chanel no 5 ad with nicole kidman

Full article by Katie Grant here

Image from the 2004 Baz Luhrmann-directed epic ‘No. 5'

I love this article by Katie Grant, consumer affairs editor at inews, as it is rare to see even a gentle critique of the way the $29bn perfume industry conducts itself.

As around 70% of women wear scent it is a truth universally acknowledged that we love to smell great. Scent derived from natural bio matter evolved as a very precious commodity as the extraction methods often entail considerable human effort, a degree of time, and often a limited, and increasingly protected, resource.

So far so good. We can have a good stab at envisaging the smell of a rose, a grapefruit, a pine tree. In the last 100 years however, big industry has realised the potential of perfume as a mass manufactured consumer product, and changed everything.

Inevitably, if you want to mass produce a scent it must remain the same ad infinitum, or at least as long as it is legally on the market, so the manufacturing process had to move away from its natural origins, where every rose scent can change based on when, where, and how it is picked, to become a mass manufactured, synthetic commodity which could reliably never change.

Enter the highly skilled Noses and the lengthy process of training to become one. The process can take many years and does start with a full appreciation of all that nature provides, but it very soon evolves from there into a complex study of chemicals, molecules, and increasingly algorithms, and employment with one of a handful of fragrance houses.

It is these fragrance houses which formulate most of the perfumes you now see on the shelves, but the marketing and advertising is up to the creator, an expense that can run into the £ millions, so remains in the domain of the big consumer brands. Indeed, it is said that the manufacturing cost of the liquid in a scent bottle accounts for less than 3% of the purchase price.

So how do you advertise a smell?

Well, it seems that you combine a celebrity with a large fan base, top quality visuals and sound, and more than a hint of sexual possibility, all of which position the fragrance as a luxury product…but none of which help you to know what it smells like… and you will certainly never know what is in it.

These expensive ad campaigns are in a class of their own and are almost always handled in house and not by the expert communicators of the advertising world. As Kate points out, the twitter @PerfumeAds does a hilarious parody of the way these ads work on mental, and somewhat illogical, cues.

Consumers are offered a visual treat, a flight of fancy, but little that relates to our very diverse world, little to indicate what the fragrance is, and even less in terms of transparency of ingredients…just a big price tag because we want to transform into something, or someone, we are not. Fair enough I suppose if that is what you are after, but I tend to agree with Jo Malone’s positioning of ingredients as the heroes of her perfumes, putting the notes front and centre, and making it clear that scent leads, and image follows.

In her autobiography Jo addresses the “psychological fluff and sleek marketing” of fragrances, and in my opinion always goes high, where the fragrance brands go low, working to their own ends and showing little respect for the consumer, and little or no acknowledgement of conscious consumerism.

Perfino has its foundations in the Jo Malone school of thought with a huge respect for ingredients taken to another level, that of full disclosure, but respect for the consumer always comes first. With Perfino you know exactly what you are getting, can access free compostable samples if you would like to try before you buy, and are not being sold an illusion, but a wonderful scent that you can wear without harm to you or the planet. This is why the brand has evolved as a firm favourite for birthday gifts, presents for loved ones, and even a treat for bridesmaids.

As a new brand we continue to evolve our advertising strategy. We advertise online, but most of all want to get our fabulous fragrances under your noses. So we are on a mission to do just that through retail partnerships, pop ups and shows.

Perfino is all about you, your personal pleasure and wellbeing, and a “do no harm” philosophy. We don’t aim to change who you are, just to help you enjoy the wonders of nature 🌸