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Fragrance Perspectives: State of the Art—the Good, the Bad and the Truth

By: Ferdinand Storp
Posted: September 10, 2007, from the September 2007 issue of P&F magazine.

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  • September 2007 issue, pg 18—5 pages
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Every year the shelves of perfumeries and discounters are filled with a mass-produced stock of increasingly inferior quality. What ever happened to the great classics of fragrance? Why must every great fragrance be followed by some kind of limited, summer and black edition?

These questions were already answered during previous World Perfumery Congress (WPC) events. There are too many fragrances on the market already. And this trend will not reverse; on the contrary, it will further increase. This appears to be the central dilemma of the fragrance industry: more and more, worse and worse. In this context, I love the following statement, the so-called Sturgeon’s Law (named after the science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon). It says: Ninety percent of everything is crud.

Actually, this could be said of all products. Only we don’t think this way because the majority of all products have already undergone a filtering process by the retailers. In addition, most fragrances do not pass the “hi” test and, yet, keep on existing. This is due to the fact that the blockbuster economy is not the only functioning form of economy. But more about this later.

Blockbusters: Let’s first get to the blockbusters. Blockbusters are the exception to the rule; nonetheless, we view our industry in the light of such exceptions. But I think that most of us feel that the era of the megahits has surpassed its peak. Yet it is part of our culture and image that feeds the desire to create such mega-sellers. We love top 10 charts and consider it extremely exciting to find ourselves there. But the price of creating such a blockbuster is high. So is the risk. For the sake of risk minimization, most companies pursue a broadly diversified range, which means that a few genuine hits have to balance out the shortcomings of other projects. Thus the perfume industry is forced to rely on hits. And I am not only talking about profitable products, but about record-breaking sales hits. The high cost of development and the uncertain prospects of success create enormous pressure. To relieve this pressure a little, fragrances are tested. Such tests should at least provide a certain sense of security.

Other topics discussed: The Truth: Tests are Dumb, The End of the Good Old Times, The Good, The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions

This is only an excerpt of the full article that appeared in P&F Magazine, but you can purchase the full-text version.