What a difference three years makes.
This story first appeared in the June 17, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Since assuming her role as president of the Fragrance Foundation in 2012, Elizabeth Musmanno has turned the once-staid organization on its ear, with a comprehensive re-branding and a retooling of the organization’s annual awards.
“Basically, everything needed to be changed,” said Musmanno, “and happily, I was given pretty much a free hand to do what I thought was necessary.” Musmanno tapped creative director Alex Wiederin and Buero New York to re-brand The Fragrance Foundation, creating a new logo, stationery, fonts and brand standards. In June 2013, fragrance.org launched, and features original content ranging from interviews to videos and articles to inspirational images. A daily newsletter began this spring, and Musmanno proudly points to a 30 percent open rate.
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Next on Musmanno’s list was executive-level education. In January 2014, Musmanno introduced The Foundation Talks, a series of educational thought-leadership talks featuring global leaders. The first edition of the event included former President Clinton, Caryl Stern of UNICEF, Stefan Sagmeister and Sir Ken Robinson. Subsequent events featured retail expert Doug Stephens, journalist Joshua Prager and Simon Sinek, to name a few.
A second discussion series, called Executive Roundtable, bowed in September 2014 in New York with Robin Burns-McNeill, chairman and cofounder of Batallure Beauty; Michael Gould, former chairman and chief executive officer of Bloomingdale’s and Frederic Jacques, formerly of Takasago. These, noted Musmanno, are intended to be panel discussions with top executives discussing what matters most to the industry. The first West Coast event, featuring Michael Dubin, ceo and cofounder of Dollar Shave Club, perfumer Ann Gottlieb and Jill Belasco, president and ceo of CoScentrix and the chairman of the Fragrance Foundation, was held in San Francisco in February.
A third educational effort instituted by Musmanno, Fragrance Academy, is a digital online sales certification course offering what Musmanno calls “a robust education in the art, science and selling of fragrance.” It was designed with input from top retail, manufacturing and sales training experts, she added.
Musmanno also considerably revamped the event formerly known as the FiFi’s, which was first held in 1973 and had been slowly sliding into decline over the last decade. Now called The Fragrance Foundation Awards, the ceremonies have gone from being held inside a tent with an exploding generator in 2011 to an upscale evening at Lincoln Center — this year’s edition to be held tonight at Alice Tully Hall.
“This industry is deserving of a glamorous night out,” said Musmanno, who modeled the new awards ceremony after the Council of Fash- ion Designers of America’s annual awards. “Also, we cut some of the awards. When I started there were 40; they’ve now been pared down to 17. Ironically, there wasn’t a perfumer award before. Now we end the show with it because it’s the most impactful moment, honoring the true artists of our industry.”
A recurrent criticism, heard long before Musmanno arrived on the scene, is that the foundation has not done enough to promote fragrance consumption by consumers. Here is Musmanno’s response: “Everything I’ve done since taking over at The Fragrance Foundation three years ago has been part of a building process. And every step we take is moving us closer to increase awareness with consumers about fragrance, ultimately resulting in increased sales. In just the last couple years we’ve done this directly and indirectly. For instance: We’ve put our member’s fragrances in a special advertising scent-strip inserts in Cosmopolitan magazine in conjunction with the Consumer Choice Awards for the past two years, putting fragrances directly in their homes. Cosmopolitan and the fragrance brands themselves have driven over 100,000 consumers to our Web site where they join our email list.
“So, now we now speak to consumers on a daily basis with our news roundup to grow passion of fragrance — and we expect that passion to grow sales. We’ve created original content that reaches consumers promoting the industry and its mem- bers every day and we’ve seen the traffic on our Web site grow as a result.