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Create a Poster Activity

Create an advert poster for a fragrance compound.

Good posters effectively summarise information, help publicise it, and generate discussion. We hope you are now inspired to produce a colourful, distinctive, and scientifically accurate poster. Don’t forget to keep the text to a minimum and include a positive message. 

There is an extensive list of fragrant compounds to pick from – around 4,000 chemicals are currently used to scent products – here are some examples that you might find interesting to research.

Ambergris: A sperm whale secretion with a sweet, woody odour. As the sale of ambergris is illegal in many countries, ambroxan, a key odour component of ambergris, is made in the laboratory and used extensively in the perfume industry.
Cashmeran: Also known as musk indanone, this synthetic ketone has a spicy, ambery, musky, floral odour and is intended to convey the “feeling” of cashmere.
Hedione: Master perfumer Arcadi Boix Camps wrote of hedione “the compound that without a doubt has most influenced modern perfumery and has allowed the great artists to develop their ideas with inspiration…”
Iso E Super: A synthetic woody odourant used in perfumes, laundry products, and cosmetics. Also known as OTNE (for octahydrotetramethyl acetophenone), it is a mixture of isomers with the IUPAC name tetramethyl acetyloctahydronaphthalenes.
Menthol: Used in mouthwashes and toothpastes to provide a cool fresh mint aroma. The cooling sensation of menthol is due to it activating a nerve cell that solely functions to provide us with a cold sensation. This nerve cell, called TRPM8, assists with regulating our body temperature and is present in our mouth, skin, and nose. (Interestingly, a synthetic compound, appropriately named icilin, is nearly 200 times as potent as menthol in activating TRPM8.)
Musk ketone: Made serendipitously in 1888 by German chemist Albert Baur while he was trying to find a better way to produce the explosive TNT. In the perfume industry, musk ketone is called a fixative because it stabilizes the volatility and improves the tenacity of perfume aromas.
Raspberry ketone: From over 200 compounds that contribute to its distinct raspberry flavour, one of these, called raspberry ketone, was singled out by food manufacturers for its potent smell.
Skatole: In high concentrations, it is the primary odour of faeces. In low concentrations, it has a flowery smell and is found in several flowers and essential oils!
Strawberry furanone: Otherwise known as 2,5-dimethyl-4-hydroxy-3(2H)-furanone, this compound is used in the flavour and perfume industry due to its sweet strawberry aroma.
Vanillin: The principal flavour and aroma compound in vanilla. The high price of natural vanilla extract, which contains plant-made vanillin, has resulted in unscrupulous venders trying to pass off much cheaper synthetic vanilla (containing lab-made vanillin) as the ‘real thing’. To detect fakes, an early detection method relied on measuring the minuscule amount of radioactive carbon-14 isotope – vanillin extracted from vanilla pods contains a higher level of carbon-14 than synthetic vanillin made in the lab. In response, the fakers added extra carbon-14 to their synthetic vanillin! On some levels this is not a substantive problem, as both natural and synthetic vanillin are identical and so have the same taste.
Watermelon ketone: Also known as calone or methylbenzodioxepinone, this is a synthetic perfume that has an intense “sea-breeze” note (the chemists who created it were originally looking for a food additive that offered both the taste and aroma of watermelon).

These memorable rhyming advertising slogans may also provide some inspiration.

Electrolux (Vacuum Cleaner): Nothing sucks like an Electrolux
Heinz (Baked Beans) : Beanz, Meanz, Heinz
Mars (Chocolate Bar): A Mars a day helps you work, rest, and play
Quavers (Potato Snack): The flavour of a Quaver is never known to waver
Thomas Cook (Travel Company): Don’t just book it, Thomas Cook it

A study from 2014 identified the following three primary factors needed for a popular slogan: (i) clarity of message; (ii) creativity; and (iii) familiarity with the brand.

When you are done we would love to see your results! Upload your posters to our open Padlet (we have included some examples from previous courses to help inspire you) or use the Twitter or Instagram hashtag #FLchemistry, telling us which compound you have chosen. 

Creativity and Interactivity

A few years ago, Coca-Cola took advertising to the next level, promoting Coke Zero in an unexpected way. It was not the sight, nor the sound, but the taste that was promoted in its campaign, by creating a “drinkable poster”! Indeed, interactive posters, presented on high-definition interactive touch screens, are on the increase for a multi-media presentation of scientific knowledge at conferences, museums, and galleries. What is the best interactive display you have used at a museum or gallery?

Also, where do you stand on the question of whether advertising is science or art? Is advertising success achieved through incremental research, careful checking of data, and logical planning – or is it more to do with a creative “eureka” moment? You may have read the famous Bill Bernbach quote? “Advertising is fundamentally persuasion and persuasion happens to be not a science, but an art.”

Finally, perfume commercials are typically made in such a way to let the viewer visualise the fragrance – they often create symbolism so viewers can experience what they are supposed to feel when they smell their product. To do this companies can spend millions enlisting famous actors and big-name directors. However, to some viewers, the storylines are baffling, often boring (always ‘beautiful female, handsome male’), and do not connect on any real emotional level. What do you think?

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Exploring Everyday Chemistry

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