How To Sell A Scent – National Fragrance Week

Have you ever considered the processes that go into how to sell a scent? In the world of marketing, perfume campaigns are granted limitless creative licence.

Have you ever considered the processes that go into how to sell a scent? In the world of marketing, perfume campaigns are granted limitless creative licence. The clothes don’t have to be amazing (if they’re there at all), the backdrop can be heavily abstracted, and the exact bottle doesn’t even need to be in the shot; it really is an anything-goes and the product-still-sells scenario.

One of our most powerful senses, ‘olfaction’ (also known as the sense of smell) is primal and mysterious. Harnessing the ability to evoke both positive and negative states of mind, fragrances can also trigger deep-rooted memories and familiar remembrances. While some of our earliest childhood memories can be conjured by the simple scent of your mother’s perfume, for example, they’re also most likely to stay with you for the rest of your life.

On this notion, it could be argued that scents are one of the most valuable vessels in building personal identity and therefore, finding your signature fragrance is something most of us like to invest a little time and money into. Think back to the last fragrance you bought, either for yourself or as a gift. Did you seek it out because you’d heard that the top notes were something you thought were appealing? Or did you pursue it because the bottle caught your eye, or the advert captivated and compelled you?

Marketing perfume is more than just selling a fragrance; as perfume maker Serge Lutens once said, “It is potentially a carrier for the imagination. Perfume is thick; it is poison and pure desire; it is eros in person.” To successfully advertise a fragrance, brands need to tap into the psychology of their potential buyers and link their product with a highly desirable abstract, such as femininity, masculinity, passion or glamour. With these ideas in mind, many perfume advertisements are vastly erotic in nature.

As with any marketing campaign, identifying the brand message is of paramount importance. Although one of the most popular fragrance strategies is the ‘desirable quarry’ approach, that is, to ‘turn on’ men/women, other marketable messages in perfume advertising tend to feature freedom, excellence in sports, independence, strength, freedom, youthfulness, beauty and happiness. The truth is, many perfumes have similar notes, but it’s the name, messaging and branding which provides the colour and personality around the product.

Perhaps the second most important aspect of marketing fragrances comes down to the bottle. Appealing to the senses can be tricky, especially across out-of-home or television – this is why the perfumes most heavily branded with a strong message, designer name or celebrity affiliation sell so well. An iconic bottle is also essential, and bearing an anticipated audience in mind is crucial to its design.

Very few adverts actually refer the fragrance’s scent at all; instead, they appeal to the other senses. An enchanting image, voice-over and story line can go a long way in building a transformative, desirable product, while models, music and slogans help pique the interest of an audience.

In honour of National Fragrance Week, we’ve rounded up five of our favourite iconic fragrance campaigns.

Dior, JAdore

Dreamy and mystifying, Charlize Theron embodies sensuality, but not at the detriment of creativity.

Channel, Channel No.5

Spinning a romance as true as time itself, Nicole Kidman gleams in this Moulin Rouge inspired advert by Baz Luhrmann, titled ‘Le Film’.

Chanel, Coco Mademoiselle

Who doesn’t want to be Keira Knightley on a Ducati in a soft-lit Italian square?

Dolce and Gabana, Light Blue

Featuring Bianca Balti and David Gandy, we can forgive the lingering body shots in this iconic vision of clear skies and sea-blues in Capri.

YSL, Parisienne

Literally just Kate Moss flitting between a taxi and a bed of roses… and yet…

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