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Starting Point: Beauty, Risk and Rugby

By: Karen A. Newman
Posted: November 8, 2007, from the November 2007 issue of GCI Magazine.

As I sat drafting this column in the lobby of a Paris hotel in late September, a 1940s rendition of the U.S. holiday favorite “Jingle Bells” suddenly dashed out of the speakers with the energy of a team of horses. My first thought was the French are really getting a jump on the season, but with green leaves still clinging to the trees, it was clear that something else was going on.

The Christmas carol was just one song on a sound track of popular tunes of the era. Yet it broke through the background noise of street traffic and multilingual hotel conversation to make me tune in, as well as to wonder what was next.

On the “TO DO” lists of brand managers everywhere must surely be an item that says Create something unexpected that cuts through the daily advertising noise like sleigh runners through fresh snow or words to that effect.

“Take risks,” said Nicolas Mirzayantz, group president fragrances at International Flavors & Fragrances, in his keynote address to attendees of the inaugural Fragrance Business 2007 Markets and Strategies Conference, produced by GCI magazine and HBA Global Expo. While he was speaking specifically to the fast-paced, highly competitive fragranced product industry, his words resonate in all corners of the business world. There was talk of risks throughout the presentations at Fragrance Business 2007, from Lily de Stefano of Avon, who spoke about taking a chance on producing Derek Jeter Driven, to Liz Claiborne’s Marcy Fisher, who talked about extending a popular fragrance line with products for pampered pets.

Rochelle Bloom, president of The Fragrance Foundation, spoke at the Fragrance Consumer Symposium, saying one message consumers are receiving from the fragrance industry is “Newness Rules.” In reality, she said, the constant flurry of new product introductions is overwhelming for consumers and many are finding that niche fragrance products are sold in an easier atmosphere with fewer launches. The category can be reinvented by balancing the messages put out to consumers, Bloom said.