Home » Uncategorized » Normy news or How to float your product up the market.

Normy news or How to float your product up the market.

This week a friend and I were talking about her blog and something came up which started me thinking about ‘norms’ – those essential stereotypes we use all the time in  marketing. The blog is about perfume, a pet subject of mine and a market which I understand well. It’s very clearly divided between high-end niche perfumes from brands such as Amouage, Editions de Frederic Malle, Serge Lutens, Caron, Guerlain, that you can only find in boutique perfumeries or exclusive department stores; mid-range such as Chanel, Dior, YSL, Vivienne Westwood, Prada, Clarins, Lancome that you can find in all department stores; lower-mid range like Cacharel, Diesel, Britney Spears, JLo, Beckham and Hugo Boss that you can buy in pharmacies and chains such as Superdrug and Boots and then the rock-bottom cheapies, copies and ‘in the style of’ versions you pick up for under a fiver in discounters. Anyone who has ever bought a bottle of perfume knows exactly how this works, where their favourite fragrance sits in this market and exactly where the line lies when buying a Mother’s Day present.

This week my blogger friend has been reviewing celebrity scents; about which there is much snobbery. The rise of celebrity perfumes is a recent phenomenon, even though there were a few notable perfumes released by actresses in the 1980s (Cher’s Uninhibited, Catherine Deneuve’s Deneuve, Elizabeth Taylor’s Passion). Since Jennifer Lopez released JLo Glow in 2002, to great financial success, the celebrity perfume model has been so profitable that the trickle has now become a deluge, with reality show personalities and pop stars releasing a new fragrance each season and actresses replacing models as the ‘face’ of a fragrance. Evidently, this is a money-spinning opportunity like few others. With raw ingredients costing relative peanuts compared to the final sale price, most of the financial investment goes into marketing and branding – from designing the bottle to funding launch parties and a media-blitz to launch the product.

Yet there has always been a little moue of distaste at the idea of wearing perfume sold by a celebrity. Somehow it’s not a chic as a perfume from a saddler such as Hermes or Gucci, or a dressmaker, like Dior, Chanel or Yves St Laurent (though admittedly, they do know a few things about being chic). But what qualifies them to know anything about perfume, apart from a well-defined sense of personal taste and an understanding of the changing fashions? Coco Chanel was no more trained as a perfumer than Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears or Snooki. (Whatever Snooki is – an orange cartoon character, I believe?) But it’s exactly that kind of sniffy little comment that makes most of the population unwilling to admit ‘I smell of Paris Hilton’s CanCan’, but perfectly happy to say ‘I smell of Lancôme’s Ôui!’

Admittedly, there is often a small but essential difference in the money spent on the juice in the bottle. Higher-end perfumes often contain rather more expensive ingredients, and are developed by a prestigious ‘nose’ – effectively an olfactory creative director who composes the formula to address a loose and evocative brief. For mass-market celebrity scents, less is spent on ingredients and the brief is usually dictated by a marketing team who tightly focus-group how the target market wants to smell, rather than giving the nose creative control. This explains why there is so much uniformity among the mass-market scents – a fairly universal fruity/sweet/patchouli-based fuzz seems to be what the teens and early twenties focus groups said they wanted a couple of years ago, so that’s what Proctor & Gamble and Coty are putting into bottles and stickering with random celebrity names. And let’s be honest – the celebrities are signing up because it’s a great earner. Popstars and tv show personalities know that their fans will want to buy a £20 bottle of perfume so they can smell like their favourite star. These aren’t classic perfumes created to stand the test of time, they’re FMCG, to be used up and moved on from.

This flood of mass-market fragrances from celebrities has shifted the stereotype and reshaped the market, and now perfumes ‘created’ (perhaps ‘approved’ is more honest) by actors seem to be given more credibility, placing them with fashion designers, jewellers and saddlers, albeit on the bottom end of that mid-range. With financial constraints having an impact on our buying habits, the days of splurging at the Chanel or Guerlain counter are over, and consumers are looking for less expensive alternatives for everyday wear to the office or supermarket. The early-adopters SJP and JLo have been taken into the fold and accepted as vendors of quality goods, with SJP’s Lovely inheriting the mantle of Lauder’s White Linen as a school-run classic for Boden-wearing mummies, while Halle Berry, Kate Walsh, Jennifer Aniston and the Beckhams’ are producing surprisingly good affordable perfumes and aftershaves that are impressing the ‘squeezed middle’ market and critics alike. As for the originals I listed earlier, check out eBay, where vintage bottles of Deneuve now sell for astonishing prices.

It seems that the way to get a marketing stereotype to shift and allow your product to move upscale a little – to come in from the cold to become a popular lower-mid-range fragrance – is to float on an enormous tide of poor-quality mass-market copycats and to pay attention to your brand and imply better quality by injecting some of your personal taste and insisting on slightly better quality ingredients and slightly less focus-grouped formulae.

Integrity, it seems, actually does smell better.

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10 thoughts on “Normy news or How to float your product up the market.

  1. A comment on the actual costs of producing that bottle of perfume:
    http://frompyrgos.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/is-price-correlative-to-quality.html

    He quotes from Bois De Jasmin, a very well-regarded perfumery blog:
    “French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur published an interesting article about perfume creation called La Guerre des Nez (The War of the Nose). It featured a candid interview with perfumers Dominique Ropion and Anne Flipo and provided a table outlining the price breakdown for an average prestige brand perfume. The revelation is that in a bottle of perfume that costs 100 euros, the value of the fragrance concentrate is only 1-1.50 euros, or about 2-3 dollars. “

  2. I’m not sure those celebuscents need to be moving anywhere. The segment of the market to which they appeal should bring in much more money than the “upscale” segment.

    • I think you’re right – the mass-market scents targeted at teens and early 20s as FMCG are raking it in purely based on quantity of sales. But I do believe some of the celebuscents are trying to move upmarket in order to appeal to a slightly older audience who identify differently and wouldn’t be too pleased about being given a bottle of Britney Spears’ Circus Fantasy for Mother’s Day, but would be perfectly happy with a bottle of Lovely. I think there’s also an aspect of longevity that these celebrities are hoping to cultivate. Elizabeth Taylor’s perfumes are still selling, 20 years after they were launched; that’s one heck of a pension plan. 🙂

  3. I totally agree about the difference between mass focus group approval and individual input. It’s no secret that SJP was Creative Director of Lovely and involved on every level. It’s also no coincidence that it’s highly regarded as one of the best celebrity scents there is.

    Great article.

  4. Dear Lisawordbird

    You have set The Dandy’s mind racing with an excellent article.

    I agree there has been a definite move towards the middle market by certain celebrity fragrances – I would include Madonna’s Truth or Dare in this, though I don;t care for the actual scent, I will admit to it having both structure and purpose.

    I feel, however, that this is a somewhat symbiotic relationship as iscent points out – it is as likely that the trend is as dependent or driven by celebrities who want to protect their ‘personal brands’ as by the perfume manufacturers.

    For Ms Jessica Parker to have been associated with a shoddy product would have been very damaging for her personally given her high fashion reputation, many stars are no doubt well aware of the running sore and hideous embarrassment that Kate Moss fragrances have become to the woman whose name they bear.

    There is also another dynamic at work, the stars in question approaching the middle market have closer associations with the traditional producers of perfume than many. Victoria Beckham is now a mover and shaker in fashion, her label having seriously broken through, Madonna has always been an arbiter of taste as well as a musical phenomena.

    In this sense they seem to be emulating the stars of the past you mention. Not only was Deneuve actually a very good perfume, but Ms Deneuve was already universallly known both as the face of Chanel No 5 and as the muse of Yves Saint Laurent, as such her fashion credentials were impeccable, Likewise Ms Taylor, especially in her later years was known as much for her jewels as her glittering performances. In that sense gaing something from the reflected shine of the third source of high end perfume – jewellers, think Van Cleef, Cartier and so on.

    So yes, the middle celebrity market is interesting and probably a growing phenomena, so long as class acts believe that perfume is a class product they want to be identified with.

    One last thing, it;s interesting that many celebuscents are actually quick compositions run off by famed noses to keep the wolf from the door. Needs must and all that!

    Yours ever.
    The Perfumed Dandy

    • I heartily agree, Dandy. I do think it’s a case that the celebrities who have the wit – and the control – to ensure their products are of good quality and of a piece with their overall ‘personal brand’ are the ones who are succeeding in moving them up a notch in the market. And indeed, Sarah Jessica Parker, Victoria Beckham, Jennifer Lopez, Madonna all have the credibility as arbiters of taste and discriminating judges, so the success of their fragrances is understandable. Personally, I’m glad to see some movement in the middle market. With niche perfume increasingly becoming ridiculously expensive, it’s good to be able to buy something that passes the famous ‘smells good’ test without blowing the budget.

      And now you’ve got me very curious about which famous noses have created which celebuscents! I don’t suppose you’d care to share, would you???

      • Dear Lisa
        I agree. Anything that reinvigorates the middle market is to be applauded.
        Though in the UK M&S new fragrance offering – basically a huge trawl of the French market where the mid price point is still very much alive – is a sign of hope.

        Now as to which noses worked on what… well that would be telling.

        But time I guess allows us to note that Sophia Grojsman, behind such icons as YSL’s Paris and Yvresse, the perennial Tresor for Lancome and the barnstorming White Linen for Estee Lauder was there at the start doing White Diamonds for Elizabeth Taylor and the truly awful Vanderbilt for Gloria…

        Who is to say that there aren’t others doing the same today?

        Yours ever

        The Perfumed Dandy

  5. I am very excited about the less-expensive £25 a bottle fragrances Lyn Harris of Miller Harris has made for M&S – that’s a classic example of what we’re talking about. It suddenly makes great sense in this economic climate to be exploiting that suddenly-opening middle market for perfume under 30 quid that ‘smells good’ and isn’t tacky.

  6. Pingback: Exciting Guest Blogger: Madame Wordbird-Oracle of All That Is Fragrant | iscentyouaday

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