Sniffing Out Trends

Arylessence’s tagline, “the essence of your brand,” intimates the power and role of fragrance in branding, and the Atlanta-based fragrance and flavor manufacturer operates under a mission banner to understand both its clients’ brands and the consumers who use them. Fragrance can act as a bond between a brand and its consumers, creating a lifeline for the brand that runs through the initial attraction to become a mainstay in a consumer’s life. Arylessence believes that designing custom fragrances contributes to both defining brands and creating product loyalty; initially, however, consumers, their lifestyles and overall lifestyle trends must be understood.

Toward this goal of understanding, the company looks beyond fragrances themselves to track trends in fashion and color, culinary arts, packaging, delivery systems, innovative formulations and consumer purchasing habits.

According to Arylessence’s sensory branding team, consumers choose fragrances that fit their lifestyles, as opposed to choosing a product simply because “it smells good.” The lifestyle-fragrance connection is explored in the 2007-2008 Arylessence TrendWatch—an annual analysis of trends that are driving consumer behavior in lifestyle, attitudes, color and fragrance.

“Fragrance is a part of how consumers see themselves, how they live, how they feel about the world around them, and even the colors they like,” said Cynthia Reichard, executive vice president, Arylessence, in a press release to introduce the new TrendWatch. “Fragrance is the first sensory attribute experienced when consumers explore new products.”

Arylessence monitors market trends in all consumer product goods categories, including food and beverage, industrial and institutional sectors, on a daily basis. The company views the gathering of market intelligence and trend analysis as critical to its product development.

“At Arylessence, market intelligence provides strategic direction for product development. It does not impede the creative process that is so critical in creating winning products, it enhances and supports it,” said Lori Miller Burns, director of marketing, Arylessence. “The competitive landscape in every category of products we service is tremendously large and challenging, and the more challenging it is, the more important market intelligence becomes. Product developers do not have the luxury of missing the mark with consumers. Merchandising space is limited and retail buyers must have successful products on their shelves.”

According to the report, three lifestyles—exotica, health and well-being, and luxury living—are driving fragrance inspirations for new products and brand expansion concepts through 2008. The exotica lifestyle, which reflects global influences, includes the use of exotic botanicals for beauty, home decor and household products. Scents highlighting the health and well-being lifestyle reflect restful, restorative and uplifting environments and complement consumer desires for soft, calming colors. The luxury living lifestyle connotes soft, jewel-toned colors and rich, spice-infused fragrances. In all, the report highlights 13 trends, as part of three overall lifestyle trends, driving consumer behaviors in lifestyle, attitude, color and fragrance selection.

Through the report, which covers an 18–24 month span, an astute marketer should be able to capitalize on what is already driving consumers or find gaps to fill within lifestyle trend positions. In addition, a step-by-step, strategic approach to addressing all attributes of the product will achieve the highest level of appeal to the target audience. New consumer trends are added as they come to light and declining trends are removed.

“Arylessence knows sound and insightful market intelligence will greatly enhance any product developer’s opportunity to succeed in the marketplace,” said Burns. “Knowledge regarding the competitive landscape is critical—without it, it is difficult to establish a winning point of difference. Isolating gaps and opportunities within lifestyle trend positioning can only be done with extensive market review. We accurately forecast fragrance and flavor trends at least two years out.”

Forecasting and Lifespan of Trends

The research, however, begins by looking into color trend. The company states that color trends are very reflective of lifestyle trends due to the psychological connection color makes. In addition, many prominent lifestyle trends are communicated through distinctive color trends.

“Think about the prominence of the color green in the marketplace today, in a variety of shades and tones. This color trend reflects the significance of nature-inspired and health and well-being lifestyles trends, which, by the way, have an extremely long trend cycle, extending over an indefinite period of time,” said Burns. “The presence of blue is also very important, highlighting a global focus on clean natural resources, such as water and the air that we breathe. What changes with color trends is that the tonality distinction of trends and different colors will cycle through as lead colors in the marketplace.”

The lifecycle of the trends in the report is several years, as the company focuses on what it sees as enduring trends, not fads.

“Arylessence recognizes the benefit of a fad for clients that are extremely responsive and have a quick product development cycle; we can and do help with fads as well. However, our main focus is translating enduring trends with winning fragrance connections,” said Burns.

By taking a wide range view of lifestyle trends that drive consumer behavior, Arylessence believes that the three lifestyle trends and consumer attitudes identified in the report influence almost every product category. How each trend is communicated or interpreted takes a different approach from segment to segment.

“The essence of the luxury living trend, for example, is consistent, but its translation must be customized sector by sector,” said Burns. “For example, a skin care product in the luxury prestige market [like Neiman Marcus] would have different luxury characteristics than a skin care product offered in mass luxury [or masstige], or one offered in a luxury hotel setting. A select number of product categories might be exempt from the benefit of a particular trend simply because the end product provided by the category does not speak to a lifestyle. Think about health care and the translation of the gourmet trend—probably not a trend on which you would focus when developing a line of health care products [sans the use of soft vanilla tones].”

If a trend holds true in one product category, does it also hold true for another? Arylessence thinks it likely, though portrayed in a different way. The creative fragrance or flavor must communicate the trend in its designated consumer venue. In addition, the trend’s fragrance message should be customized for the product benefit. The expectations and interpretations of each trend can vary based upon demographics, but there can also be a universal understanding of what the lifestyle trends represent. Adding subtle cultural or customer profiles will allow the trends for a given group to be more accurately defined.

“Most consumers fit into one or more trend categories because these are key trends driving purchase in the marketplace,” said Burns. “The interpretation, presentation and characteristics of the trend will assist in how each trend resonates with select demographics.”

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