REFLECT TO BLEND CUSTOM SCENTS
Byline: Laura Klepacki
NEW YORK — There are 140 million women in the U.S. today. Will there be 140 million matching scents tomorrow?
There could be if a new fragrance program at Reflect.com catches on.
This fall, the Procter & Gamble-backed beauty site is taking fragrance customization to the masses. The price: $40 for a 6 ml. flacon, with refill.
The skeptical among us have long wondered if women would buy untried beauty items online — products they seemingly would want to see, touch or smell.
But Reflect.com’s chief executive Ginger Kent says of their spectrum of categories, which also include skin care and hair care, the best-selling items so far are custom-blended lipsticks and foundations. So she feels confident women will want to try a hand at designing their own scent.
Guiding the new program is Don Donovan, vice president of fine fragrance and strategic planning and master of fragrance creation for Reflect.com. IFF perfumer Sophia Grojsman — whose creations include Tresor and Calvin Klein’s Eternity — is not a full-fledged Reflect.com team member, but is lending a hand and advising.
Grojsman and Donovan worked together during Donovan’s 10-plus years with P&G’s fine fragrance division. Donovan, who started his career in a standard P&G marketing track, eventually served as both director of marketing and director of research and development for Fine Fragrances. He was the first in the company’s history to fulfill both roles at a division.
Grojsman, an artistic sort with a shocking forelock of white hair among her brown hair, and corporate-looking Donovan would seem an unlikely creative duo. But when Grojsman met Donovan several years ago, “He came in and started talking. He was just a happy human being and I was mesmerized by him,” she said. “I like people who are open, and he is a piece of freedom.”
P&G’s fine fragrance business grew tenfold under Donovan with launches that included Helmut Lang, Herve Lager and Giorgio Red. He came up with a concept for an online fragrance business while still at P&G. He joined Reflect.com in February and got the project rolling.
“We feel this is such a huge idea,” said Kent, who declined to project potential sales. “We don’t know how high is up here.”
At Reflect, the standard top, middle and bottom note pyramid framework has been “deconstructed,” said Donovan. The scents instead are based on a two-tier “heart” and “soul” structure.
Using Reflect.com’s easy step-by-step system to create a personal scent takes about six minutes. Answering a short list of multiple choice questions will result in an exclusive fragrance.
First, there is a set of four general questions that include: When will you be wearing your new fragrance? Possible responses are: day, night or anytime. Another is, “What type of mood are you looking to create with your new fragrance?” The possible responses are: calm, energizing, feminine, confident or romantic.
They are followed by two more multiple choice questions. Where would you like your new fragrance to transport you? You can select: mystery of Venice; romance of Paris; serenity of paradise; comfort of your favorite place; or excitement of the city. The other is: For which season do you wish to create your new fragrance? Answers, naturally, are: spring, summer, fall or winter.
Additionally, women are presented three sets of three graphic images, from which one is selected. Based upon the series of responses, a fragrance will be blended. Images included florals, and outdoor wooded and glacial scenes, with accompanying descriptions such as Platinum Floral and Simply Sheer.
They can also name their scent, using up to 25 characters. The name will then be engraved on the flacon, which is silver with a black tassel. Outer packaging is a silver reflective box a with silver tie.
To date, hundreds of personalized scents have been blended for Reflect.com workers and affiliates in tests of the system. “None,” said Donovan, have resulted in the same fragrance, although it is not impossible. Based upon the responses, “everyone has a different heart and different accord,” he said.
To make sure women are happy, Reflect will initially send women a collection of three 1 ml. fragrance samples that are slightly different from one another for a $5 charge. Then they can return to the site to select the scent of their choice. The $5 fee is applied toward the $40 price tag.
Annette Green, president of the Fragrance Foundation, was not surprised by the latest initiative in fragrance marketing.
“This kind of thing is inevitable. People are looking for fragrance experiences in all kinds of places,” said Green. “If the Web is going to be successful in the long run in our industry. This is one of the ways they can do it. If they can provide a lovely fragrance, that is the key. It is an iffy question. But the potential is certainly there.”
Until now, noted Green, “Fragrance customizing has been exclusive and expensive.”
But because of growing efforts like the one at Reflect.com, the Fragrance Foundation is holding its first-ever “think tank” on fragrance customizing on Oct. 4 at its New York office. “I am doing it because I see a trend building,” said Green.
In May, Reflect.com added an advisory component to the site. Hairstylist Steven Dillon, dermatologist Dr. H. Debra Jaliman and makeup artist Brigitte Reiss-Andersen can now be contacted for guidance on product selection and usage.
Reflect.com was created in September 1999 with a $50 million investment. P&G is the majority equity partner; Institutional Venture Partners is the minority owner. The site opened with a soft launch through select Internet servers in December and now is available through the U.S. and Canada.