Spritz or Showcase? Gender, Uncertainty, and Fragrance Evaluation


Reactions to a scent are both cognitive and neurobiological, and impact fragrance evaluation along two key factors. One is gender, due to information processing differences among men and women. The other one is uncertainty, which firms induce via sales strategies by either spritzing a fragrance before revealing brand and price information, or by showcasing the fragrance by revealing brand and price prior to smelling. Surprisingly, how and when to implement these strategies remains unexplored. This research addresses this gap. It conceptualizes a new mechanism by applying spreading activation theory to the context of the neurobiological scent-processing pathway, proposing that scent, as the prime node in the associative network, automatically activates six attributes: scent characteristics, personal memories, qualitative attributes, social aspects, valence, and marketing-related attributes. We then empirically investigate how these attributes impact product evaluation. A multi-methods approach employing electronic word-of-mouth analysis finds support for the activation of the six fragrance attributes. Two experiments also support their presence, and reveal that men and women evaluate fragrances differently because their information processing is contingent on uncertainty. Managers can nudge the attribute activation process and maximize fragrance evaluation by implementing a gender-based sales strategy, relying on spritzing for men and showcasing for women.



Document Type





gender effect, information processing, olfaction, regression, Sensory marketing

Publication Date


Journal Title

Journal of Global Fashion Marketing