What Niche Can Teach the Big Brands

In comments presented on the final day of “Fragrance Business 2007” presented by GCI magazine, Rochelle Bloom, president of The Fragrance Foundation, called for fresh approaches that can excite the consumer. 

Quoting her old friend William Lauder, Bloom said of the fragrance industry, “We are more and more guilty of throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing if it sticks.” The main culprit? Excessive fragrance launches. Sound familiar? “Everyone talks about it,” said Bloom, “everyone writes about it, but every year there are … almost 400 new fragrances. And the next year the number goes up again. Where are those fragrances the next year?”

Bloom lamented that this emphasis on “what’s new” is sending consumers a confusing message, making fragrances of years past seem like “yesterday’s news.” In the process, she said, the industry has conditioned consumers to seek only the newest scents. Once the advertising subsides, consumers move on. This overwhelming focus on newness, said Bloom, cannot be absorbed by consumers.

“Fragrance isn’t what it used to be,” she continued. Citing products such as eye glasses and watches, Bloom said, “[Fine fragrance] has been outshined by other categories that have learned to reinvent themselves. We have not reinvented ourselves.”

Bloom noted that niche scents are doing it right, connecting with consumers on an emotional—as opposed to commodity—level. “Niche [formulators] take more time and don’t have the pressure [of the larger brands],” she explained.

There are other rays of hope as well. “Home fragrances and candles over the last five or six years have brought consumers to the counter, have [persuaded] people to use fragrances in different ways, have given people permission that they can relax and enjoy fragrance as an atmosphere rather than [simply] lighting a candle only when you have company coming over.

“I think that’s a good thing,” she concluded, “but what’s next?”

Read more about the state of fragrance in our “Future of Perfumery” feature in the December issue of Perfumer & Flavorist magazine.

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