Despite the emergence of niche perfumery, on the one hand, which is considered as non-conventional, and of well-informed perfume lovers, on the other, most perfume brands, in particular in the selective segment, cannot seem to manage to get off the beaten track and get more substance in their communication strategy. Indeed, their arguments often remain limited to a level that does not really represent, not only the complexity and depth of an olfactory creation, but also the aesthetic experience it can actually provide perfume wearers. This is all the more so, since customers usually strongly appreciate rich and stimulating descriptions, when they have access to them. The problem is, the contents made available on brands websites or press releases still mostly focus on lists of raw materials to legitimate a product’s value, and on generic, stereotyped portraits of men or women to whom customers identify – or not. Still, this low level of arguments seems to have reached its own limits, as new consumer generations increasingly reject generalization and search for authentic experiences with the products they consume.
However, we should not pretend everything used to be better, as we usually do in this type of situation: perfume ad campaigns have always been marked by the strong use of stereotypes and fantasized images. In 1985, a press release for a new fragrance read: ‘This perfume evokes all the sensuality and ardour of a woman that gives herself to her own passion. It creates the myth of a woman that devotes herself to a love obsession and invites a man to do the same.’ This type of message could definitely have been written in 2016. Except that in 1985, perfumes were still sold in areas where advice played a more significant role, and where the customer relationship was perceived and experienced as less venal than it is today. In addition, advice remained one of the only forms of education to perfume for a long time. Starting from the 1990s though, the advent of self-service perfumery destroyed the model that had long defined perfume selling and favoured arguments that have not much evolved since. Since these arguments now fail to make consumers understand why they need to pay almost €70 for a perfume bottle (50ml), brands are now focusing on the re-enchantment of the customer relationship and on how to give value to perfumes.
Talking about this, giving more value to perfumes cannot only mean increasing prices. It also requires perfume creators to set up a new communication strategy. If the difficulties to make this meaning tangible with words are real, certain brands are coping better and better with them, in particular in niche perfumery, as they have understood transparency rhymes with trust – values much cherished by consumers today. Brands like Nomenclature, which highlights major synthetic molecules, or Parle Moi de Parfum, which shows the public what a laboratory looks like, intend to unveil the other side of the picture and take apart a few clichés on perfume. This approach might eventually prove profitable to all, both professionals and consumers: by generating more interesting and animated debates, brands can give more substance to their products and be better prepared to show their singularity, compared to their competitors. At the end of the day, this could have a positive impact on creativity, a notion much wanted on both sides.