By  on June 15, 2007

CANNES, France — Perfumers and beauty executives who gathered for the World Perfumery Congress here earlier this month were on the lookout for the most elusive scent ingredient of all — magic.

The need to infuse fragrance with a hint of enchantment emerged as one of the key messages at the five-day event, which began June 5.

Bringing back the magic to a new generation of fragrance consumers is a challenge, according to executives, since brands must adhere to ever-stricter regulations and answer growing consumer demand for natural and sustainable products.

Though estimates on the number of fragrances launched in 2006 ranged from 300 to 700 during the event's 30 conferences, which attracted more than 1,300 attendees, executives did agree that counteracting the commoditization of scents is a priority.

Speakers pointed to other industries, which have undergone reinvention and repositioning.

"Look at the paint industry, which has evolved from highly functional to emotional," said Sumit Bhasin, director of global research, development and innovation at P&G Prestige Products. He pointed out that a tub of paint once blandly named Beige 23 has become Café au Lait and lines now take names like Contemporary Classics or The Historic Collection.

Nicolas Mirzayantz, group president of fragrances for International Flavors & Fragrances cited Cirque du Soleil, the Montreal circus troupe, which became a $1 billion business by reinventing the circus through unique storytelling and artistry. He also highlighted the Starbucks coffee chain as an example of emotional branding, offering a complete experience, "not just a cup of coffee," he said.

Claudia Poccia, president of Avon U.S. Beauty, drew parallels between apparel retailers such as H&M and Target borrowing equity from high-end fashion designers and Avon's partnerships with Swarovski on its Crystal Aura scent and Christian Lacroix on its Rouge for women and Noir for men.

The hotel industry should also provide inspiration for beauty brands, according to Véronique Gabaï-Pinsky, president of the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.'s Aramis and Designer Fragrances division.

"Some hotels have become the destination themselves, they've added excitement and glamour," she said, adding Apple stores have similarly become destinations. "[They're] a Mecca for the young."

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