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Fragrance Is Beauty

By: Lori Miller Burns
Posted: April 28, 2014, from the May 2014 issue of GCI Magazine.

Our sense of smell is one of our strongest senses, capable of discerning thousands of different olfactory notes across multiple scent categories. That’s impressive. But where our olfactory sense really shows its power is detecting tiny amounts of scent—in dilutions of less than one part in several billion, according to researchers.

For beauty and cosmetic designers using fragrance at lower use levels in products such as blush, foundation and lipstick, that’s an important factor. But for all other beauty products, our sense of smell is more than just a factor: it’s the direct route to our emotions. Put simply, our sense of smell is how we fall in love with products. Nothing connects faster to our feelings than fragrance, and nothing generates a greater emotional response. Managing beauty brands today means being smart about how fragrance works.

And while that’s something you’d expect a perfumer to say, it’s not industry professionals who are driving the passion for fragrance—it’s consumers. Never in history have consumers been more fragrance savvy (they’ve been “trained” by marketers and retailers); never have expectations been greater for beautiful fragrances in every brand; and never has more attention been paid to sensory messaging by companies such as Procter & Gamble, Unilever and L’Oréal.

Today, if a scent does not connect with consumers, or fails to motivate and inspire, the product and the brand likely will not survive. Making a better future happen means understanding the role of fragrance in product design and how fragrance planning should be undertaken.

Beauty Is Fragrance

The best way to think about fragrance is first to think of scent as a beauty brand’s primary consumer connection. Before we buy a fragranced product, we always smell the scent. If we don’t like what we smell, everything stops there. That’s how critical a winning fragrance is for marketers and consumers.

Second, for many—if not most—beauty products, a beautiful scent is a huge part of the consumer’s user experience. As we wash, shower, shave or care for our skin and hair, we experience a fragrance that we decided to make part of our lives. It’s a very intimate, emotional relationship. And that’s the heart of brand loyalty.

Third, while we may not realize it, a creative perfumer has already made sure the fragrance we love reinforces the brand’s image and identity, promotes product functionality and performance promises, and is perfectly aligned with everything about the brand, including its heritage, story and place in the world. More than just a scent, fragrance is a multi-role player in the reality of beauty brands and their relationships with consumers.

Creating a Winning Franchise Fragrance

Today, integrated, diversified consumer offerings with complementary products presented under a distinctive brand umbrella are a fact of life in beauty and personal care. That’s why smart fragrance designers focus not only on individual products but also at the brand level, creating a signature style that can be adapted for all products and variants under the brand profile.

The original signature fragrance will have a clearly defined identity, carefully selected notes and accords, and a style that not only fits the brand’s identity and competitive positioning but also enhances the brand’s role in the consumer’s life.

Next, the fragrance signature will be modified to fit individual products, formats and applications—extending the desired emotional experience from the body wash, for example, to the facial scrub, hand and body lotion, shampoo and conditioner, and face lotion, linking the fragrance to the intimacy and functionality of each product.

Developing signature concepts, perfumers study consumers’ tastes and preferences, conceptualize user experiences, and draw on different fragrance notes to make the experiences real and memorable. The outcome is a compelling fragrance design that unifies the lineup, creates and reinforces brand identity, and gives the consumer multiple reasons to say yes.