Originally Posted by Hilaire
Well I think perfumes for the Chinese market would need to be different to those for the Japanese market. Though in ancient times Camphor was a big deal in perfumery in both countries.
Camphor could serve the same role in a Chinese and Japanese orientated perfume line as say Oud does in Middle Eastern inspired perfumes. Though Agar/Oud was also a crucial ingredient in many ancient Chinese perfume recipes too.
In China there has been a massive cultural interlude which has unfortunately divorced many people there from their traditional perfume culture so I think reviving ancient Chinese perfumery would not be all that successful in a mass market context (though I am sure there are plenty of wealthy well educated Chinese people who would buy perfumes directly inspired by ancient Chinese perfumery and would be willing to buy a high end or niche product) but you could hit some trad notes like Camphor and Patchouli and add in some more obviously familiar notes which modern Chinese people would readily associate with China like Peony, Cherry or Peach Blossom, with Ylang Ylang, Aglaia Odorata, Sandalwood, Musk and Kumquat or Wenshou Migan "Honey Citrus" when a Citrus note was needed.
I agree with the comment about approaching the Chinese and Japanese market in a different way. In terms of consumerism and luxury culture (after all fragrance is luxury) the Chinese as a society are going where the Japanese were years ago. What I've read about Chinese luxury shopping habits is that what they buy is very much driven by whether it projects high social status. This is why Louis Vuitton monogram bags are a top seller - they are a very visible symbol of where you stand in society, how much money you have and who you are. European goods are much more desirable because they are foreign and perceived as rare and great status symbols.
In addition to that, Chinese are fairly new to fashion and luxury (compared to other countries). So, they tend to lack the confidence of being too creative, unique or out there. I've heard of Chinese luxury shoppers going to a store with a magazine and picking out exactly the same outfit as shown there. They don't want to take the risk of mismatching their clothes and losing face. So, they go with the safe option - not a bad strategy even for many supposedly more sophisticated Western shoppers.
The issue with perfume is that you can't flaunt it - it is not a visible status symbol. It is definitely recognizable but only to those who know it. Say you wear Tom Ford's Black Violet, for example, which towards the higher end price-wise. If you have never smelled it you wouldn't know it is Tom Ford's Black Violet and that whoever wears it probably spent $200+ to get it. You may think that it's an expensive perfume but to discern high quality scent from a low quality one you need some level of scent sophistication. Just like with art - you have to know what's good and bad art in order to discern. In their early stages of luxury exposure consumers don't have that ability to discern between something as subjective as scent. Case in point are the Western consumers who buy and wear perfume, which smells nice to the average person but mundane to a connoisseur.
So, I guess a fragrance must have the following features to be successful in China:
1. Must be tied to a European brand - it has been the obsession for quite some time now;
2. Must be a popular scent, so that others can recognize it and thus show status better;
3. Must have a good projection (the equivalent of the LV logo plastered on their bags);
4. Must be safe - if it's too strange or unique, the wearer runs the risk of being perceived as "stinky" and losing face;
5. Must appeal to Chinese sensibilities - this is where certain notes may come into play;
6. Must be positioned as a European product worn by Chinese and Western celebrities.
It would be really cool to get the perspective of someone who is Chinese or knows the culture really well. I might be totally off the point on any of this.