Last week’s meeting of the American Society of Perfumers was the scene of a debate among featured panelists regarding truth, marketing and dreams in the fine fragrance arena.
How public should perfumers be? How technical can fragrance companies be in their marketing? Can and should consumers be introduced to the molecules and other nuts and bolts of scents? Will that create more consumer interest or will it ruin the magic of fragrance? Anne Gottlieb (Ann Gottlieb Associates) wondered, “How do you transmit to a client what a fragrance smells like?” New York Times perfume critic Chandler Burr, a strong advocate of openness in the fragrance industry, decried fragrance marketing, saying, “I don’t think you’re going to sell any more lovely abstract tone poems to people … They want to see behind the scenes.” Blogger and P&F magazine contributor Michelle Krell Kydd countered that “it depends on whom you’re speaking to,“ noting that the use of complex metaphors might reach some customers while alienating others. Instead, she advocated the familiar, such as linking scent with gustatory reference points. In addition, she noted the lack of fragrance knowledge among marketers, a problematic shortcoming that gets passed on to the consumer. (Kydd has a number of interesting comments generated from the event on her blog.) Meanwhile, Marian Bendeth (remarked that the United States lacks the sort of “Smithsonian of fragrance,” an institution similar to L'Osmothèque, which would stand as a celebration of scent.
The event also included the Living Legend Award, handed to Bath & Body Works brand development and merchandising president Camille McDonald. Senior perfumer Lambert Dekker of Takasago received a Lifetime Achievement Award for his career in functional fragrances. Finally, Givaudan’s guru of natural materials, Roman Kaiser, accepted a tribute for his extensive work in exploring the globe for new scents.