What is the Perfume Project?

This blog is a constantly evolving forum for thoughts on perfume, perfume-making, plants (especially orchids and flora of the Pacific Northwest) and life in general. It started out chronicling the adventures of Olympic Orchids Perfumes, established in July 2010, and has expanded in other directions. A big part of the blog is thinking about the ongoing process of learning and experimentation that leads to new perfumes, the exploration of perfumery materials, the theory and practice of perfume making, the challenges of marketing perfumes and other fragrance products, and random observations on philosophy and society. Spam comments will be marked as such and deleted; any comments that go beyond the boundaries of civil discourse will also be deleted. I am grateful to all of you, the readers, who contribute to the blog by commenting and making this a truly interactive perfume project.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


Unfortunately, when I work on my websites and some other applications I have to leave pop-up windows unblocked, and I don’t like to have to switch between the blocked and unblocked states depending on what I’m working on. As a result, I see lots of ads everywhere, but have mostly learned to ignore them. In a way they’re instructive because they have taught me something about ineffective advertising strategies.  

The strangest phenomenon of all is that of pop-up ads for an item I just bought a day or two ago. It’s happened over and over again. I buy a 250-foot roll of Parafilm (a material that I use to cover flasks during processing), and suddenly everyone in the world wants to sell me a 250-foot roll of Parafilm. If I wanted more than one, would I not have bought multiple rolls in the first place? I can see the possible utility of advertising items related to the one purchased, but not the identical one. If I bought Parafilm, maybe the supplier should advertise Erlenmeyer flasks, magnetic stir plates, beakers, or other lab equipment. I might even see something I needed or “needed”.

The same goes for perfumes and cosmetics. If I buy an item at an online retailer’s site, suddenly ads for that exact item pop up all over the place, usually from the same retailer from whom I ordered. I fail to see the logic behind advertising retrospectively. Shouldn’t the advertiser try to anticipate the customer’s needs and wants instead of trying to sell the same thing over and over?

I’m sure this maladaptive advertising strategy is driven by software robots with no common sense, but surely the people who implement it and choose to use it should be expected to exercise some common sense. At first I thought it was a coincidence, but I’ve now seen it happen over and over again. Have you experienced this backwards advertising strategy? Can you think of any rationale for it other than ease of programming? 

[Billboard adapted from a photo on Hopkins Medicine's website; dog chasing tail from The Daily Mail, push-pull sphere from Wikimedia]


  1. Perhaps these ads are meant to appeal to the hoarder or prepper in many of us? Ease of programming (sloth?) and total absence of imagination are probably the real reasons this stuff pops up. Nevertheless, these ads remind me that my "purchasing profile" is out there for anyone to see and use...

    1. Gail, I suspect it's more lack of imagination and critical thinking skills rather than "sloth". Not to sound paranoid, but it's very true that not only our "purchasing profiles" are publicly available, but so are our "browsing profiles". It's likely every person on earth has conducted some search that could be used against them if the wrong motivation were attributed to it.

  2. This happens to me all the time, and I take it as a reminder that our creations (computers and software) are not necessarily any more intelligent than we are. They are frequently far less intelligent than their makers! Sadly, most of us rely on them for too many things, and then, the sketch gets silly.

    1. Hi Marla, I'm glad someone else experiences this, too! I think the danger of constantly interacting with the digital world is that people start engaging in the same limited forms of "thinking" and can't get beyond robot-style algorithmic processing to see the absurdity that sometimes results and use the human attribute of common sense.