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Shiseido’s Robin Mason on Why National Fragrance Day Matters

Shiseido's newest fragrance, Dolce Garden, is a floriental gourmand. It launched this month at Macy's.

For Robin Mason, senior vice president of Shiseido Fragrances, today’s official National Fragrance Day comes at a pivotal moment for the industry. Prestige fragrances are on the upswing with The NPD Group reporting 2017 sales rose 4 percent to $4 billion. Driving growth are natural and artisanal entries, which grew 32 percent and 14 percent, respectively. Mason believes the attention garnered by the honorary day can build upon that momentum — especially luring younger users.

“You hear about all these different businesses declaring ‘their day,’ from doughnuts and ice cream to lipstick,” Mason, who has a quarter of a century of experience in the business, told WWD. “I hope through National Fragrance Day we can educate, break down barriers and demystify selecting a fragrance.” She said another aspect of campaign, created by The Fragrance Foundation, will help “spotlight” the talents of master perfumers.

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Although there are signs of life in scents, Mason admitted there is more work to be done. “We are not at the level of awareness you see in Europe or Latin America. I hope each year the National Fragrance Day gets bigger and helps make fragrance a part of everyday life.” She credited Fragrance Foundation president Linda Levy — whom she speaks with weekly — with kicking off the campaign. Although technically heralded on one day, events around the event kicked off on March 1 and include a social media campaign and support from retailers.

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Mason, who started in the business behind a counter at Bloomingdale’s and went on to hold executive roles at Estée Lauder and Elizabeth Arden before joining Shiseido in 2017, said the industry is undergoing some of its most transformational times. While last year started out slowly for the category, the fourth quarter finished with a fever pitch. The effort brands are pumping into the category are resonating with consumers, she added.

Shiseido's Robin Mason Talks Fragrance Trends
Dolce Garden

“I love the moment we are in now and seeing all of these innovations hitting the market.” Among those trends are gourmand fragrances with a fresh twist, the Middle Eastern influence, artisanal scents and non-gender specific entries. Shiseido’s latest launch, Dolce Garden, represents the new breed of floral gourmands. “I remember when gourmand fragrances first hit the market in a big way — they were sticky and sweet. Then there was a revolution and they became more sophisticated like our Dolce Garden, which just hit stores,” Mason said. “It is still a gourmand but blended with an amazing floral accord to become more modern and sheer.” The fragrance is available at Macy’s and with the 2.5-ounce size priced at $118.

Dolce Garden is supported with a cohesive campaign melding a video shot in a garden near Palermo with digital activities and in-store support. “Shiseido is looking at the marketing space in a very non-traditional way where we are ideating unique avenues to expand our reach at every touch point of the consumer journey,” Mason said. The marketing reflects trends in how fragrances are communicated today. “It used to be a man and woman scantily clad,” she elaborated. “Now it is about a level of community engagement and interaction with others.”

Mason touched on fragrance trends of the past from the big florals of the eighties to the celebrity movement. “It is impressive how that [celebrity fragrance] has evolved — the celebrity craze of today is virtually non-existent. It really has transformed into this brand ambassador, self-promotion [business] and success is predicated on your social following.”

Shiseido’s portfolio of luxury brands include Dolce & Gabbana, Ferragamo, Hermès, Issey Miyake and Narciso Rodriguez — all nameplates Mason said are either classics or have successfully been refreshed to keep up with market moods. They remain among the best movers in the premium fragrance category. The direction of the industry to artisanal and clean scents is seen as a positive, she added. “Brands are starting to declare what they are about through interesting ingredient stories and more storytelling. It makes the category more intriguing.”