As a matter of fact, the arrival of these new voices has truly metamorphosed the relationship of a certain part of the public with perfumes, and has redefined the relationship brands have with their public – as can be seen in fashion or makeup. Of course, all these well-informed consumers do not share the same level of knowledge on perfumery. Still, their average knowledge is getting inexorably higher. Launched in 2007, the auparfum.com website has recorded a 25% average annual increase in the number of its visitors since its creation, and its founders have also created NEZ, the first magazine on olfaction and perfumes: the first issue published last April is already out of stock. In other words, new consumers get informed, dissect perfume houses’ marketing campaign strategies, and are animated by the desire to understand and speak the truth, pressing brands to review their communication approaches.
So, the amateurs actually foreshadow tomorrow’s perfumery’s future customers, in France and around the world. Although international customers are still drivers, the most fervent amateurs of signed, qualitative perfumes also contribute to maintaining niche perfumery in good health, and are part of the global dynamics of this new consumption paradigm. Indeed, the rarity parameter is no longer the main driver for a product’s desirability, especially since this notion no longer embodies the perfume offering today. In fact, young generations are not essentially interested in rarity, as they mainly aspire to find affinity with a specific offering that corresponds to them, as La Marque et la Manière consultant Marielle Belin explains.
Personalization has become the new rarity, as can be seen with the innumerable “personalized diagnoses” online and in-store, for example with Guerlain, or in niche perfumery store Nose. If personalization is emerging right now, it is because it comes after three decades of intense democratization of perfumery, which led to completely transform perfume creation methods. From an upstream perfume creation system as close as possible to creators, perfumery turned downstream to focus on consumers’ desires. But, this production model has reached its own limits, as selective perfume stores are getting less and less visitors: between 2011 and early 2015, selective perfumery allegedly lost about 1.6 million consumers, as pointed out in an article published in Stratégies in February 2015.
Indeed, personalisation also means distinction and originality. If part of the population no longer buys perfume (in particular young people), it is also because perfumes have lost their power of distinction. A high number of olfactory launches in selective perfumery are derived from the benchmarking of successful perfumes, which can sometimes be based on already existing references. This phenomenon is particularly visible in the 2015 men’s Top 20. The perfumes created after 2006 that appear in this list, like One Million by Paco Rabanne or Yves Saint Laurent’s La Nuit de L’Homme, are almost all characterized by woody-amber based notes. However, as they are considered very manly, they do give a generic sensation to these perfumes. The thing is, with an ever-increasing average level of knowledge, the capacity of consumers to differentiate perfumes according to their quality and originality is also on the rise. So, it is a short step from saying consumers are already making the perfume industry review its creation methods.
The greatest challenge for the perfume industry will then be to accomplish a feat, that of re-educating a large part of the customers that have lost the notion of advice, while seducing the increasing public of amateurs in the long term. As a matter of fact, professionals seem to be eager to find their way back to creativity and inspiration. And this strategy is already successful, as the major brands rewarded by L’Olfactorama the last three years (this Prize was actually created in 2012 by a group of amateurs who have become experts) are far from being unknown: Cartier, Guerlain, and Hermès have already won several awards in the General Public and Niche Perfumery categories.