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Speaking the Language of Beauty

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

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Of course, a fragrance bottle needs to effectively represent the fragrance it contains, but it also needs to provide the brand team with an appropriate platform on which to build a total sensorial experience, across many consumer touch points if need be. A tall order, but the good news is that when it’s done well, consumers respond. According to Karen Young, president of The Young Group, the prestige fragrance sector was on the rebound in 2011, with U.S. business back up to pre-recession levels (at approximately $2.79 billion). And while total global unit fragrance consumption (in prestige and mass) was still down in 2011 compared to the 1990s, fine, prestige and mid-tier fragrance markets all showed signs of growth.

Fueling the Upsurge

What’s fueling this upsurge? Newness, as always, is driving the market, but celebrity fragrances, in particular, had a very strong showing in 2011 (the category grew, according to some analysts, approximately 57% in prestige in 2011). As one would expect with celebrity-based brands, innovative, on-point packaging is a major factor in creating an impactful fragrance experience—especially when a star’s name is fronting the program. Needless to say, it’s imperative to inherently capture a celebrity’s DNA when creating her bottle. The package design and full spectrum of branding elements must represent who this person is as an artist and personality, otherwise it will lack credibility and authenticity. It must speak the language of beauty as well.

Recent standouts in this category are Beyonce’s Pulse and Madonna’s Truth or Dare. The Pulse packaging is strong, tall and striking. The bottle stands inverted on its cap, which is executed in sharp, shiny silver and reminiscent of a dramatic gown or cape the singer might wear onstage. It’s a great marriage of theater, attitude and celeb appeal. The bottle is memorable, and equally important, it beckons the consumer to pick it up and try the product.

Madonna is known for her vast collection of perfumes and genuine interest in fragrance, and word has it she collaborated heavily in the creation of her Truth or Dare line. The packaging is contemporary and sexy, and possesses a rich, albeit minimal, color palette of white and gold. Part of the program rationale was to create something that reflects the provocative duality in human nature—and the bottle does just that by striking a balance between sophistication and edginess (the studded cap and bottle certainly add to the edginess). Like Madonna, the bottle seems to send multiple, often dichotomous messages simultaneously—which is exactly the point.

Other notables are Justin Bieber’s Someday, which has amazing market presence due not in small part to his existing fanbase and the brand’s savvy use of multiple media outlets, and Taylor Swift’s Wonderstruck, which makes good use of new decoration technology, namely a holographic/iridescent overspray and tint technique perfected by SGD.