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Fine Fragrance’s New Reality

By: Jeb Gleason-Allured
Posted: May 13, 2010

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But what does this mean for fragrance houses and perfumers? To start, says Khoury, the consumer has unprecedented power, requiring consumer insight for both formulations and messaging. “That’s very different than looking to the consumer to tell you what to do and how to do it. We need to find ways to understand this very volatile consumer, whose emotions are changing almost as rapidly as the economic situation. We need to understand what’s important to them, what connects to them, what certain words that we use all the time truly mean to them—what is ‘modern,’ what is ‘emotional,’ what is ‘reinforcing’? What do those words really mean to them?” This process will require fragrance houses and marketers to display leadership in creativity. “And then,” she concludes, “we need to deliver a compelling, pleasurable, reinforcing product.”

In working with her fragrance house partners, Khoury says, “I am looking to understand what olfactive elements and notes are really resonating with the emotional mood of the consumer.” For instance, she says, the recent launch of Private Collection Jasmine White Moss portends a resurgence in green notes— contemporized versions of earthy, galbanumlike notes or fresh facets. “They remind people of nature,” says Khoury. “They also have, depending how they’re done, an almost iconic updated retro feel that I think is going to be very meaningful to people.” The sensuality famously embodied by Sensuous, she adds, serves as another area ripe for new interpretations both in positioning messages and olfactive creations.

Considering that some olfactive boundaries were stretched in 2009, wonders Khoury, “How much farther can we take it?” She also foresees the exploration of new orientals that go beyond the classics and gourmands, which present reinterpreted structures that smell modern—“a juxtaposition of modernity and a retro feel that speaks to quality and history.”

“People are going to need happy things in their life,” says Khoury, “something that makes them smile, that’s positive.” She predicts growing use of optimistic themes in concepts and fragrances ahead, similar to those achieved in the classic Happy. Olfactively, Khoury says, these impressions may be embodied by the aforementioned green notes or even citrus notes. “You’ll see those fruity aspects being played with in the floral category as a way to express positivity and optimism.”

The Future

As for where she expects to find the industry by mid- 2010, Khoury says, “My hope and my sense is the conversation will be different in that we will have taken some of the initial steps … in terms of finding new ways to reach out to the consumer. Hopefully you’ll start to see some of that in in-store experiences, visual communications … and possibly in the introductions that come out between now and then. I think you’ll see the beginnings of this approach, but I think we’ll very much be in an evolutionary state.”