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Marielle Belin

Tomorrow’s perfume: To be mythic or not to be?

Since the 1990s, perfumes have known an inflationary spiral. More than 2,000 launches were counted in 2016, compared to just 40 per year in the 70s. Most recent launches quickly disappear from the spotlight, while others manage to resist for a few years, thanks to new versions called “flankers”, and only a handful of them transcend time. Does this mean there are now two perfume markets? A long-cycle market and a short-cycle one?

The greatest perfume successes were raised to the status of symbol, so they have the power of magical objects in myths: they are talismans.

The greatest perfume successes were raised to the status of symbol, so they have the power of magical objects in myths: they are talismans.

With the boom of celebrity fragrances, the 2000s established “aspirational” motivation as a quick success driver. This mechanism is based on the “desire to be (like) the Other”. The aspirational scheme involves a scenario of desire combined with a marketing mix) whose different elements are like the actors in a TV show that spans several “eras” (flankers). Some of these elements are replaced over time: the bottle, name, fragrance, icon, advertizing. As for the fragrance, its different versions are always developed with a view to achieve optimum acceptability, either by being “trendy”, or by reaching a consensus.

Today, the niche market dynamism (+15% a year) contrasts with the “mainstream” market’s atony, and all major players are now encouraged to invest in it. As a result, the future of perfume announces a return to its creative dimension, which mobilizes a different consumer motivation: connection to oneself, or “I enjoy it”. Here, you do not try to be the Other, quite the contrary: the idea is to be yourself, using all sensorial, emotional, and cognitive means available.
This motivation is definitely in line with the societal evolution we know, which is marked by consumers seeking to give sense to their consumption.

In this context, the question is: what is the key to sustainable success, the sort of success that makes perfume a long-cycle market? We will take our examples from two successes aged 96 and 25, respectively: N°5 and Angel. We will see that these successes share the very structure of great myths.

The myth and the magic talisman

A journey within a myth. All creators and brands have their own myths that draw from the sources of the founding myths present in all cultures. A myth is the story of a fundamental, universal human adventure, and in this particular case, of a human being that founded his own house or brand. Where does the Chanel myth draw from? From the sources of the Myth of Prometheus, who broke style conventions to provide women with the fire of freedom? What are the myths Thierry Mugler draws his energy from? Is it the Myth if Icarus or Narcissus, for a creator divided between the quest for the ideal and self-transformation? The strength of the myth lies in the fact that it ‘speaks to us’ both in terms of aestheticism and meaning : a language that reaches our intuition, feelings, emotions, and reason, although it is never confined in a conventional meaning. It is the language of symbols.

Perfume, a magic talisman. The greatest perfume successes were raised to the status of symbol, so they have the power of magical objects in myths: they are talismans.

  • N°5. It is around the figure 5, which refers to balance, that an alliance between the abstract and matter is built: geometrical forms, black and white, aldehydes, flowers. And from this alliance arises the symbol of a new balance between matter and spirit, providing women with a new self-awareness.
  • Angel. The heavenly heights of the ideal are embodied by a star whose light becomes flesh with a double-natured Angel, both celestial and terrestrial. He protects the path of light and shadow from all these women that came to Earth when they fell from their childhood.

Infringement, a disruptive fragrance, a gift. N°5’s aesthetic, psychological and societal disruptive character is widely recognized, and so is that of Angel, which managed to add innocence to assertiveness, because the authenticity of a journey into childhood memory and truth shows through it. As a result, the perfume object and the fragrance become the talisman that the hero takes back from his initiatory journey. He is the “gift” that may not be instantaneously understood, because he is completely new and clearly breaks with the past.

The unique and symbiotic nature of the product mix. Contrary to the “Because I’m worth it” scheme, which achieved longevity by modifying various elements in the product mix, the symbol that created a symbiosis from its various elements makes it an indivisible whole. That is why it seems quite risky to bring a symbol up to date by modifying the fragrance, bottle, or name, even with subtlety, art, and elegance, because the disconnection of the elements in the product mix dries up the magical aura and puts the perfume back to the ordinary status of product.

How to create a mythical perfume, a talisman

Method. Reclaim the brand’s founding myth to access the symbolic expression peculiar to its genius. There are approaches for it – we can suggest one.

Posture. Make sure your team is in osmosis to make a symbiotic mixture emerge.

Let go of the wholly mental approach to welcome what will arise from the brand boosted by its myth.

Marielle Belin

© 2017 - Premium Beauty News -
about Marielle Belin
Marielle Belin

After several years working in an advertising agency, she became the International Marketing Director of Thierry Mugler, before reaching the position of Vice-President of Issey Miyake Parfums. Her marketing experience built up in contact with both visionary creators and perfume consumers, through an intense, more than 15-year relationship.

In 2011, she founded her own consulting firm specialized in Innovation and qualitative studies: la marque & la manière. Her approach and tools are designed to develop an in-depth vision of the brand as well as consumer empathy, always taking into account our era’s main societal transformations.

She suggests an original method (Sense & Story) which leads to reaching the deepest meaning of a product experience or the founding myth of a brand.

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