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Quality: Key to Connecting with Fragrance Consumers

By: Jeb Gleason-Allured
Posted: November 5, 2010, from the November 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.
Harry Fremont

Fremont discusses his successes with the fragrances ck one and Tom Ford Grey Vetiver at the 2010 FiFi Awards presentation.

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“If you have license to use certain materials in bigger quantities we can go much further,” Fremont continues. “Because you have the best combination between the richness of the naturals and the amazing qualities of the molecules—diffusion and long-lasting and character—you can have fragrances that are creative and new.”

The point isn’t that more expensive ingredients automatically guarantee a great fragrance, but it undeniably helps. Due to the general loss of authenticity and quality in perfume launches, Fremont says, “Today we see people walking away from fragrance.”

This “lapsed user” was the subject of forthcoming research conducted by Firmenich. “We lost consumers every year for the past 10 years—especially in [the U.S.],” says Fremont. In the course of this research, one thing became clear, “The lack of quality in the fragrances created in the past 10 or 15 years is partly responsible for this phenomenon. When you look at the lapsed user study, what you see is that the market is separated into the heavy user, who is buying lots of fragrance, wearing it every day; the normal user, who is wearing fragrance, but not every day; and those who are not wearing fragrance anymore.” The non-heavy fragrance users make up a significant portion of the population.

Fremont traces these phenomena in part to the decline in what he sees as easy-to-wear fragrances. “I think there is a relationship between easy-to-wear fragrances and quality,” he says, “because when you don’t have the quality in the fragrance [formulators may] try to compensate by using materials that are powerful—sometimes too strong—like vanilla or some sandalwood note; very invasive products. The non-heavy user, I believe, is sensitive to that.” And so, even as fragrances employ “invasive” materials for diffusion, long-lastingness, power and signature, they are losing audience. “Non-heavy users are people who think maybe it’s not appropriate to wear fragrance at the office,” says Fremont. “Maybe if the fragrance is too strong people are going to comment about you, and you are not going to blend in. If we were making more quality fragrances, they’d be much happier to wear fragrance. It’s like wearing a suit. A suit, when it’s well done, fits perfectly; you are comfortable, it’s elegant and you are not self-conscious. I think fragrance is the same. You will find that many people are scared of sending the wrong message when they wear fragrance.”

Fremont says it was easy to launch fragrances of unexceptional quality when the perfumery industry was booming. Today, however, the market has become fragmented, with the top 10 fragrances accounting for fewer than 50% of the market. “This crisis in [the past few years] really emphasized existing problems. We didn’t change the business model. We need to change the way we operate and create fragrances to make this industry thrive and be as powerful as it was 15 years ago.” The recent crisis and overall consumer trends show that a different mindset is necessary. “I’m hoping that people are going to realize that they need to go back to quality and to get the perfumer to use the materials to their full potential. With most fragrance launches today, consumers don’t have a good experience because they are missing an addictive quality. Addictive quality isn’t something that has to be strong and in-your-face. Addictive quality can be very subtle and almost subliminal.