Yankee Candles Levels of Abstraction

Tuesday, December 6th, 02022 at 13:31 UTC

This is a twitter thread by Alex McMillan. It was interesting and informative and given that Twitter might not exist in the near future, we’ve unrolled it here with some additional commentary.

The original Twitter thread is here: Yankee Candle’s States of Abstraction. (But we can’t promise the link works). The levels, photos and original descriptions are all Alex’s.

Recently, we posted about Color Name Abstractions. This is an academic research and publication of the use of certain color names to influence your decisions. In that, they had four levels of abstraction: Common, Common descriptive, Unexpected Descriptive and Ambiguous. Each of which had their own impact and perception by the reader.

It was interesting for us to find a similar, albeit longer and less academic, look into the names of Yankee Candles. This list is a funnier look at how abstract a name can become. Who knows, (well Yankee Candle does) if the name has an influence on the purchase, or if there is any correlation between the abstractness of the name, the smell, the color and the sales?

Here are the eight levels of abstraction that Alex McMillan defined for the Yankee Candle line-up.

Level 1

The scent represents a physical object where the object’s aroma is one of its distinct properties. Black Cherry, Fresh Mint

Level 2

The scent represents a physical object in a specific state, where the aroma represented is not necessarily that of the object, but rather representative of that object’s state. Clean Cotton (in this case, the clean-ness is the smell, not the cotton), Balancing Sandalwood & Rose

Level 3

The scent represents a location or event, where the aroma is supposed to be reminiscent of an intrinsic property held by a collective of objects, where that property doesn’t necessarily affect the collective’s aroma. Cliffside Sunrise, Mountain Lodge™

Level 4

The scent represents an event with an intrinsic property. This temporal aroma is devoid of location or physical property, but a shared idea of the property is still understood. Autumn Sunset, Winter Night Stars

Level 5

The scent represents a fully personal experience with some unrelated property. The experience itself has no aroma or shared understanding. Sunny Daydream, Snowflake Kisses

Level 6

The scent represents an abstract location or experience which has some shared understanding but is ultimately fully personal. The aroma tries to replicate an idea, as opposed to a location. The Last Paradise, Wedding Day®

Level 7

The scent represents only an intrinsic property, and a property that itself has no aroma, nor does it affect the aroma of any object of which it is a property. All Is Bright, Starry Slumber

Level Ω

The scent represents a property detached from any object, the absence of an object is in fact part of the scent. Total abstraction. Sweet Nothings, Inspire


As of writing, there are over 160 unique fragrances on the Yankee Candle Website. After a quick scan of the names, you can see they range from the ordinary: Cinnamon Stick, Fresh Cut Roses, to the abstract: Singing Carols, Wedding Day®, Over The River™, and Moonlit Cove.

It would be interesting to attempt to categorize all of the Yankee Candle fragrances and chart them by Level and frequency. 🤔 Maybe 8 levels are too fine grained and 4 would suffice for most people.

The bigger pieces that are missing are: the time axis, which of these are new/old and which are missing, and the sales/popularity data. Then we could much more easily see trends and confirm or deny that the more the abstract the name, the more it acts like a puzzle for the reader and increases their interest. The same as the Abstract Color Name research.

Do the names of fragrances share the same affects on our brain as the names of colors? Are more abstract fragrance names “better” than common, ordinary names?

List of Available Candle Fragrances