Perfume sampling goes way back in time when a company named California Perfume Company (today called AVON) in 1880's used samples to demonstrate its products (perfumes, toilette waters, powders, soups and food preparations) to their clients.
It is a bit controversial if David H. McConnell, founder of the company, did or did not intend originally to create a beauty company. According to Avon's website McConnell was a book salesman and during his travels he realized that women were more interested in the free perfume samples he offered with his books than the books he was selling (a strategy he had to pitch his sales). According to the website since the beginning he noticed 2 important things:
1. women were isolated in their homes while their husbands were off to work; 2. women at that time were confine to jobs in agriculture and manufacture or domestic services.
I researched more and the truth is told in the founder's biographical book: He was giving these fragrances away to learn about this market and to test products that he was interested in selling in the near future.
THE LITTLE DOT BOX BY AVON
"In 1887, on my return from Chicago, I purchased the entire business from my employer and managed it myself for some time. During this time the one thing I learned successfully was how to sell goods to the consumer.
My ambition was to manufacture a line of goods that would be consumed, used up, and to sell it through canvassing agents, direct from the factory to the consumer.
The starting of the perfume business was the result of most careful and thorough investigation, guided by the experience of several years' successful operation in the book business; that is, in selling goods direct to the consumer or purchaser. I learned during this time that the proper and most advantageous way of selling goods was to be able to submit the goods themselves to the people. In investigating this matter nearly every line of business was gone over, and it seemed to me, then, as it has since been proven, that the perfume business in its different branches afforded the very best possible opportunity to build up a permanent and well-established trade. Having once decided that the perfume business was the business, the question naturally presented itself, "By what name are these perfumes to be known; by what name is this company to be called?" The gentleman who took me from the farm as a boy, became in the past years not only my employer, but my personal friend and, after buying him out, he moved to California, and while there wrote me glowing accounts of the country, and to him belongs the idea of the name California, as associated with this business.
It was in 1888 that I started the perfume business in a space scarcely larger than an ordinary kitchen pantry.
At first I manufactured but five odors: Violet, White Rose, Heliotrope, Lily-of-the-Valley and Hyacinth. I did much experimental work in making these odors, and the selling price of the first batch of perfumes I made did not cover one-half the actual cost of the goods, but experience is a great teacher, and I applied myself to the task of making perfumes with the same vim and energy that I had in selling books and, after a short time, I fancied that I could produce as fine an odor as some of the old and tried perfumers; at least, my perfumes pleased my customers; they were the natural perfumes of the flower, made in the most natural way and by the same process employed by the large French perfumers.
I soon found it necessary to increase the odors and to add to the line other articles for the toilet, among those first put out were: Shampoo Cream, Witch Hazel Cream, Almond Cream Balm, Tooth Paste, which afterwards was made in the Tooth Tablet, Toilet Waters, etc." (Excerpt extracted from A brief history of the california Perfume Company by David h. McConnell in 1903).
Mostly, what the company understood in terms of marketing strategy was that placing the actual products into the hands of consumers within their own homes was immediately apparent so customers could see and examine the actual goods offered for purchase in a familiar inviting environment, and that customers could more easily appreciate the quality, the simplicity and the beauty of the containers, labels and packing elements that helped to secure increased sales.
Also a visionary, François Coty in 1910 introduced the marketing strategy called affordable luxury - At that time he made available smaller bottles of identical perfume products at lower prices in order to make his brand affordable to a broader range of women, a strategy soon to be adopted by his competitor Gabrielle Chanel who in 1932 launched her handbag flacons - small pocket-size bottles of her entire collection as a solution to continue to sell her luxury products during the economic collapse of the Great Depression.
ESTÉE LAUDER at the counter of her brand
We can't study the history of fragrance sampling without bringing the most innovative of all entrepreneurs and marketing strategists in the cosmetic & fragrance business - Estée Lauder. Born Josephine Esther Mentzer, the daughter of Hungarian Jewish immigrants from Queens began to sell cosmetics in the late 20's and created the GIVE AWAY marketing strategy for her products. She believed that giving away free samples of her products was the most honest way to do business and in the early 30's she was giving a dollop sample of her cream in waxpaper. She believed that customers receiving these samples were not only encouraged to buy her products, but also to tell others about the brand (she called it Tell a Woman strategy). This concept of marking developed later to the gift-with-purchase strategy (GWP), also her idea. In the early 50's women who came to Estée Lauder counters would receive a free gift, learn more about the products and purchase what they needed. In fact this strategist invested all her money in samples to be mailed directly to customers with their monthly bills, to be given together with other items purchased at her counters, or simply by giving them away in charity events.
Back in 1940 a research chemist for the NCR Corporation in the process of trying to solve a problem with the stains that remained after changing the company's cash register tapes, produced tiny capsules of ink that were safely sealed in chemical bubbles, that later was incremented by 3m and NCR resulting in a new micro-encapsulation process that inspired the scratch-n-sniff strips. It is also known that ORLANDI, a company in the printing business since 1915 was already developing a custom made chemically pure paper for fragrance testing. Later in 1950 the company developed a blotter scenting process that allowed the application of fragrance in printing paper and that was a turning point to fragrance marketing. Direct mail and in-store sampling became tools to increase sales and millions of blotter cards were shipped daily to department store clients.
In the early 80's a fashion store called Giorgio from Beverly Hills saw its potential by inserting scented strips with the fragrance they were about to launch in several magazines and attached to envelopes sent to clients. The strips were responsible for the success of sales that reached $2.5 million in the first year - a number that reached more than $100 million.
According to the NYT in an article of 1988, at that decade perfumes were sold mainly at department stores and the fragrance counters were always placed on the first floor for maximum exposure. A sales person was always standing behind the corner luring customers to come closer where she or he would be persuaded to try a fragrance. At that time some brands offered trial vials but it was highly expensive. Soon they discovered the power of scented adds as a cheaper and broader way to sample perfumes. In 1985 Calvin Klein launched a controversial advertising campaign for the iconic fragrance Obsession with printed adds which were mailed to millions of homes through scent strips in magazines, showing a muted picture of three nude men hovering around a nude woman.
THE SUPER MODELS
The decade of the 90's were a turning point to scented ads when model agencies and fashion magazines created and promoted the so-called Super Models. Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington and Claudia Schiffer became as famous and glamorous as movie stars. They were in the spotlight of gossips, trendy night clubs, and covers of fashion magazines worldwide. Everyone wanted to see these glamourous women and magazine sales skyrocket. During this period fragrance adverting in magazines was never so intense and so explored. In an analysis of the New York Times in 1992 we get the numbers: "Fragrance strips, sometimes known as scent strips, are just a decade old, but they have already created a $40 million a year business and breathed new life into the $4 billion a year American fragrance industry". The newspaper explained the success of this sampling strategy: "Two senses are touched by fragrance strips - sight and smell. A reader turning a page can see a gorgeous woman dreaming of who knows what delicious things and, by simply lifting a flap of paper, can sample the fresh scent of spring flowers or something musky, exotic, maybe a little sexy. This might just prompt many women - and some harried men too busy for shopping - to fill out the scented envelope attached to the page and order up a bottle or two or three with their credit cards.The potential is enormous in a nation that is both the world's largest fragrance market and the world's largest direct-mail market. The fragrance strips play on two thoroughly modern, very American traits: the desire to smell good and the compulsion to save time".
ORLANDI for Lancôme Trésor
In the turn of the millennium innovative sampling strategies emerged. Brands looked for more targeted campaigns, getting consumer's attention through unusual and creative distribution channels such as beauty salons, night clubs, concerts, spas, hotels, etc... The cross marketing strategy was introduced by grouping samples with different retails sized products. Internet became also a distribution channel for sampling programs. Many brands began to offer free samples in exchange of personal information and opinion about the fragrances. Many brands began to offer free samples of fragrances as a pre-launch event and websites for each and every perfume launch began to pop up.
New sampling packing solutions were developed and launched in the marketing. Delivery by insertion of samples in magazines and newspapers still had to be flexible and flat, but it became more creative and more technological. Front foils shaped and printed containing perfumed gels, perfumed tissues and pads to be discovered and sampled as they were peeled became available. Unique cuts were developed and more complex designs were available. Sampling systems mimicking the shape and the graphics of the retail-sized perfumes became also a hit and a way to maintain brand identity.
In terms of vials, mini sprays substituted the traditional force-fit plug and dabbing with the fingers. Rexam developed mini sprayers and dispensing systems enabling customer to have a very similar experience they had with full sized bottles.
TO BE CONTINUED...