IN THE film, Scent of a Woman, actor Al Pacino plays a blind man who can gauge a woman's personality by the fragrance she wears. This same assumption is adopted by the marketing men of large fragrance companies who pour millions of dollars into imbuing a new scent with an identity, a brand image carefully positioned to attract and seduce. The investment in trying to gauge a woman's personality and bottling it has its dividends - the scent industry is worth a staggering $35 billion a year - $27 billion for the women's category and $8 billion for the men's. Although only a few men have the skill of Pacino's character, many people do put an image to a smell, if not necessarily conjuring up a brand name. For example a whiff of pine needles could easily remind a person of a holiday. ''My wife wears Sublime by Jean Patou,'' said television journalist Mark Austin. ''It enhances her personality. She only wears it on special occasions. The occasions I remember. It does not mirror her personality, it becomes her personality. Now, I associate the smell with her, so that when I smell it on another woman, I think of her immediately.'' But not all men are as sensitive to smell. Mr Paul Hanstand, a merchant banker, does not believe you can judge a woman's personality by the scent she wears. ''I hardly notice perfume,'' he said. ''Some fragrances smell vaguely familiar but I would certainly not draw any conclusions on the wearer's personality. It is purely superficial. I believe women are much more sensitive to the images certain perfumes give than men. ''I have absolutely no preconception about a woman from her perfume and I certainly wouldn't be able to name the brand. I think the man's talent in Scent of a Woman is perfectly believable only because blind people have more acute senses.'' Mr Thierry Hubert, a French lawyer in Hongkong, disagreed - he claimed many of his countrymen were sensitive to the smell of scent on women. ''In France, if a woman was passing wearing a famous perfume many men would recognise which brand it was,'' he said. ''Yes, a perfume should give an indication of the woman's personality. ''When you are buying a woman perfume you should always take her personality into account.'' Ms Eileen Bygrave, of Elizabeth Arden, said: ''Often a man will associate a smell with someone he knows. Whenever a fragrance comes up he will be reminded of that person. ''My husband has a strong sense of smell. Some men do and some men don't. Some people have strongly developed taste buds instead.'' Ms Bygrave said the market place consisted of a ''wardrobe of fragrances'' which were often worn according to mood. ''Personally, there are times when I like to wear a man's fragrance like I would want to wear a man's plain jumper as opposed to a more patterned jumper that is supposed to be for a woman,'' she said. ''You might be feeling sporty and fresh one day because you have your tennis gear on. ''You might wear Chloe Narcisse in the morning because its fresh and floral. Asian women are slowly learning the images associated with perfume. I remember my mother used to put perfume on a handkerchief because she liked the smell of it, not the smell on her. ''She would use it like smelling salts. That was my first recollection of fragrance. My daughter now spends her cash buying a particular perfume she likes. She may be given some. But she will choose a specific one for herself that she will wear. She might have worn Anais Anais as a young girl but has progressed to Paloma Picasso now.'' The house of Chloe, sold by Elizabeth Arden in Asia, recently launched Chloe Narcisse. With the help of a super-model, the advertising portrayed a woman wronged, alive with passion and aflame with desire. The perfume is targeted at the romantic, a woman who likes the idea of falling in love and all the problems that come with it. Red Door on the other hand is perceived as an ''American'' perfume which is targeted at the smart, executive woman while Fendi is provocative and sexy''. Ms Caroline Mak, director and general manager of Christian Dior in Hongkong, said: ''More feminine women, will always go for something floral but those who want to project a strong identity will go for a heavier fragrance such as Poison. Some men are aware of the brands. But there are thousands of scents and you would have to be very sensitive to recognise them all. ''If I wear black I usually wear Poison. I wear perfume according to the clothes I wear. The weather is also a factor. If it is gloomy outside, I will wear a fresh fragrance. If my make-up and colours are colourful, I will wear something louder. After a shower I often put on a men's fragrance. If I go out at weekends I tend to wear Dune. ''In Europe you do find people will go for a perfume that does not reflect their personality, women are far more flexible there. In Asia they are moulded more by marketing and the concept of the scent.'' Ms Eileen Paley, director of fragrance marketing development for Perfums Lagerfeld, said research in the US had shown the nose was closely linked to the brain and, as such, was responsible for not only patterns of human odour perception but for the manner in which the brain reacted to those odours. ''The nose can be credited for sniffing out less tangible items such as weather and moods,'' she said. ''Hence, there is great credibility to sayings such as, 'I smell rain' or 'I smell danger'. ''Rather than being off-hand comments, these expressions are valid.''