A double-blind fragrant study: Luna Rossa Carbon vs. Sauvage

13th August, 2018

Right now, I am an MBA student at Indiana Institute of Technology, or Indiana Tech as we like calling ourselves. In fact, I am the first autistic graduate student in the school’s history. To be honest, it’s been challenging to get to the point where I am right now. Yet I am incredibly proud up to this point: a 3.7 GPA for a student that is doing a school first is nothing short of stunning.

Do I plan to start my long-delayed fragrance store with this degree? As I like saying, never say never. But downtown Fort Wayne retail needs to reach critical mass first. There have been promising signs in the Fort Wayne market as a whole. It wasn’t until just a few weeks ago that one could buy Tom Ford fragrances locally, yet now one can. (Even several Private Blends!) I am monitoring the sales of these scents closely, and they seem to be off to a promising start. As they say, you’ve got to start somewhere.

In my last class session, I realized how intensely annoying those Johnny Depp commercials for Sauvage have been to me. Yet I realized right here on Basenotes that Prada’s Luna Rossa Carbon was almost identical to Sauvage. Then, I thought: How would Sauvage do against Luna Rossa Carbon in a double-blind setting of millennial college students? And one where every single bit of branding and marketing was completely concealed?

I did the study. (And it wasn’t easy!)

I got the full 200 points from a professor that rarely gives out the full 200 points.

And today, I would like to share these results with the entire world.

The results may surprise you. Or they may not. I don’t want to spoil anyone’s party. Just download the PDF file of the results and be prepared for a first-of-its-kind study from anywhere in the world.

After all, the goal of Basenotes is to be a global community of fragrance fans.

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About the author: Zachary McConnell

A resident of Fort Wayne, Indiana since 2005 and an honors graduate of marketing from Indiana Institute of Technology, Zachary McConnell (you can call him Zach if you like) has been a fan of fragrances since a very young age. In 1994, he got a bottle of Hermes Equipage from a globe-trotting friend, but it wasn't for him. That didn't stop him from trying other fragrances, then joining Basenotes in 2004. Since then, Zach has been a big fan of fragrances, and even plans to launch a fragrance store in his hometown in the future. In the meantime, he’s working as a Mad Man at an agency owned by none other than another fragrance fan.


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      • mariotgomez | 14th August 2018 00:05

        Thank you Zachary,

        Truly enjoyed reading the article and especially your study. Now I have to go and compare the both. Good luck and spritz on!


      • Alex Krycek | 14th August 2018 04:38

        I enjoyed that. I only read it once and in standard way for academic work: fast.

        So, great stuff. I think there's room to push back a bit on the whole "first of its kind" "unique study" stuff. When you remove the specific commodity (perfume), your conclusion is essentially that celebrity endorsements and well-conceived branding sells products. This has been established for a long time.

      • common scents | 14th August 2018 12:21

        Interesting read, although I wasn’t sure why an apology was given to Mr. Depp at the end. If anything he should’ve been given props.

      • Juxtapozbliss | 16th August 2018 15:34

        Congrats on this successful project. Very interesting to read.

      • Shycat | 17th August 2018 02:37

        Thanks for posting this--very interesting.

      • hednic | 17th August 2018 16:05

        Very interesting. Thanks for posting it.

      • jrr2ok | 17th August 2018 20:09


        I appreciate the effort you put into the study. There are some interesting indications in your work.

        I'm sure I'm not the first person to point out the issues around such a small sample size and the resultant issues with statistical significance, but your test leaves me wanting to see more. I hope you get the opportunity to do further analysis and testing. It's fascinating stuff. Thanks again for sharing with us.

      • jujy54 | 19th August 2018 04:42

        I enjoyed reading your study.

      • conkhi | 21st August 2018 03:04

        very fun article. I had both and sold carbon. It was ok but much less sillage/projection on me but more office friendly for sure.

      • Funwithfrags | 23rd August 2018 20:30

        Some interesting things, but I would suggest:

        1. A two-stage test, investigating the difference between groups where they are aware of / not aware of the marketing. So, a blind study against a non-blind study.

        2. I would really fix the way that hypothesis is written. Hypotheses need to be accepted or rejected.

        It would be interesting to read any follow-up studies.

      • Ghost_Goat | 24th August 2018 07:50

        Forgive me for being obtuse, but I'm confused about the goal of the study. Or perhaps, more accurately, confused by the methodology used in trying to reach a conclusion in line with the stated objective: "How would two groups of people react to two different fragrances that smell almost identical when all branding and imagery stripped from both?"

        I've never had a strong grasp of polling and statistics, but it seems like there is one variable too many here. If the objective is to determine how marketing effects perception of a fragrance, why are the marketing materials not incorporated into the study at some point? Wouldn't it be more effective to conduct the survey using two groups, one of which knows the name of the fragrance and has been exposed to the marketing while the other evaluates the same fragrance but knows neither? Or is there a benefit to a double blind test using similar but not identical items, and I'm simply not grasping it?

        Regardless, thanks for sharing Zach! It's always interesting to see the results, especially when they deviate from what one might reasonably suspect.

      • Tranqville | 5th September 2018 19:56

        I'm a marketing professional. Please do note that branding changes the perception of products (taste, smell, etc) on neural level - studies show that different areas of the brain are activated for branded and unbranded products. See, for instance, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3634816/

        I'm also unclear about the purpose of your study, as previous poster. What was the hypothesis, did or did you not prove it?

      • SirCharles | 8th September 2018 11:51

        Great, interesting and fun study!

        I'm quite surprised If this is the first type of it's kind done a university level. However, as an avid online researcher, I do see some Youtube channels doing unofficial blind fragrence surveys as composed to studies. They should incorporate some of your questions to take it up a notch. Again, great study! I always knew that endorsements played a huge role in marketing. I would actually avoid certain products that used humans as endorsements. Cheers!

      • Zgb | 13th September 2018 12:48

        Figures, I myself like Luna Rossa Carbon much more from the start. When I tried Sauvage, to me it was brash and irritating. Last weekend I was out for a few drinks with friends and noticed that half of my city smells of Sauvage, literally. Guys 18+ and 50+ wear this more than Le Male in its most glorious days! Suffice to say if there was even a glimpse of desire to buy Sauvage, it died. Made me irritated even more.

      • Macsrul | 13th September 2018 16:16

        That was a lot of fun to read!! Thank you Zachary!

      • oudaddict | 24th September 2018 00:12

        Great study, keep up the good work!

      • Sneitzke | 1st October 2018 02:42

        I enjoyed reading your study. I work at a fragrance counter and so many people request the "Johnny Depp cologne." Most don't even say Sauvage. Dior does really well at marketing it. Even though Prada's Luna Rosa is similar, I do like Sauvage a little more.

      • pluran | 27th November 2018 02:54