CEW Talks Creating a Successful Fragrance

A winning formula for fragrance was at the core of conversation during the Cosmetic Executive Women’s Women and Men in Beauty Series event.

Olivier Gillotin, Kathy Widmer, Carlotta Jacobson and Ron Rolleston.

CEW turned a corner by having its first panel discussion featuring men. A winning formula for fragrance was at the core of conversation during the Cosmetic Executive Women’s Women and Men in Beauty Series event on June 26, titled “Formula for Success.”

The panel, moderated by WWD Beauty Inc. editor Jenny Fine included Olivier Gillotin, vice president perfumer of Givaudan, Ron Rolleston, executive vice president of creative and new business development for Elizabeth Arden and Kathy Widmer, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Elizabeth Arden. All three shared their insight on how to create a successful fragrance.

Widmer pointed to the success of the Justin Bieber’s women’s fragrance in explaining that it’s critical to find the partner in product licensing. The prestige fragrance business in the US grew 13 percent and half of that total growth came from Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift. “If you go back to 2004, the total number of celebrity fragrances launched, as well as any flankers, were about 11 brands and they roughly retailed $10 million each,” said Widmer. “Last year 116 celebrity fragrances launched with an average retail value of one million dollars. So it illustrates the size of the pie hasn’t dramatically changed but the pool of players and the business is dramatically up.”

“With a celebrity, it’s most important to develop a level of trust,” said Rolleston. “When you sign a license agreement you end up with them for a long time. When Taylor came to our office we spent sometime on business aspects and showed her the market research that we did. We wanted to engage her in the creative process.”

Gillotin also acknowledged the importance of trust and getting to know Swift when creating her scent. “I want people to feel as if they are a part of her life,” said Gillotin. It was key for him to converse with Swift and understand what she likes and where she’s coming from. He asked her what particular scents she enjoyed and said she loves berries. To capture her youth and exuberance he fused florals and white berries. But Gillotin expressed that creating a fragrance is not just one person’s ideas and that he not only met with Swift once a week, but also with Givaudan and Elizabeth Arden.

Widmer explained the marketing tactics used when turning a celebrity into a product franchise. “With 116 launches, its tricky and there’s a certain degree of research that can be done up front to better a company’s chances,” said Widmer. “There are a couple of things we look for when looking to see if a celebrity can translate into that category, and some do it better than others. I say that Taylor Swift is love and Justin Bieber is lust. They have an intense following. The way the game is changing now has to do with the digital space. So we are looking to get a better understanding of the celebrity through their digital following and marketing to their fans that way.”

With celebrity fragrances flooding the market, Gillotin and Rolleston addressed what makes a classic. “It’s more difficult now, but it can be done,” said Gillotin. “It’s a state of mind. You need to know the concept and be able to look at it in a different way.”

“Longevity,” said Rolleston. “We set out to create a classic with Wonderstruck and only time will tell if her fans go back to the fragrance.”