Friday, June 8, 2012

Different marketing approaches to perfumery

To Claudio Dratwa in memorium - one of the most brilliant Brazilian art director/publicist there was; and also a beloved ex-boyfriend and friend, till he passed away last month.

French designer Paul Poiret established his studio in 1903 and soon became famous for his flamboyant and rather controversial fashion design. His instinct for marketing and branding had no predecessors.
Poiret's portfolio expanded to decor (furniture, rugs) accessories, graphic design and fragrances, in addition to his successful clothing design business.
In 1911 fashion designer Paul Poiret created a perfume house called Les Parfums de Rosine (named after his beloved daughter Rosine), a groundbreaking event in the history of marketing in Perfumery, because it was the first time that the name of a designer appeared on the box of a fragrance.

The inspirations and the names of the fragrances were directly related to events occurring in his personal life, and linked to Poiret's  way of expressing lifestyle & fashion.
His singular and dynamic personality reflected in his personal aesthetics, and he was the first fashion designer-perfumer maker that elevated his lifestyle to an ART concept.
Followed by Gabrielle Chanel - who also owned the merit of another groundbreaking event in perfume history, by launching a fragrance that had no name, but actually a number, and contained synthetic raw materials such as aldehydes. In terms of perfume marketing, Gabrielle Chanel succeeded to achieve the remarkable title of the most famous and sold perfume in the Perfumery History (at least till 2011 when J'Adore topped the list of the 20 best-sellers).
Moved by envious and negative-obsessive ideas towards Poiret and the French High Society, this lady conquered the American market by introducing her fashion design to Hollywood film makers and her fragrances to celebrities. In 1950's she hit the jackpot having her brand associated to the image of an iconic movie star  - Marilyn Monroe.
During the war, her perfumes became also iconic souvenir that soldiers brought back home to their darlings. A brilliant marketing strategy never done before.
Chanel women broke the stereotyped concept of femininity of her era. Vulnerability was substituted by strength and independence. She was different, she was daring, she was a demi-mundane. Her marketing strategies were always based in two things: a woman should be classy and fabulous.

But IMO, the most valuable thing Chanel had was the skills of communication and marketing creativeness. Loyalty to a concept that was well defined from the beginning, and never changed ever since: Simplicity - Elegance - Modernity - Class - is the main reason why I admire this brand..
In 1924 Chanel launched what we can call the first perfume brochure with details of all Chanel's fragrances.
The first perfume ad in Perfume Marketing History belongs also to Chanel, and it was displayed in the New York Times in 1924.
As per perfume bottle design, Chanel not only introduced a new concept of aesthetics, but she also found in bottle design, a powerful marketing tool.
In terms of marketing strategy in Perfumery, nothing new was added until Niche Perfumery was created as the response/alternative to massive production. The approach was more limited to an exclusive clientele (at least in the beginning). The inspiration was most of the time art, in any form (written, spoken, seen, etc). 
High quality raw material and very expensive bottles were offered for a very small group of people who could afford it. Many perfumers exchanged their high salaries for an address and a brand, such as Francis Kurkdjian, Celine Ellena, Serge Lutens, Patricia de Nicolai, etc etc etc...

Etat Libre D'Orange knowing that seduction is the most powerful tool of perfume marketing strategies, decided to elevate sex to the only inspiration for its creations, until very recently, when the brand decided to mellow down its aggressive sexual approach, and began to launch fragrances called Fils de Dieu, Du Riz et Des Agrumes, Antihéros etc... nevertheless, to use explicit sex to sell perfumes was a exquisite different marketing approach even for Niche Perfumery.

We have seen new approaches such as Le Labo's, where bottles have no particular design - they look like lab flacons and the fragrances actually have no name, but instead a raw material and a code - such as Bergamot 22, Oud 27, Iris 39 etc... The marketing strategy was to sell that "they don't want you to be fooled by marketing strategies". That you (perfume passionate) should in fact, consider the fragrance, and not the advertising and all the gimmicks that come attached to it.

Parfumkunstwerke by Thorsten Biehl also innovated by creating a perfume gallery (olfactive gallery as he calls it) - where perfumes are displayed as objects of art.
No marketing research whatsoever was done to elaborate the fragrances, and only quality and creativity was taken under consideration. Each fragrance was developed by a different perfumer who receives a code with his/hers initials, and the fragrance, a serial number of the lot and date of production. The motto "Perfume art. Nothing else" brings a minimalist, and yet very complex concept to fragrances.

This year Maison Chanel has announce a major change in their advertising and it has been causing a huge stir since the press released it. Instead of famous female celebrities, Brad Pitt (the iconic American actor) is going to be the new face of Chanel Nº5.
The thing is, Maison Chanel is desperate to gain back the title of best seller fragrance, and Brad Pitt is still considered by many, the sexiest man in the film industry. Also the perfect father (he has 5 kids so far and counting), the perfect American citizen (he does volunteer work - he helped to rebuild the South after the hurricane Katrina; donates money and operate many fund raising orgs; is married to one of the most beautiful woman of the entertaining buss...etc etc etc...), not to mention that marketing researches found out that he is the ultimate female fantasy of the contemporary world.
He is a good spokes person, he is simple, classy (I don't agree to that, but so they say), and both men and women relate positively to his image. He will probably sell more than Marilyn Monroe. So the strategy didn't change, it is re-conceived to fit financial decisions of the Maison. Ground breaking news for Chanel? Not really.

Also this year, more precisely this month, Chandler Burr decided to jump to the other side of the table by selling his own fragrance collection called Untitled Series. The first fragrance is called S01E01 (season 1, episode 1).
According to him (in an e-mail sent to me this week):
The Untitled Series is an entirely different way of marketing perfume, or of anti-marketing it. A significant percentage of consumers - many of them among the most important consumer demographic, people who don't wear scent - need a different entry. No girl, no boy, no bottle, no "notes," no "story." The Series strips off all of this, presents the scents as whole works of art, and demands that the consumer focus 100% on the scents alone: their technical performance from diffusion to persistence, their structures, and their aesthetic beauty.

The website selling this fragrances is called OPENSKY and it describes the project as follows:
The Untitled Series: S01E01

Limited Edition of 100 bottles (50ml/1.7oz)

Introducing a revolutionary new fragrance series curated exclusively for the shoppers by renowned scent critic Chandler Burr.
Each month, on the first of the month, Burr will select a fragrance to share with shoppers. He’ll choose works currently on the market, in all styles, from the late 19th century to today that have been created by the greatest scent artists in the world. He’ll present them to shoppers in unmarked 50ml lab bottles, stripped of all packaging, marketing, labels and faces, including the brand and the name. Without identifying the scents in any way, Burr will write a critical assessment of each including the brilliance of their structures, the quality of their materials, and their singular beauty, all characteristics he feels are essential to consider when selecting a scent.
For the first time, experience perfumes in a way that will allow — in fact encourage — you to rethink each scent by freeing you from all visual cues and marketing techniques. The Untitled Series is a way of seeing these works with fresh eyes.
Experience the first fragrance called S01E01 (Season One Episode One) and the identity of the scent as well as more about the artist who created it will be revealed to shoppers on the last day of June.  The series will continue with a new launch on the first of every month and a subsequent reveal on the last day of each month.  There will be only 100 bottles available in the Series each month and once they are sold, they’re gone, and will not be produced again.

Chandler Burr is celebrating that the fragrance was sold out in four days.
Lets put aside the fact that I consider Chandler a friend, and I will try to look at this project in the most objective way as possible.
The idea of becoming a perfume seller instead of criticizing perfume is not new (Kerosene did that last year). The idea that fragrance is art is not new either. Giving numbers instead of names - also not new. Giving lab flacons instead of fancy labled perfume bottles is definitely not new. And finally, selling out in four days is also obvious - everyone is curious to know what Chandler is offering - either to cherish him or criticize him to the core. So what is groundbreaking about this project? Is it worth trying?
First of all if you paid attention to the description of the website, he will offer classic fragrances from late 19th century till today -  vintage perfumes are not so easy to find. And when you do, they tend to be very expensive - so this is a great opportunity for all of us. Not only that, you will also be given the opportunity to evaluate the fragrance without any previous information that might influence you (actually you don't know anything besides the fact that it is a fragrance that already exists). You will finally be free to experience the juice, with no images, no sounds, nothing attached. Quite an adventure I must say!
But most of all, you have Chandler Burr scanning 1000s of fragrant beauties, and choosing what he considers master pieces or worth trying fragrances. His experience and knowledge in Perfumery is very extent as you already know. You will be not only purchasing a perfume, but him, as your very own personal fragrance stylist. This month, the ones who succeeded to purchase the first bottle, got him for only USD50.
I am not sure if I am happy that this project was launched in an online website - I would have prefered if it was inside the Art Museum you know, many museums have their on shops. Maybe this was a marketing strategy inside an anti marketing strategy project? (What I wanted to say is, that no matter how much you wish or try to be driven away from marketing strategies, I find this quite impossible today). 

And that brings me back to my beloved and recently lost friend. He knew how to turn the simplest product, into something magnificent, in the most brilliant way. Selling the most difficult idea to his friends lately. That you can actually survive a brain cancer that cannot be removed by surgery, just because you wish to live longer.

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