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Speaking the Language of Beauty

By: Kevin Marshall
Posted: June 1, 2012, from the June 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.

Through the ages, the expansive art of creating perfumes and their valuable bottles has been enchanting the aesthetically and sybaritically inclined among us. It’s safe to say that long ago fragrances and their unique vessels firmly took root in our modern consciousness as a romantic, and often iconic, art form.

But if we’re to take the Roman historian Pliny’s word at face value, glass, by far the most widely and creatively utilized material for designing beautiful fragrance bottles, had humble beginnings—it was accidentally discovered by a group of hungry sailors on a Phoenician beach. The crew started a fire in order to prepare food and decided to use some cargo to support their cooking utensils. As luck (and history) would have it, that cargo was natrum, a subcarbonate of soda. The heat of the fire beneath the blocks of natrum began to melt the substance, and combined with the sand on the beach, voila, formed a rudimentary type of glass. Never in their wildest dreams could those hungry shipmen have realized that their “discovery” would ultimately, centuries later, lead to the craft of perfume bottle design as we know it. They got a hot meal, and the rest of us a mind-boggling gamut of historical and provocative bottles to cherish and enjoy. Not a bad bargain.

Fast forward to 2012, and launching a successful fragrance program not only involves art and craft—it involves science, consumer insight, media awareness and, as always, fresh ideas. Of course, gorgeously executed bottles in amazing materials (glass or otherwise) and great secondary packaging are critical must-haves. In fact, considering that nearly 80% of all purchase decisions are made in-store or at counter, exceptional packaging is a brand’s single most effective frontline tool to create an immediate and emotional connection with a consumer. And connect it must.

Creative professionals are charged with designing engaging, compelling packaging that embodies a brand’s positioning, as well as delight its target audience in new and meaningful ways. Today, consumers expect more from their products, and fragrance packaging—like all packaging—must simply work harder.