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Markets & trends

Genderless trend clashes with Brazilian preference for men’s fragrances

Three out of four Brazilian men still say they prefer fragrances with traditional “masculine” notes; younger consumers and niche perfumery can pave the way for unisex products.

Renata Abelin, marketing director at Drom Fragrances

Renata Abelin, marketing director at Drom Fragrances

Born out of cultural changes, genderless products targeting both male and female customers are a hot trend in the cosmetics industry. However, unisex products still do not meet the expectations of Brazilian consumers when it comes to fragrances. A recent survey conducted by Mintel revealed three out of four (76%) Brazilian men say they wear gender-specific fragrances. Similarly, 71% of men say they wear gender-specific deodorant, while 31% buy unisex deodorant.

Yet the landscape is demonstrably different in personal care categories, including shampoo and conditioner. Mintel’s survey reveals that 58% of men use gender-neutral shampoo and conditioner, while 56% buy unisex soap or body wash.

Untapped potential

A possible explanation for such disparate consumer buying behavior is that the scents used in shampoos and conditioners are less assertive than those used in fragrances, says Juliana Martins, senior Beauty and Personal Care analyst at Mintel. Additionally, men are generally more likely to use gender-specific products. “Several different surveys show that men are more likely to use gender-specific products than women. Men’s fragrances may appeal to some women, but women’s fragrances do not appeal to most men,” she says.

A 2017 Mintel study revealed that 52% of men prefer fragrances with woody notes. Fragrances with fresh notes placed second, with 37%.

Renata Abelin, marketing director at Drom Fragrances, says consumers are directed towards gender-specific fragrances at the point of sale. “They find products in a labeled, predetermined universe. Brazilian men still subscribe to the notion that fougère and/or woody notes are masculine, whereas floral and gourmand tones are seen as feminine,” she says.

Gender categorization is likewise observed in the market for personal care products. However, the difference here is that they are usually purchased with the whole family in mind. “That is why their notes and scents usually highlight the products’ ingredients and benefits,” says Abelin.

Nevertheless, the Brazilian market still has plenty of untapped potential. Martins says one way companies could explore this potential is by creating deodorants that target men and women alike, thus adding value to their brands and winning over consumers who already see them as unisex products. In this case, it would be useful to highlight the use of gender-neutral ingredients, such as charcoal, when marketing these products. On the other hand, companies that wish to continue to produce deodorants that target men could boost their portfolio by adding on to their current product lines.

Martins provides the example of a line of shampoo and soap for men that can also add a deodorant, all with the same scent.

To get men interested in genderless fragrances, she says companies should develop products with “masculine” notes and create marketing campaigns that highlight this feature, since it seems to be extremely important to men. “Companies could try different angles, such as fragrances that can be shared with one’s partner (regardless of their gender), or even fragrances with more neutral tones,” she says.

A long-term process

Martins believes that, in the short term, genderless fragrances will continue to be a niche market in Brazil, appealing only to a small number of individuals. This is the case with the fine fragrances category, says Abelin, where there is still a clear distinction between “feminine” and “masculine” notes. However, she also stresses that genderless fragrances are poised to receive a boost from two fronts: generation Z individuals, who tend to reject labels of any kind, and niche fragrances, which explore olfactory creations per se.

A transition to a predominantly genderless fragrance market is likely to happen only in the long term, if at all. “In Brazil, where over 90% of fragrances are sold in the mass market, behavioral changes take a long time,” concludes Abelin.

Amanda Veloso


  • Aqua Kenzo Pour Homme
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  • Juliana Martins, Senior Beauty and Personal Care Analyst at (...)
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