottles got the third spot with 11%. And finally small decants (5 ml) made the smallest impact – just 5% of the total number of perfumes, for adding which into my collection I paid.

But these numbers are trivial; it’s not what this post is about. For a while I planned to analyze the growth of my collection from another point and write about it: do I immediately fall in love with perfumes I buy later or do they grow on me over time? My knee jerk reaction when I answered this question before was: I like those perfumes that later join my collection from the first time I try them. But now I can actually quantify that assumption.

I looked at my data of the first testing for each of those perfumes that I later bought and discovered that on the first try I absolutely loved 54%, liked 37% and wasn’t sure about 9%. There wasn’t a single event of the change of heart where I’d dislike the perfume initially but would grow fond of it later. 91% is an impressive number, right? So I am either that good in recognizing gems or extremely stubborn.

January 2015 Stats

Finally, I got curious how long it takes for me from the time I encounter a perfume for the first time till I open my wallet. On average it takes me a little less than a year (343 days) to decide on a purchase – really close to what I described in my earlier post Spontaneous me: Diptyque Volutes. It looks like the easiest decision for me is getting a full bottle of a perfume I loved from the first sniff (just 211 days). The longest “waiting period” happens for travel bottles for perfumes I loved (1,194 days) and full bottles from the “not sure” category (942 days).

If you were to think about your current collection, do you have more bottles that were an immediate love or those that win you over time? Just your estimate, I don’t expect any normal people to have that type of records.


Image: my own

Entertaining Statistics: 2014 Year Round-up

Year 2014 wasn’t the best year in my life, most of all because some of the negative events can’t be considered even educational. But still it wasn’t all bad and I’m grateful for the good things and look forward to more of those this year.

We’ve got some rain in the last two months of 2014. That hasn’t solved our drought problem but made it a bit less severe and gave us hope.

We got a chance to spend time with one of the friends from our youth whom we haven’t seen for many years. He hasn’t changed much and we already plan our future visits.

I had a relatively close encounter with charming Hugh Laurie.

I enjoyed many mini-trips to the surrounding wine regions; one of them with thoughtful and endlessly generous with her support Suzanne (Eiderdown Press) and her husband.

I received an extremely touching gift from Daisy (coolcookstyle) and hajusuuri (a spontaneous perfume lover who became a contributor on my blog).

I took an obscene number of perfumes to the Hawaii vacation (I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did).

I had good time perfume shopping with Natalie (Another Perfume Blog).

And, finally, despite all the work-related stress and busy schedule I had a wonderful holiday season, which culminated in the one of the most delightful New Year celebrations at our friends’ house in Austin.

NY 2014 Purrmaid

Now let’s see how my 2014 looks in perfume terms (numbers in parentheses are from 2013, for comparison where applicable).

Perfume Testing

In 2014 I tested1 even less perfumes than in years before. It isn’t a complaint, I think I’m testing enough: I pay attention not just to new releases or even perfumes new to me but also I’m revisiting some of the previously tested perfumes. I tested 299 (321) perfumes from 108 (107) brands on 391 (461) occasions. This year there were also fewer perfumes that I’ve tried for the first time – 147 (185) and only 55 (fifty-five!) of them were created in 2014. It’s less than, according to Parfumo, has been released by now from the beginning of this year. Probably I could add 15-20 mainstream perfumes that I smelled at a store on a paper strip and never went for a sample or skin test. But still it’ll barely scratch the surface of the last year’s new releases. 2,646! Can you believe it?! It’s a huge number of new releases and I tested 2% of them. Out of those 55, I liked – more or less – just 11 (20% of tested) but I would consider wearing only 6 (~10%) of them and, most likely, not from a full bottle purchase.

I have a feeling I’ll test even less in 2015: with endless new releases who can follow them?

Perfume Samples

Perfume Wearing

Since I usually end up not liking most of the perfumes I test and, at the same time, the number of perfumes I like and own is enough to wear a new one every day for several months, same as the year before, I mostly wore2 perfumes from my collection (bottles and decants) while using samples just for testing or the final decision stage before [not] buying the perfume I thought I liked. In 2014 I had a better rotation of perfumes than the year before – I wore 156 (142) perfumes from 61 (54) brands – but I used perfumes less often – just on 341 (355) occasions.

Stats 2014: Most Worn Brands

Eight out of twelve brands I wore the most this year are the same as for two previous years, which isn’t a big surprise: those are my favorite brands and I have those perfumes in my collection. More interesting are those brands that moved up. Two out of four got that high with a single perfume from each of the brands: Rajasthan by Etro (I told its story in the How many perfumistas does it take to … post) and Chic Shaik No 30 by Shaik (its story is still waiting to be written). The third brand, Lancome, made it also mostly thanks to one perfume – my first and everlasting perfume love Climat (I bought a back-up bottle and started wearing it more often) but there was one more perfume – Mille et Une Roses – that contributed to the statistics. The last new player on my yearly Wheel of Fortune chart is By Kilian. I finally found several perfumes in this line that I like to wear: Amber Oud, Prelude to Love and Love & Tears (and there are several more promising candidates).

Perfume Statistics

It’s getting harder to come up with new silly aspects of our hobby to present in numerical form for this monthly series. I realize that many of my current readers haven’t read all the previous posts and those who have, most likely, won’t remember each of them, but I still couldn’t bring myself to repeat exactly the same topic. Because of that there were fewer posts based just on my personal perfume-related habits (Perfumes Tested in 2014 by Year Released, How many perfumistas I met in RL, TwitterCounter’s Predictions vs. Reality) and more of those, input for which I asked from you (Ten Niche Brands You Need To Know, What is the main reason for your spontaneous perfume purchase?, 10 Most Popular Brands (based on Olfactoria’s Travels Monday Question), To Wear or Not to Wear a perfume you used to love but don’t any longer if there is no other choice?, Perfume Shopping Mecca, Favorite Amber Perfumes).

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Come back in a month to see if I could think of anything new to count. Hopefully, not sheep.


Images: my own


1 For the testing I apply a perfume to one area on my arms easily available for the repetitive sniffing. But, most likely, I’m the only one who can smell it. I can test two, sometimes even more perfumes at the same time.

2 When I wear a perfume I apply it to at least three-four points and usually I plan to spend at least 4-8 hours with the same scent so I’m prepared to re-apply if the original application wears off.

Entertaining Statistics: November 2014

November was slightly cooler and somewhat rainy but it was still uncharacteristically warm. But with rain I’m fine with “warm.”

I intended to use in this post statistics based on the answers to the question I posed in hajusuuri’s wonderful guest post Beyond Mardi Gras – Perfume Shopping in New Orleans. Unfortunately for me, not too many people were interested in the subject of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday shopping – even though I asked about the perfume shopping. The number of answers weren’t enough even for the entertaining statistics so I decided not to use those. Thank you, everybody who did answer the question. You were entered into the draw for 2 ml of hajusuuri’s custom blend perfume and a block of Pumpkin Spice soap. And the winner is Nemo. Please contact me or hajusuuri with your shipping address.

December Draw results

I could have stopped there but I decided to take a look at the comments I got on my last post – Perfume Diary: NovAmber. I asked you to name your top three favorite amber perfumes.

I’m not surprised: our tastes are different. My readers named 26 perfumes. Coincidentally, it’s exactly the number of perfumes I wore in November though the perfumes were different.

The most popular amber perfume in our small but very representative subset was Hermès L’Ambre des Merveilles. Three people named it as one of their top three choices. I definitely need to revisit this perfume.

The next six perfumes were named twice each: Annick Goutal Ambre Fetiche, By Kilian Amber Oud, Dior Mitzah, Mona di Orio Ambre, Ormonde Jayne Tolu and Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan. I like them all (less Mona di Orio’s one that I need to test) and I think these seven make a perfect list of amber perfumes to try for anybody who just starts their exploration of amber.

Nineteen perfumes were mentioned just once and I was surprised to find eight that I’ve never tried (marked in bold):

Brand Perfume
Carner Barcelona Rima XI
Dior Ambre Nuit
E. Coudray Ambre et Vanille
En Voyage Perfumes Captured in Amber
Guerlain Cuir Beluga
Hermes Eau des Merveille
L’Artisan Parfumeur l’Eau d’Ambre
L’Artisan Parfumeur l’Eau d’Ambre Extreme
Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier Ambre Doré
Montale Aoud Ambre
Nobile 1942 Ambra Nobile
Parfumerie Generale L’Ombre Fauve
Amber Pour Homme Intense
Profumum Ambra Aurea
Ramon Monegal Ambra di Luna
Regina Harris Amber Vanilla
Serge Lutens Chergui
Tom Ford Amber Absolute
Yves Rocher Voile d’Ambre

Hopefully, with all the rains I’ll get enough chances to test more amber perfumes this season.

Rusty and Umbrella


Images: my own

Entertaining Statistics: On Tweeting

“But if someone tweets and nobody reads it, did it even happen?”
From the article on Gothamist

For various reasons I skipped my regular Entertaining Statistics post this month but there is a topic I planned to discuss for a while with some elements of statistics. Let’s see how entertaining it is.

Undina's Hand & Jellyfish When I created my Twitter account almost four years ago I couldn’t understand why people would use that service at all: even with just a handful of accounts I followed it seemed just a cacophony of words, ideas and strange labels. #Jabberwocky

I tried to participate in some chats and movements (#perfumetalk, #FF, klout) but it always felt a little strange, as if while standing in the middle of a general admission floor I was trying to talk to people scattered all over the place: some of them were busy talking to others or themselves, some just couldn’t hear me over the music and some had already left quietly.

Today, four years later, I still do not see too much sense in tweeting but I still do it from time to time. I get some random news from there but mostly I use it as an announcement medium – for my new blog posts, other blogs’ giveaways and the like. The main reason I do it is the idea that I want those who actually read my posts to get a notification about them any way they prefer – by e-mail, through Facebook, Twitter, RSS, Bloglovin or Google+.

I don’t remember why but last year I decided to use one of the free services that do statistics for your account – TwitterConter. It’s a simple application: all it does is a report once a week on how many followers you currently have, how many have you gained since the last report and a prediction of the next week’s followers count.

After looking through reports for the last 63 weeks I should say that I’m officially amazed:

  1. The prediction proved to be correct only 4 (four) times; let’s throw in five more with the discrepancy +/- 1. That gives us 9 correct predictions out of 63 – or 14%.
  2. Only on 4 occasions the prediction was more aspirational then the reality (6.3%) and I gained less than they thought I would. In 53 cases (84%!!!) the prediction was too pessimistic as to my ability to attract new followers.

At the same time these reports constantly try to entice me to read their great recommendations as to how to improve my pitiful progress in obtaining more followers. Even if it had been my goal, I wouldn’t have trusted the source taking into the account the success rate of their forecasts (and I don’t like their defeatist attitude!).

October 2014 Stats

Do you have a Twitter account? Do you use it? How?

Images: my own

Entertaining Statistics: September 2014

September was warm and pleasant. We even had several light rains, a couple of which I missed while I was in Maui (if you haven’t done it yet, you still have time to play a guessing game I started in that post). Rains didn’t make a dent in our drought situation but still it was nice to sleep with the rain drumming on the roof.

For this month’s statistics in Make Way for hajusuuri – Perfume Shopping in Boston post I asked a question:

Which city in the World is your mecca for perfume shopping: not sniffing, testing or getting to know brands and their offerings but actually buying perfumes – based on your previous experience?

Twenty four (24) people answered the question (thank you, everybody!) and named 13 cities. I grouped all participants in three regions – U.S., Europe and Other. 67% of people (16) didn’t have to take a long pilgrimage to their perfume mecca: they named a city from the region where they live.

Stats September 2014

I don’t think it’ll surprise anybody that Paris got the most votes (7). New York got silver (4 votes), which was also expected. What I didn’t expect was San Francisco taking the third spot (3 votes) leaving behind Los Angeles (1.5 votes), London, Las Vegas, Cancun, Chicago, Dubai, Hamburg, Houston and Warsaw, each of which got just one vote and Bruchsal with a half vote.

Stats September 2014

I checked Perfume Shopping around the World page and discovered that less than half of the cities that made the list of the best perfume shopping for the respondents have a blog story written by a perfumista. Of course Your Perfume Guide online catalog referenced from that page has lists of stores and boutiques in most of those cities but it misses a personal touch of somebody who loves perfumes. So I urge you to write a shopping guide for your mecca, post it on your blog (or you’re welcome to do a guest post on mine if you do not have a blog) and send me a link to it.

And finally, we have a winner for the draw of the 3 ml decant of My Inner Island Vaniglia Sopraffina e Rhum AND 3 other vanilla-based perfumes from hajusuuri’s collection:

Shopping in Boston Draw Results

Nancysg, send your shipping address to hajusuuri at gmail. If a prize isn’t claimed until 11:59 PM on October 10, 2014, hajussuri reserves the right to randomly select another winner.

Images: kind of my own (I used as elements free pictures from http://www.clker.com and http://yoursourceisopen.com)