Byline: Alev Aktar
Break the rules, track street trends, speak to a customer’s individuality and allow creative teams to spread their wings.
These were a few of the conclusions drawn at the session on product creation.
But mostly, it was a tirade against the evils of trusting market research over gut instinct.
“The current marketplace is cluttered with recent failures, many of which fared well when tested,” warned Ann Gottlieb, president of Ann Gottlieb Associates, a New York-based fragrance consultancy.
“Frequently, fragrance testing consists of sitting a consumer in a neutral booth, showing her a cut-and paste-concept board with a working name and a stock bottle of fragrance with a white label displaying a cryptic code,” she added.
“It is more and more common to the fragrance selection process that we emphasize results of initial sniff tests and in-home use tests to direct our intuitive responses to a very crowded fragrance market. In an attempt to quantify the intangible, we have truly compromised creativity.”
Andrea Robinson, general manager of Ralph Lauren Fragrances Worldwide, seconded this opinion.
“Data has its clear limitations, and research works better as a complement and clue for improvement rather than a substitute for instinct.”
Both called not for the end of market research but for the judicious application of results. Robinson noted that it can be invaluable “as a tool and as a disaster check.”
Meanwhile, Gottlieb implored fragrance marketers to “use testing in a way that is actionable and allows room to interpret the results.” She said, “Enhance your creativity with the power of knowledge — don’t kill creativity on the basis of success or failure.” She also stated that many fragrances that have become mega-hits have signatures that would prevent them from being universally accepted in a test.
And both panelists underlined the importance of taking the consumers’ pulse, keeping abreast of trends and the marketplace and hiring people passionate about the industry — and then fostering their creativity.
“Vision, timing and instinct are all vital parts of the connection with the consumer,” concluded Robinson.
For Geoffrey Webster, president, general manager of Givaudan-Roure fragrances in North America, staying on top of lifestyle trends is also key to creative marketing.
Webster employs a team of trend checkers that he sends around the world to file reports on what’s hot and happening, which are then used to complement the marketing efforts of manufacturers.
“Where we once spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on syndicated research, focus groups and tracking studies, I now find myself signing off on some highly unorthodox stuff. For example, sending teams of marketing managers, perfumers and evaluators to concerts, or trips to London to see what’s going on at culture points such as Space NK and Fly, or to Los Angeles to try to figure out what’s going on at Hydroasis or the hip hop scene, or Jimmy Jazz on 125th street, or action sports retailers in Long Beach.”
Webster stressed that trends today are born on the street and not on catwalks, and that success can be achieved by identifying opportunities well before they become mainstream. He added that it’s important for creative perfumery teams to work outside of classic limits, and at the same time, suppliers need “clients who aren’t the Xerox-mentality managers and are open and want to push the envelope.”
Webster relayed a list of little-known urban brands that are hitting it big, such as Bear, Mecca, Phat Farm, Pele Pele, Nappy, Blunt, Enyce, Twism, and FUBU, a company founded in 1994 that already has sales of some $30 million. “These are household names for the next generation.”
He also gave the example of alternative extreme sports and the way the buzz resulted in the Polo Sport Extreme line. “We send some people to the extreme games. These [athletes] look for pro-function products. In fragrance this translates into energy and a surge in adrenalin and attitude.”
For Sheila Hewett, vice president of global marketing, advertising and communications at Calvin Klein Cosmetics Company, the product’s image should always be reflected in the bottle, packaging, juice, name and advertising. And the company uses a single image globally.
She and the rest of the Klein fragrance team also respect five rules:
Do not assume that everyone is familiar with the Calvin Klein name.
Look at rules that can be broken in every area of the marketing plan.
Look to create controversy.
Never make any assumptions about the consumer: listen and observe.
Give customers what they want before they know they need it, to quote Diana Vreeland.
While Hewett emphasized the incredible impact of television when launching a new brand — “I can buy one spot on Seinfeld, and in 48 hours that brand is going to be seen around the world in over 50 markets literally months before it enters the marketplace” — she also described how the company ventures outside of traditional media.
For example, Hewett asked the advertising execs to bring their wallets to a brainstorming session and empty them. Everyone was carrying around ticket stubs.
As a result, the fragrance house decided to print CK Be promotional material on as many Ticketron envelopes and tickets as possible during the month of September.
In a similar vein, the company capitalized on the simultaneous launch of CK Be and CK black jeans in Europe by cross-promoting them. A swing tag showing CK Be advertising was attached to 300,000 pairs of jeans.
“That way we were able to reach a consumer that may not be going into perfumeries,” she observed.
“We never forget that consumers do not have to buy a fragrance. It’s not one of the necessities,” she concluded.