IS IT TIME TO CHANGE HOW WE COMMUNICATE FRAGRANCE? THE BLUP

Perfumes aftershaves, colognes, fragrances – however you like to call them, rely heavily if not solely on their scent to attract buyers. This special guest article written by Ruana Di Marco (Luxury e-Commerce Content & Strategy Manager, Coty UK) challenges the way fragrance brands and online retailers advertise their products in our ever-changing digital world.


I’ve been working in the online world of perfume and aftershave (or as we say in the business, ‘‘fragrance’’) for close to fifteen years and in all this time, even though retailers have optimised their sites and turned their social networks into performance marketing channels, very little has changed in the way we speak about the smell of scent.

I have been in charge of managing and distributing the online content for some of the biggest fashion and beauty brands in the world – all of whom are deities in their fields. The connection however between the brand’s equity and the average shopper’s understanding of what one of their fragrances offers, continues to elude us as much as the connection between Biden and Trump. In other words, there is none.

So how can we change a longstanding tradition of talking about fragrance which focuses on describing its ingredients or ‘‘notes’’ when 9/10 we probably don’t even know what the note smells like – and that’s on a good day… Or worse, a concept that potentially alienates more people than it’s designed to appeal to?

I see so many articles and talks about what type of content wins in ‘‘beauty’’ but I have never seen anyone specifically challenge the content on ‘‘fragrance’’ – a 100% subjective and intangible category that delivers no real benefit other than making you smell nice or conjuring a (hopefully) good memory from the past – so that’s the crux of this piece.

With my years of pushing water up a hill and trying to change the game internally, I am digitally penning my thoughts on how as an industry we might challenge ourselves to deliver content that resonates first and foremost with shoppers. Delivering on what their understanding of ‘‘scent’’ is and thus helping drive conversion – sharing content along the purchase funnel and at the online point-of-purchase that means something to the shopper or consumer, not simply an extension of the brand’s ideal. Talking to them in a language that just makes sense and overcomes any barriers to purchase.


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How then, do you sell scent online without falling into the old trap of talking about the notes or the ideal person who should wear it? Here are my top 5 thoughts:

1.       Talk about the fragrance setting – tell someone an aftershave smells like ‘walking through a forest at dawn in autumn as the sun rises and condensation forms on the greenery around you’ – and I guarantee you could conjure up this image and imagine the smell related to it. Tell someone it smells like water and fir balsam, it’s probably not going to mean much….

2.      Talk about the mood. How is the scent intended to make you feel – describe the scent as ‘‘sunshine in a bottle’’ – you know the scent is going to be light, bright, fresh and uplifting – you know that spraying this scent is going to put a pep in your step and make you feel happy. Or describe is as ‘‘a warm cashmere hug’’, you know the scent is deeper, warmer, probably better suited to winter days or nights and will make you feel lovely and cosy.

3.      Talk about things that people care about – is it long-lasting; is it best suited to evenings or daytime; what occasion would I be best placed wearing this; how does it rate amongst a panel of peers; if it’s an extension to an existing range, what space does it occupy and why; if it’s a new concentration (EDP vs EDT), why would I buy into the higher concentration – what’s the point-of-difference that would make me trade up or across….

4.     SHOW something that isn’t a fragrance note – in the same vein as talking about notes, showing me an image of them is almost as perplexing. Ask yourself, do you want to see an image of a rose or lemon or would you rather see an image of the mood of the scent? How do you show the mood of a scent – consider animation, speed of movement, textures, light, dark, more obvious cues (i.e. the forest at dawn), sound!

I hear many an account or content manager screaming ‘‘but the retailer won’t let me load any of this content’’ – let’s challenge retailers to do better also. If the customer wants it, it should be top of the list to deliver the experience to them. Easier said than done, but if you don’t educate and challenge, will it ever change?

5.      Augmented Reality – I have been trying for years to help people understand the benefit and value of bringing this to life online. It’s no longer a concept that we are not familiar with or intuitively able to engage with. My 4-year-old niece has QR codes on her homework. With so many new perfumes launched to appeal to millennials, surely the content should match their technically and digitally native attitudes and desires to share experiences and be included? Let’s use (web) AR to delve shoppers into the world of the fragrance – let’s take them into that forest or through a cloud of daisies or into the market bazaar – let’s give them the chance to feel those smells, to hear the sounds and thus understand what the scent actually smells like. There are agencies out there ready to deliver this content – I am poised to drop this content on the brands I work with, but until we can all challenge the old guard, shoppers will still be subjected to the same messages, the same confusions, the same misspent purchases (or worse, no purchase at all).


At this monumentally valuable time of year for the fragrance business, when winning at Christmas is make or break for a fragrance supplier, perhaps it’s time not just to consider change, but enact it so that next Christmas, shoppers know what they’re buying and know the brands are listening to their needs. It’s no longer just digital disruption, it needs to be the new norm and you know how often we’ve said that in 2020….

Original article written and published on LinkedIn by Ruana Di Marco – Luxury e-Commerce Content & Strategy Manager, Coty UK

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