Creed Perfume's Desire Problem

Creed Perfume's Desire ProblemSurprising new consumer research results show Creed Perfume’s Spring Flowers has a significant gap in generating an emotional connection through its packaging. The research was conducted by Buyology Inc, which quantitatively measures the deeper emotional connections to brands and packaging. The upscale French perfume brand fails to excite female consumers and misses the opportunity to connect on the critical measures of engagement and motivation.

Creed Perfume's Desire Problem

The study was conducted among 400 U. S. consumers in a packaging test to evaluate the non-conscious response to engagement and motivation measures. This method is unlike traditional research which elicits rational consumer responses to brand stimuli. Among the eight brands tested across a variety of categories, Creed perfume had the lowest ratings in the test on the engagement measures. Their deep pink colored box and bottle failed to generate the excitement and surprise necessary to attract attention and stimulate consumers. The Creed results displayed below are compared to brands in chocolate and feminine care categories.

Creed Perfume's Desire Problem

The test included respondents with income levels up to $250k a year to evaluate whether an expensive perfume does better among high income consumers. Sadly, the results remain flat on engagement across respondents in both low and high-income levels, as well as among young and older females.

On the motivation measures the Creed package was also rated poorly. The two spider charts below compare the motivation scores for a chocolate brand package compared to the Creed Spring Flowers package. Of particular importance among the motivation measures is the cool score, which Buyology measures across many brands and industries in their Cool Stats tracking. Cool is an important predictor of future brand success because it measures the vortex of emotional and cultural heat on a brand. The low cool score for Creed across all income levels and ages is significant since cool is an important lever to build the emotional momentum necessary to drive purchase, particularly for an expensive perfume.

Creed Perfume's Desire ProblemAdditional insight can be gleaned from the open-ended comments consumers offered on this package.

Here are some of their reactions:

1. Too girly
2. Tacky, cheap
3. Floral
4. Gaudy
5. For older ladies, old fashioned
6. Feminine
7. Not interesting
8. Ugly
9. Too sweet
10. K-Mart

The stuff you miss in evaluating packaging has a cost. If you are missing the assessment of emotion through nonconscious measurement in the way you evaluate packaging, as is the case here with Creed’s Spring Flowers, you may be sending the wrong message to your customers without even knowing it. And, that’s a problem. While many consumers in this test may not have been aware that Creed perfume sells for $240 a bottle, it is clear the position of an exceptional luxury perfume is not being communicated through its packaging to women of all ages. What a shame.

Creed perfumes are wonderful fragrances made with hand-milled ingredients. Their Spring Flowers perfume is created with notes of French apple, fresh peach and melon combined with the queen of all flowers, the rose, and blended by hand by master perfumer Olivier Creed in Paris.

image credit: entre-nouz

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Donna Sturgess is the President and Co-founder of Buyology Inc and former Global Head of Innovation for GlaxoSmithKline. Her latest book is Eyeballs Out: How To Step Into Another World, Discover New Ideas, and Make Your Business Thrive.

Donna Sturgess




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  1. Roger Dooley on August 20, 2012 at 10:47 am

    Interesting study. It would have been interesting to compare the Creed perfume to several other brands that sell well, or, even better, a little known brand with different packaging. Personally, I think the pink bottle looks like packaging for a child-oriented product – hardly the image you want to evoke for an expensive perfume.

    • Donna Sturgess on August 20, 2012 at 11:27 am

      HI Roger

      Thanks for weighing in with your comments. We do studies on a lot of well known brand packages and what surprised us on Creed was how poorly it did among women of all ages and incomes. The power in this method is quantitatively measuring the emotional response to packaging to have a deeper understanding of what is connecting or not.

  2. Sheridan Orr on August 24, 2012 at 9:14 am

    I love the research and the point is well made about the packaging creating an emotional response that is contrary to the product’s target audience. Instead, it is Laura Ashley circa 1980 or something I’d have bought my grandmother with my childhood allowance. However, do you think that the packaging reflects poor positioning over all? It seems that most ‘hip’ perfumes are using more earthy or orientals instead of florals. Thierry Mugler has really changed what people expect in high end perfumes with artistic packaging and notes of tobacco, leather, etc. It just seems that not only have they not thought about the message that they are sending with the packaging, but they’ve not considered the market either. In my experience, if you don’t do positioning well, it is impossible to create a compelling emotional connection.

    • Donna Sturgess on August 26, 2012 at 7:30 pm


      Thanks for the comments on positioning and I agree that having a strong position is critical. In the highly competitive fragrance market brands have to do more that just be distinctive, they have to create an emotional response and connection that is meaningful.

  3. Jennifer Jarratt on August 24, 2012 at 9:52 am

    Thanks, this is interesting. I tend to agree w/evaluators.

    I wondered whether a) there are too many perfumes on the market today & thus creating a standout problem, and b) are women still using perfumes as much as they did and in the same ways? I have the impression that perfume is not as popular with women, especially considering that almost all products use perfume. Still popular with men though, judging by what I smell in crowds

    • Donna Sturgess on August 26, 2012 at 7:37 pm

      Hi Jennifer,

      I agree that In cluttered categories it is always tough to create distinction. My passion is in quantifying the emotional response consumers have to packaging, concepts and advertising to move away from just assessing their rational response to innovation and brands. In my experience it helps us to create products that better serve our consumers, rather than just delivering incremental ideas into a crowded category.


  4. Cynthia Rezende Sombini on August 24, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Totally aligned with the new fine fragrance reality in the american market: premium perfumery is showing difficulties to keep consumers engaged and market size is decreasing. What future holds for this emotional category that is loosing consumers?

    • Donna Sturgess on August 26, 2012 at 9:59 am

      So true, but what is the future of traditional packaging testing that only assesses rational responses to packaging when competition in today’s marketplace is so tough? Marketing has moved on to better tools

  5. Munis T on August 26, 2012 at 7:58 am

    I think the role of packaging depends on the marketing model:
    If it’s a lower-end fragrance just sitting on a shelf, then the packaging alone needs to attract customers who know nothing about the brand. In the case of creed (in my experience) they usually have a knowledgeable brand representative on site who introduces potential new customers to the premium qualities (ingredients, production, history, etc.) of Creed fragrances.

    Along with their (desired) brand value of sophistication, this may explain why they (usually) choose to use less ostentatious packaging. Hence, do you think it might be more appropriate to give test participants an introduction to the brand when testing Creed’s packaging (since this would be reflect the in-store experience)?

    This brings me to my next question: why did you choose spring flower for this testing? It is creed’s only fragrance that comes in a (brightly!) colored box, colored bottle, and with a little ribbon. The rest usually come in white boxes, and clear glass. “Spring Flower” is notoriously feminine (girly if you will) while the rest of their products are marketed as (at least potentially) unisex.

    • Donna Sturgess on August 26, 2012 at 7:42 pm


      I think your experience may be different than mine. I have bought Creed on many occasions and not had a knowledgeable person help me at the counter. Despite that, I would say that even if your experience is the more typical, brands should want their packaging to be working hard for them.

      The test can include up to six packages and in order to really answer the question you ask about the pink box versus the others, we would have to test the Creed line and compare them. It would be a fun test to do and discover whether some products are working better than others. In this test, of course, we decided to test packages in different categories.


      • Munis T on August 27, 2012 at 3:53 am

        It’s fair to say that packaging should be working for you. However, I’m still curious about the following:

        Do you think that individuals who like Creed, and are familiar with it, might have a different reaction to the packaging than people who are unfamiliar with it? That is, do you think that perhaps the packaging is better at retaining customers than it is at attracting new ones?

        On that same note, as someone who frequently buys Creed, would you mind sharing your personal opinion regarding their packaging? Does it appeal to you, or do you buy Creed despite the packaging?

        On a side note, do you think it’s “fair” to compare a fragrance to chocolate? Chocolate is an intensely gratifying, arguably addictive substance; some people have chocolate cravings. Creed fragrances, while arguably exquisite, do not have these properties. Further, this effect may have been intensified by your female sample, given the evidence from cognitive neuroscience that women respond more strongly to food cues than men. Thus, I think that differences in engagement scores, especially for “like,” “want,” and “exciting,” might be misrepresentative.


        • Donna Sturgess on August 27, 2012 at 7:38 am

          The question of users vs non users is a testable proposition. While I understand the comments you offer on chocolate, Creed was rated also lower than a strong personal care package in the test. Our data on chocolate is mixed depending on the brand as you would imagine. Chocolate does not universally score higher than other categories. The price for a MindMeasure test is reasonable compared to other research if you decide you want to test your Creed questions at some point

          • Munis T on August 27, 2012 at 12:49 pm


            Thank you for all your answers to my questions.

            I am actually not affiliated with Creed, though I can see how it might seem that way–I’m just fond of the brand.

            I’m also a big fan of Buyology! As far as I can piece together from your website, you use some very interesting methods to gain insight into brands.


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