There are several hundred new fragrances introduced annually, but you would be hard-pressed to find the great majority of them in your favorite or even not so favorite store in the year of their introduction, let alone by the second or third year of their existence. One reason is the sheer number of new introductions on top of a huge base of existing fragrances that is probably too much for the market to absorb. Imagine even the largest department or specialty store carrying all the new introductions in addition to those of just the three preceding years, including all the different sizes and line extensions, such as body lotions and bath gels. You might as well close accessory, shoe, and several other departments just to provide the space to house them and the staff to support their sale. Though by no stretch of the imagination is the lack of available space the reason for the paucity of extended retail shelf life of new introductions. Even the most incompetent retail buyers would ask for and likely get additional space for their fragrance departments if they had the sales to warrant it; however, the fact is they don’t, and that is the crux of the problem. But hope springs eternal in the hearts and minds of the brand managers who are responsible for creating and bringing these fragrance brands to market. They are convinced that their creation has the right ingredients—in and out of the bottle—to become a brand that will stand out in a crowd and sustain itself. Sadly, most do not attain that objective. There are several factors at play such as the inability to obtain appropriate shelf space in and support by the retail outlet as well as sufficient advertising and promotion funds to publicize the brand. This is particularly true for the smaller companies, which must battle for space with their larger and better-funded competitors; though prominent shelf and display space and a huge advertising and promotion budget do not guarantee a new brand’s success.

While there are certainly differences in implementation and execution, there are some fundamental rules in marketing a new product whether it’s a perfume—a word used here interchangeably with fragrance—or cereal. For example, the product must creatively communicate a point of difference with existing products to induce a consumer to try it. So at the very inception of product development, the brand manager must ask the question, why should the consumer purchase this new perfume, and that question must be satisfactorily answered before a decision is made to proceed.

Though this is true for both a man’s or woman’s fragrance, let’s focus on women. In terms of its elements, the name of the fragrance, the look of the bottle and its packaging, and the advertising that promotes it make a promise that the woman who wears this fragrance will feel a certain way, and you deliver that promise through its scent. In other words, if, after wearing it, the woman feels the way she expected to feel, the fragrance has a good chance to be successful. Obviously this promise must be appealing to her. It must represent the essence of some aspiration that will be fulfilled when the woman wears it. This is the brand’s positioning and all elements must be creatively and consistently executed. Thus it might be said that the name, the packaging, and the advertising can make the first sale, but the scent makes all the rest.

Now look at the brands that have been introduced this past year. Compare one celebrity fragrance with another, one designer fragrance with another, or for that matter, any fragrance with another. How many meet these criteria or do they represent a quick extension of a previous version of that fragrance—if truth be told, likely to meet the sales budget for the brand whose initial version (or versions) never met its overly optimistic sales goal.

Cynical—perhaps? But the sheer number of fragrances that fade from existence annually suggests there’s more truth than the industry would care to acknowledge.


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