Thursday, December 3, 2009

Getting To Know The Fragrance You Sell

When a giant fragrance marketing company launches a new fragrance today, chances are they have done a LOT of homework trying to match up the "image" they will be using to sell the fragrance (a celebrity, for example) with the fragrance itself, and with the packaging. Hundreds of thousands of dollars will be spent. By one estimate, the entire anticipated first year's sales will be plowed into developing the fragrance and its launch.

And for all that, it's a crap shoot.

Giant fragrance launches need giant numbers of buyers. I was taught many years ago that to appeal to the masses -- the only place you can find a giant number of buyers -- you have to make the sales pitch as tame as possible. It must be acceptable too all, offensive to none. Leave out anything that might be regarded as controversial. Keep everything "nice." And in perfume, the same goes for the fragrance. Keep it "nice" so EVERYONE likes it. If you think this is boring, please read on.

For someone who wants to sell their own fragrance and IS NOT a marketing giant, the opposite approach works better. In fact, it is the only way to make headway against the giants. Let your product be a little "edgy" ... let your advertising be targeted to the few rather than the many. Don't try to compete with Coty and Estee Lauder on packaging.

But to make this work, you have to know your chosen market. And your fragrance.

Now let's talk about people who are making their own fragrances who are NOT part of the industry. Let me speak for myself.

When I work on a new fragrance, unlike the system of the giant fragrance marketers, I DO NOT have it all together in my head as to who (exactly) my target market will be and how I am going to appeal to them in my packaging. As to the fragrance itself, I may start off with a theme or image in mind, but for the most part I am working with my nose. I am tracking down "smells" that interest me, fascinate me, provoke me, and challenge me to "do something" with them. One of the results of this "method" was my men's fragrance, Toxic.

Of course like anything you create yourself, it's hard to see it the way others might. Among the first people to get a sample of Toxic were a perfumer with over thirty years of industry experience and a research chemist working for one of the world's largest fragrance creation houses. They were NOT impressed. (At least, not impressed favorably.) I was a bit disappointed, as anyone would be, but I kept my disappointment to myself and proceeded to offer Toxic to the world -- at least to my small niche in the world -- my websites.

At this point, Toxic has been around for a few years and I can't tell you how many men are using it but I can tell you that I use it myself. And I use it more frequently now than I did a year ago, because I have come to understand it.

Understand it? Yes. And a little background in history has helped me. First, my thoughts have very much been on "modern" art -- the art that emerged in Europe around 1900. This art was DIFFERENT from traditional art. It was scorned and rejected because it called for a new way of seeing. The eye -- and mind -- had to adjust to what the artist was doing. It took time, interest, and motivation. And today we look upon those once rejected painters as the heroes of the art world.

So ask yourself. Must today's men's fragrances smell like yesterday's men's fragrances? Is there room for a breakout? Can we adjust our noses to something new?

My nose had adjusted and, as a result, a whole lot of mass market fragrances are now nothing but stink to me ... and I am quite happy to wear Toxic in public.

But there is a second side to it that also relies a bit on a knowledge of history and it deals tenacity -- the ability of a fragrance to linger on, for a long time. Most 19th century fragrances -- particularly men's fragrances -- lacked tenacity. It is said that Napoleon Bonaparte never went anywhere without several bottles of cologne in his boot. When you think of a cologne lacking in tenacity, you can understand his need to keep refreshing himself.

And "refreshing" is perhaps the key historic word that goes with cologne.

4711, which claims to date back to 1792, calls itself "The Instant Freshener," Mennen called its famous after shave "Skin Bracer." Edmund Roudnitska's Eau Sauvage for Christian Dior was distinguished by its lack of tenacity. The deal is simple. Refresh and go away! Don't linger. Don't make a man feel "perfumed" (as a good number of men's fragrances do today!) Just wake the guy up in the morning, make him feel good, and then tone it down to just above zero by the time he gets to the office, factory, school or college, or the big government office.

In fact, seen THIS way, Toxic is a PERFECT fragrance that will not offend, even if a guy works in a "fragrance free" zone!

So here's what I've learned about my own fragrance, Toxic. First, you have to look at it like a piece of modern art. Your nose has to adjust to the concept -- and it can. Then when it does, you'll understand and appreciate it.

Secondly, Toxic's lack of tenacity is a VIRTUE, not a shortcoming. It gives you that 7AM jolt, it wakes you up and helps you get EXCITED about the day (what mass market men's fragrances can do that!) and then it settles down to just a very, very light, lingering note that won't offend the most vehement fragrance objector.

This is what I've learned about Toxic, my own creation. And now I want to learn more about the men who "accept it."