Girl Power in Scent Market

Beauty executives discuss marketing towards young women with plastic.

The fate of the entire fragrance business is no longer in the hands of perfumers, marketers or their bosses. It’s up to a savvy but bored and bewildered young woman with a fistful of plastic.

This story first appeared in the March 26, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

That was one theme that emerged from a panel discussion hosted by the Fragrance Foundation on Tuesday morning. Product development expert Ann Gottlieb moderated the trend forecasting panel, which included Judy Galloway, managing partner for G-group Market Research; Joe Magnacca, senior vice president and chief merchandising officer of Duane Reade; Camille McDonald, president of brand development and merchandising for Bath & Body Works, and Cosimo Policastro, executive vice president of Fine Fragrance North America at Givaudan.

“She can get anything she wants for the price she wants at any time,” said McDonald about the ever-evolving, increasingly connected fragrance consumer. “We have to start where she is. It’s not about what we want her to want.”

To that end, panelists discussed interactivity both on the Web and with the overall message of each launch. “We want to create emotion, not impose it,” she said, recommending brands focus on fewer, more creative, thought provoking launches.

When it comes to the actual juice, McDonald put it plainly; “it matters what it smells like.” She also touched on the importance of innovation. “If someone’s done it, don’t do it again.”

Policastro cited the success of fragrance classics like Chanel Coco Mademoiselle, Estée Lauder Pleasures and Dior J’adore as models to follow.

“These classics sustained consumer interest,” said Policastro, who named relevance, marketplace disruption, ownability and quality as key factors for success. “Product is key,” he said. “It has to be special.”

McDonald blamed customer boredom, confusion and a saturation of watered-down launches for a lack of interest, and for driving customers back to the classics.

Galloway discussed the “millennial,” a still untapped fragrance consumer between 15- and 28-years-old, looking to get excited by the category.

“[The millennial] is still fickle, not yet loyal,” said Galloway. “She’s sophisticated and cares about how fragrance makes her feel.”

Magnacca’s advice for breeding dedicated fragrance consumers? Start early. “Fragrance is emotional,” said Magnacca. “With early adoption comes a relationship, then it becomes an addiction.”