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Scent Sleuth: From Profile to Perfume

By: Nancy C. Hayden
Posted: August 7, 2007, from the August 2007 issue of GCI Magazine.

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A fragrance we developed at Jovan called Grass Oil illustrates this point. Riding the high of the natural trend of musk, we developed a very natural wet tea rose with some grassy earth notes in it, which was very appealing to the younger set. When we presented it to a head buyer at one of the national pharmacy chains, his reaction was overwhelmingly negative: “This reminds me of my grandmother’s funeral.” In the wake of instantaneous cold feet, we stopped the blending and were left with thousands of dollars worth of useless perfume oils. This scent had a total negative recall for him. Personal experiences have a great deal to do with how a scent registers with people. In fact, a great deal of fragrances are chosen by how one perceives a scent on someone else. Therefore, the marketer wants his fragrance to make a statement, to be recognizable.

Buyer Appeal

In the science of selling scents, how can a perfumer appeal to a large audience while still making a statement? Some fragrances by their very nature are meant to become the person who wears them. “Fragrance has become very mass-market now, unless it is a boutique firm willing to try something different. The major houses are too afraid of pioneering something too unique because of the cost of a launch,” said Steve DeMercado, creator, Fragrance Resources. “Innovation comes from all palettes and the world around us.” Discovering new notes in nature and duplicating them to create new identities in fragrance is the hallmark of the most innovative firms in the industry.

Givaudan, for example, currently has five programs working to discover new natural scents and isolate them in head space, and to synthesize those favorably for perfumery.

The Perfumer’s Role

A perfumer looks for something new to give character to his fragrance while retaining enough familiarity and beauty to the background to have wide appeal. Long lastingness is also a sought after quality. Estée Lauder was definitely a pioneer in creating strong and long-lasting scents. Her concentrations defied normal standards. In many cases they seemed overwhelming at first, but those scents set a standard.

Estée Lauder brought identity to the fragrances she marketed. Recall the statements she made with Youth Dew, White Linen, Aliage, Beautiful, Clinique, Pleasures and Beyond Paradise.