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When It’s Ready, It’s Perfect: a New Fine Fragrance Market Reality

By: Jeb Gleason-Allured
Posted: July 8, 2011
Christine Dagousset (Chanel, Inc.) and Veronique Gabai-Pinsky (The Estée Lauder Companies, Inc.)

Speakers Christine Dagousset (Chanel, Inc.) and Veronique Gabai-Pinsky (The Estée Lauder Companies, Inc.).

What does it take to build and sustain a brand in today’s fine fragrance market reality—and what role does the juice have in that process? These questions were the focus of comments delivered by Christine Dagousset (Chanel, Inc.) and Veronique Gabai-Pinsky (The Estée Lauder Co., Inc.) during Cosmetic Executive Women’s “Time-Defying Scents” panel at New York’s Harmonie Club.

While there are signs of recovery in fine fragrance sales, the market reality has shifted, said Gabai-Pinsky. The global economic crisis of recent years led to a loss of confidence and security, leading consumers to reassess values, beliefs in institutions and what they were truly willing to pay a premium for. As a result, she explained, “There is a strong divide between what people consider luxury and what they consider a commodity; the things in the middle are struggling.”

So what, exactly, is luxury in the post-economic meltdown age? “Luxury has to be anchored in a true knowledge of the product and craftsmanship,” said Gabi-Pinsky. “We have to reassess what we’re giving the consumer when we talk of luxury.” Citing pureDKNY, she explained that investing in brands means luxury must be anchored in “true” craftsmanship. “Tell the story of the juice,” she said. “This is what makes luxury.” Raw materials and creation are at the heart of that story, she added, which evoke pleasure and fun for consumers. “The customer will get back to us because of quality,” she said, adding that when products are launched correctly, the undertaking is less about marketing than it is about passion. And, while continuous market research helps companies such as Estée Lauder and Chanel to address consumer needs based on what is influencing lives and desires, Gabai-Pinsky pointed out that it is in fact the fragrance industry’s business “is about creating wants.”

“Never compromise on quality,” Gabai-Pinsky continued, adding no fragrance should be launched it it’s not ready: “Be true to the brand.” But when is a fragrance ready? Gabai-Pinsky said that a scent is finished when new mods twist away from the perfection that’s been achieved up to that point. Dagousset added that some of the development projects at Chanel, which she characterized as a highly particular house, can take years. Yet, no matter how no matter how long it takes, the mantra never changes: “When it’s ready, it’s perfect.”

Meanwhile, the polarization between commodity and luxury offerings does not mean the classic model isn’t still valid, offering success without brands cannibalizing one another. In fact, Gabi-Pinsky noted, “Maintaining support for classics has been a successful strategy.”