I admit I am actually quite excited for our next module as it will center around fragrance and their various promotional tools and campaigns. Before we go back to uni, we had to watch a BBC perfume documentary that provided me with a deep insight into the industry and how it all operates. From the concept, to the packaging and the actual launch of the product. The documentary was split into three parts: Something Old, Something New; Bottling The Memory and The Smell Of Future.
Something Old, Something New
‘The Guerlain way is to get them young and keep them for life’
Smell is the most primitive and least understood sense and perfumes manipulate that sense. Fragrance exploits our feelings so successfully it became a multi billion global industry. But today, the marketing and promotion is as important as the smell. “Scent is invisible so the packaging has a lot of work to do”
The question is, how to make your perfume stand out?
Tommy Hilfiger wanted to create a must-have perfume for Generation Y, to connect this younger generation with the brand. Veronique Gabai-Pinsky from Estee Lauder had the idea of LOUD, rock and roll. They wanted to push the boundaries between music and fragrance sectors together. Tommy was very clear that he wanted to see something on the shelf that was a literal translation of something from the music genre. So the team assembled a moodboard, a collage for the drum and base generation that links back to the youth generation. A LP record inspired the bottle and it slides into the packaging sleeve.
Before watching this documentary, I actually thought that the scent comes first, and the concept and packaging later. I was wrong in Tommy Hilfiger’s case. After they prepared the bottle prototype, it was only then they thought of the liquid. So how do you create Rock n Roll as a smell? Rose! (Really?!)
Anyway, while I’ve never smelled/tried LOUD so I can’t comment on what it’s like, it’s a bit odd to have a rosy, feminine scent for a rock and roll concept. The brand already has two bestsellers in their name and so the stakes are high. The juice has to be ready for the Christmas publicity drive.
“What does it really say? I know what it says – you know what it says, but what does it really say?” – Hilfiger on the campaign for Loud
At the Estee Lauder headquarters in London, the press has been invited for the launch of LOUD. As it was going to launch first in the UK, Marketing manager Trudy had to make sure everything was perfect. They had to solve the patchouli problem no matter what. They also appointed indie bands and model Daily Lowe as brand ambassadors. The result was overwhelmingly positive.
So after months of concept and deisgn, the real test for Tommy’s perfume is the high street customers. You can never fully predict success in this business but the workers at London’s Debenhams were very proud and enthusiastic about the product.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Jean-Paul Guerlain practices a more old school method. The master perfumer entices journalists to his chateau as he doesn’t approve of marketing and insists that he’s not doing panel tests/focus groups.
Also, while nowadays many perfumers are forced to use fewer cheaper ingredients to maintain profit, Guerlain never lets that happen. Thierry Wasser, the new successor must change more than the scent and the house to compete.
But Guerlain’s racist comments resulted in protests and boycotts, and in the end, his reign was over.
Bottling the Memory
French perfumer Jean Claude Ellena creates fragrance inspired by fantasy. Apparently he’s the Obi-Wan Kenobi of frangrance and creates masterpieces with very few, very expensive ingredients. He used to be an apprentice for the school of ‘noses’, run by the biggest chemical company in the fragrance world, Givaudan. Every year the number of students vary and they don’t actually get to create scents, it’s just “one big chemistry lesson.” In this episode, there was also Christopher Brosius and ‘I Hate Perfume’ which focuses on natural scents. To be honest, this was my least-liked part of the documentary.
The Smell of Future
What we like in a smell is determined by our culture and environment. Things are changing and while previously the European and American business were the greats, currently other regions are exploding.
Anne Gottlieb is a Manhattan-based perfumer and creator of the AXE/LYNX line. She wanted to create a new scent which will be dictated by just one territory, Brazil. I genuinely didn’t know that the Latin American market uses more products and the latest craze is scented footwear. They love scents so much over there! When the humidity gets too much, they start all over again. Even if people aren’t rich, they can smell like one. The 3 teams of perfumers are in competition to win this very coveted brief for a global brand. It’s a huge contract to win. The new scent is specifically for 16-25 year old male consumer, has to smell young (since Brazilians love fruity/floral ingredients), tasty yet masculine.
“Turn back the taste clock?”
Meanwhile, historically, Victorians loved rich, musky fragrances and those tastes lasted for decades before the British fell in love with lighter perfumes. A couple (the Brookes) thought that scents of the past can be their future. They recreated three antique scents and had customers to get valuable feedback.
“Brazil is the biggest fragrance market in the world”
Back to LYNX, Ann Gottleib travelled to Sao Paulo, Brazil to approve the new body spray. She ran two informal focus groups (with two way mirror) but the first one unfortunately didn’t achieve reliable results. If the overall feedback was negative, it was back to the drawing board. Luckily, the second group delivered and very much gave insightful feedback about the ingredients and the overall concept.
Smells have different meanings in different cultures. Brands that are only about the past risk becoming museums.