Brand Awareness and Fragrances

When it comes to fragrances, there’s a bit of bias when it comes to price point and branding. Fragrance branding is a very sensitive thing. Though perfume lovers will all agree that it’s not about the brand, it’s about the smell itself, we can’t help but be a little bit swayed by branding and marketing.

One of the things I learned as a graphic artist is the compelling strength of good branding. For a very succinct example of branding power and price points I’ll take a page from graphic designer, David Airey who asks us to investigate people’s perceptions of an item’s value.

He told us to think of Aston Martin and Skoda, two car companies.

The first, Aston Martin, has a brand identity appealing to luxury, charm and the sophisticated man and woman. Aston Martin even goes so far as to reel in James Bond, a character who leads a dangerous, exciting, upper class and often glamorous life.

On the other side, the Skoda, a reliable, economical car with good mileage and reliability. Surely we aren’t going to be conjuring up images of James Bond, hopping into his Skoda and calculating his mileage while he does his taxes and picks up milk after a quiet day at the office.

So if you were given the choice between an Aston Martin or a Skoda (assuming you knew them by brand and money wasn’t an issue), which would you chose? I would venture that most of you would pick the Aston Martin.

This picture makes me feel ridiculous!

And this is where things go back to perfume. Like it or not, branding has touched all of us for better or for worse. How many of us know fragrances by their brand? How many of us would pick a brand we never heard of over a brand we have? Or how many of us would pick a brand we know we like over a brand we’ve heard of but haven’t tried before?

And if we were each given a choice between a Chanel perfume or a Victoria’s Secret perfume, which would we chose? I bet the majority of us would take the Chanel fragrance for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons might just be the brand. After all, Chanel is about sophistication, luxury and high end fashion. When people think of Victoria’s Secret, they often think of underwear.

This is by no means a steadfast rule that applies to everyone, but it is a good idea to be aware of how companies and their approaches to marketing and branding themselves affects our perceptions of who they are and the quality of their product.

Just for fun, can you imagine if a company like Clive Christian (Oh, ye of the thousand dollar perfumes) stripped away their ultra luxurious exterior and started marketing affordable, fun, deodorant sprays to teenagers? You would see Clive Christian stands in drugstores with big pictures of cartoonish fruits hocking scents like “Radical Raspberry” or “Super Sweet Strawberry”. Maybe I’m getting a bit too giddy thinking about Clive Christian, taking a few steps away from the diamond-encrusted podium they’ve been standing on.

How about the bizarre scenario of the Axe Body Spray company all of a sudden deciding to put out a perfume based upon the classic chypre structure and marketed toward successful and distinctive men and women in their 40s and 50s? It’d be pretty strange, right? This is because people generally know of Clive Christian as that company that sells the most expensive perfume in the world and Axe Body Spray as that company that makes and sells those deodorant things that invade the hallways of high schools all over North America.

This preference for brands and perceptions of brands based on marketing isn’t our fault for being easily swayed or whatever. It is just how marketing works. And while there are a lot of fragrance marketing materials that turn off consumers (Marc Jacobs, I’m looking at you) or seem downright outrageous (Still looking at you, Marc Jacobs), the fact is branding sways us a bit more than most of us realize. We don’t have to be worried about this, but it wouldn’t hurt to be just a bit aware of how our perceptions are being changed and transformed every day.

7 thoughts on “Brand Awareness and Fragrances

  1. I have to admit, I’m easily sucked in. My By Kilian’s Incense Oud was ridiculously costly, but the box, bottle and the fragrance make for a special package. Thank god they have refills for 1/2 the price which you can decant yourself, because I really want the Rose Oud as well. As much as we say we don’t pay attention to it all, we do. Great article Kay.

    • I have to admit, it was a lot easier to dismiss By Kilian before I actually held and saw their product in person. I’m a big sucker for branding too and the pictures really don’t do their packaging justice. Once that bottle got in my hand, I knew they had me. And it isn’t so much that I love everything by By Kilian, but they are all extremely well designed and impeccably presented that it makes it really hard to turn away when I find that fragrance of theirs that really works on me.

  2. I am drawn to sampling certain lines because I think (correctly or not) that they will be a little different from mainstream or use higher quality ingredients. I am not drawn to a particular line, however, just for the sake of saying I wear X perfume from Y Fancy-Pants perfume house. Also, price does have a bearing on what I buy. If the full bottle price is too outrageous, I won’t buy the product. Luckily, I’m not smitten by anything from Amouage, By Killian or Clive Christian, for example. I did “splurge” on a bottle of Musc Ravageur but I think its more because I absolutely loved the smell rather than because it’s in the FM line.

    • Totally, when it comes down to it, true perfume lovers will choose the juice that they like for how it smells and not how it looks or how it’s marketed. But there are still a lot of companies out there that push pretty hard when it comes to their brand and I don’t think at all that they’re swaying a more informed, experienced consumer. But it’s definitely having an impact on a casual consumer who just wants some perfume from a brand they’ve heard of somewhere.

  3. I’m not sure who is your target audience is so you might be right with your “warnings” though if you were to read many perfume bloggers or even people at perfume forums/groups you’d notice that those who love perfumes have more complex relationships with brands, marketing, etc.

    Does marketing effect us? Of couse! But so does our memories, experience and many other aspects of our life. And, I suspect, most thinking people are aware of that already.

    • I definitely agree that perfume bloggers and people who really love perfumes know full well about the marketing machines that try to push certain perceptions on consumers.

      I think this article was meant more for people who are more casual about fragrances and don’t really know that there’s more out there than what they see at the Macy’s counter.

      I think what propelled me to write this article was watching a succession of women and men on YouTube getting excited about the Lady Gaga perfume. As if the fragrance would instantly be unique, special, or better in some way just because Lady Gaga was somehow involved. It struck me how much marketing really worked in favor of some of these companies because they appealed so well to casual perfume wearers.

      The diehards like you and other fragrance lovers on forums and groups know there’s a lot more than the marketing that’s floating on the surface, that’s for sure! 😀

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