Rochelle Bloom, president of The Fragrance Foundation, recently attended Luxe Pack Monaco and was a panelist on at a round table discussion led by Marc Rosen and featuring other industry experts, with the topic “Looking Back To See The Future,” which explored how the industry can reinvent itself by looking back to the successes and inspiration of the industry’s past.
Here’s what Bloom had to say:
“As we look back to the future, we must start in the 1940s, ‘50s and even ‘60s, when a perfume scent, packaging and style was attributed to an icon or brand. For example, you could identify a scent from Guerlain because it was always related to a signature accord that was distinctively “Guerlain”.
Estée Lauder was known for fragrances that lasted because of the high concentrate of perfume oils. Consumers anticipated new scents, exotic stories and exquisite packaging.
To receive a gift of fragrance was always considered a luxury, and women looked forward to their birthdays, anniversaries or Christmas to receive the newest fragrances to try and enjoy. Who can forget the Xmas themes Elizabeth Arden & Estée Lauder did, which our own packaging genius Marc Rosen helped orchestrate. Customers in the U.S., U.K. and Australia went out of their way to visit the fragrance areas of Elizabeth Arden and Estée Lauder during Christmas where the holiday theme and fragrance collectibles were must-haves on everyone’s holiday list. Fragrance was magical then.
Then something happened. But before I continue, I want to inject a disclaimer. Fragrance is perceived differently in Anglo Saxon markets than in Europe and even Asia. The sensibility and subtlety of smell is more highly developed in Europe than in North America. The way fragrance is worn and by who is also quite different, so that when Marc refers to reinfusing the luxe factor, it is North America that has suffered more than anywhere else in the world.
So what has contributed to the decline of an industry from its heyday of the 1970s and ‘80s, and particularly fragrance? Small, entrepreneurial companies became big public companies. With that came more focus on the bottom line and less risk-taking and creative development. The art of perfumery and package design became a past luxury.
Pressure to beat last year’s numbers and meet Wall Street’s expectations increased the number of new fragrances on the market, confusing the consumer.
Mass companies saw a crack in the luxury fragrance market and became more aggressive by raising prices and competing directly for the consumer fragrance dollars. I might add, they did a pretty good job.
As prestige fragrance companies became more aggressive with more introductions, they cut lead times; cut packaging and essential oil costs, and frankly brought out mediocre products.
Lastly, the shopping experience changed and luxury was hit the hardest. Department stores were less frequently visited as a destination to purchase fragrance as consumers became few and far between or stopped shopping entirely. To add insult to injury, incentives to purchase were enhanced so that nobody purchased fragrance unless a gift was offered. Fragrance had gone from luxury to commodity.
What worked in the past to create the luxe and aspiration of fragrance that has been ignored, eliminated or forgotten, and that can and should be retooled for the future?
- Less is more. Introduce fewer, more distinctive fragrances with a specific point of view.
- Tell a story that draws in the consumer. Why, where, how, who? Put the romance and mystery back into the mix.
- With today’s technology, create a must-have package that matches the story, not a stock bottle that is affordable and has a short delivery time.
- Rethink holiday and bring back the 21st century version of holiday theming and exclusive items/collectibles instead of value that’s piled sky high at counter.
- Sample, sample, sample.
- Make it sustainable wherever possible. But caution, don’t confuse the green movement with the consumers need to feel that fragrance is a luxury and special.
Let me conclude by saying that fragrance has been experiencing a comeback over the past six to eight months, because I believe strongly that creativity and good design are returning and consumers are taking a new delight in discovering beautiful, whimsical, edgy, collectible bottles that totally capture the essence of the fragrance within. But we’re not out of the woods yet. We need to learn from our past success and failures and remain ahead of the consumer curve. We need to listen more to what the consumer says and not only respond, but wow them. Fragrance is here to stay and much of its future success is in our own hands.”