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  1. #1

    Default Lost in translation...

    Yesterday, I was reading about some thoughts of people on various fragrance reviewers. I noticed that there were many people complimenting on the "poeticness" and "lyrical" styles of writing of certain writers. I started realizing that there is a huge dependence of people on fragrance reviews.

    There are so many writers approaching perfumery nowadays with their own interpretation and analysis of fragrances and the industry. There are people who write just to document their experiences with fragrances. There are people who write to convince others to try the fragrances that they love. Some people are artists and historians and they try to draw a link between the artistry of perfumes with their own artistry and history with fragrances. There are writers that translate fragrances into poetry and to create dreams.

    An article that really spoke to me could be found here: http://perfumeshrine.blogspot.com/20...e-galante.html where the author had caught whiff of the next Hermessence release. From the name of this fragrance and analyzing the style of Jean Claude Ellena, this author sewed together a post of history, music, food, and art as a way to make sense of this upcoming release and predict what the fragrance will be like. We will never know what the true story is if Jean Claude Ellena does not step out to explain what had inspired him to create the fragrance.

    JCE is in a special place where fragrance design starts with him. However, in the mass market fragrance industry, the fragrance starts with the marketing department of the company who sends out the brief. In almost all cases, the perfumer does not know the name of the fragrance and the true story of the fragrance until it is launched.

    The marketing departments are there to help create dreams to intice the consumers to buy their fragrances. Let us take a fake fragrance development as an example. The marketing department for company X had developed a story behind a man and his lover making love in a forest. However, the goal of company X is to challenge but at the same time ride the success of Chanel No. 5 on the market. A brief is sent to fragrance companies to create a more modern, green, spicier version of Chanel No. 5 as a benchmark. As the fragrance is being developed, the perfumer is inspired by a woman wearing Chanel No .5 in an Indian restaurant. The perfumer takes Chanel No.5 tones down the aldehydes, add some green notes, a tea accord, a trace of tuberose, and some spices. This fragrance design is submitted and then selected by company X.

    The fragrance is launched. People smell the fragrance and analyse the fragrance ingredients from the published olfactive pyramids (rose and jasmine is not shown but only tuberose). You begin reading reviews of people who have found the sensual use of tuberose as a representation of the sophisticated love between the two couples. The greenness of the fragrance represents the the forestry and the leafy environment that surrounds the couple. The soft, cold aldehydes contrasts the warm sexual tonka bean in the basenotes. The touch of cumin detected has to be because the perfumer's wanting to protray the smell of sweat exuded from their sexual activity, etc, etc. While these reviews are helpful, this is where you notice how far the reviews have hit the mark on the fact that this fragrance is a Chanel No 5 in disguise.

    I observed a group of tourists crowding a Grasse boutique store raving about a fragrance about how natural it is and how unique and special it smelled... that the fragrance represented Provence. As the crowd thinned out, I approached the bottle and smelled it. It was Le Male-type (and I do not mean type like distant cousin but more or less like twins) by Jean Paul Gaultier except it was poorly constructed and lasted on the strip for 5 minutes.

    Another example is what I always mention is a popular niche vetiver named fragrance without any vetiver used!

    The image and the story can lead people astray. Chandler Burr, the fragrance critique, for example describes dihydromyrcenol as "sink cleanser spilled on an aluminum counter." When I have this description in my head and I smell dihydromyrcenol, I can really understand what he means and that is only because he had said this. I on the other hand have my own story for it.

    I challenge those who have matured a little bit more in their hobby for fragrances to smell with your nose but not with your eyes. You will find a lot of very interesting things the less you are influenced by the noise of marketing of today. Smell with your nose and you will find more truth. Develop your own relationships with the fragrances.
    Last edited by scentophile; 5th January 2009 at 05:36 AM.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Lost in translation...

    However, in the mass market fragrance industry, the fragrance starts with the marketing department of the company who sends out the brief. In almost all cases, the perfumer does not know the name of the fragrance and the true story of the fragrance until it is launched.
    That's probably why fragrance names rarely make much of an impression on me. They usually have so little to do with what I'm actually smelling.

    I challenge those who have matured a little bit more in their hobby for fragrances to smell with your nose but not with your eyes. You will find a lot of very interesting things the less your are influenced by the noise of marketing of today. Smell with your nose and you will find more truth. Develop your own relationships with the fragrances.
    Good advice! I will follow it as I continue my perfume hobby into 2009. Thanks very much for this interesting post.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Lost in translation...

    What an AMAZING article you linked, thank you!! I must have missed it when it was published (the directory of that excellent blog is a little confusing, isn't it, someone should let the author know)

    The companies who make perfumes are not paying too much attention to anything but what has been successful previously, because otherwise I can't justify how they make the same thing over and over again, you know?

    But your advice is wise and I intend to take it. Thanks for saying what should be said.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Lost in translation...

    Alexandrie, Perfume Shrine is a great blog. Always great stuff to read there.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Lost in translation...

    Another fantastic contribution Alex, thanks

    and by the way....which vetiver? I can't think which it could be....????
    Last edited by hirch_duckfinder; 15th December 2008 at 05:38 PM.
    "Donít try to be original. Be simple. Be good technically, and if there is something in you, it will come out. Ē - Henri Matisse.

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  6. #6

    Default Re: Lost in translation...

    That was an amazing train of thought. For myself, I believe I'm more influenced by the blog entries and Basenoters commenting on fragrances than the marketing itself. I may be an oddity, but as I watch next to no tv, and don't read the type of magazine perfume ads would appear in - I remain relatively untouched by designer marketing ploys. However, in attempting to educate my nose, I read anything that has been written about whichever fragrance it is I'm trying at that moment. Sometimes even before I try it - thus furthing influencing my perception. It's hard to strike a balance between the necessary reading to develop a fragrant vocabulary on the one hand and over-reading and drowning my own views and experiences with a scent. Maybe at this point, some 6 months after really getting into fragrance, I should start making a point of "cold-sniffing" to avoid that effect.
    Thanks for giving me food for thought, anyway.
    It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely products of a deranged imagination.

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  7. #7
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    Default Re: Lost in translation...

    Although I agree greatly with what you are saying, I just want to remind you that many of us actually wish to be seduced and lied to - by the marketers, the reviewers, and even the perfume itself (both the name and the juice). Part of the passion of fragrances - for me at least - is to let them do what I don't allow people to do in "real life". Tell me stories. Lie to me. Pretend to be what you are not. Just let me love you!

    There was a time when I let women do that to me, too....

    But I think that shows that you are right. We do need to have a level head sometimes. We need to find the ones that we can trust because of their truth, yet still feel passionate about.
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  8. #8
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    Default Re: Lost in translation...

    Quote Originally Posted by scentophile View Post
    ...

    The marketing departments are there to help create dreams to intice the consumers to buy their fragrances. Let us...

    I observed a group of tourists crowding a Grasse boutique store raving about a fragrance about how natural it is and how unique and special it smelled... [/B]
    A marketer here and a word of caution.

    New product development is not that easy, marketing won't solve hazards. Did you happen to know that 80 % of all launches fail? And this figure is quite old (reported in Kotler's Marketing Management, 7th edition). That is why we will see new fragrances marketed under succesful brands, like Obsession Night and so forth. Rationally, it makes sense thinking that a new product marketed under a succesful brand will be succesful. But sometimes marketers do think magically - that is, if the product is bad, no succesful brand name will make for succes - the point here is "what is a bad product when we are dealing with scents?" However, refering to this issue would be off topic, besides, it was covered in other threads (and I must add that I assume responsibility in this).

    Second of all, markets are made up by segments. Many of the people in this community know how to characterize and analyze scents, but let's face it, the vast majority of consumers don't, and they won't bother to learn. So the only way for these consumers to choose which scent to buy and wear is the old traditional way, through advertising inciting aspirational worlds (designer brands) or through exclusive distribution (niche brands), an indirect way of saying the brands in question are... exclusive.

    Your are right, if you love this hobby one has to learn to judge through one's nose, but I regard it as extremely difficult: I know I don't like calone and that low quality scents make me sort of sneezy. However, I can't ignore the fact that knowing that Guerlain's product are good quality will afect my perceptions - BTW, I hate designer's houses, but I can't deny many of their products are just excelent.

    In the meantime, I know I know a little bit more than the average consumer, I know I can distinguish scents the way many other people can't and I really enjoy describing what is naturally an unassailable estimulus - smells, is there anything more abstract? Thus, IMHO I am just a part of one of the many segments this market is made of.

    And that is good, since "variety is the spice of life" - or rather, the "Old Spice of life".

  9. #9
    vita odorifera
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    Default Re: Lost in translation...

    Quote Originally Posted by scentophile View Post

    I challenge those who have matured a little bit more in their hobby for fragrances to smell with your nose but not with your eyes. You will find a lot of very interesting things the less you are influenced by the noise of marketing of today. Smell with your nose and you will find more truth. Develop your own relationships with the fragrances.

    Wise wise words, and advise to be held on to dearly. Thanks for the great post. However, because Pollux is right about the majority of consumers not really knowing much about scents, we are stuck with all the marketing spiels. I have learned to ignore a lot of them and just follow my nose and, to an extent, expert reviews.

    Again, wise words.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Lost in translation...

    Great post Scentophile. Please continue to post stuff like this.

    Part of the reason I sample fragrances from theperfumedcourt.com is to avoid packaging and marketing as much as possible.
    Sales thread here

  11. #11

    Default Re: Lost in translation...

    Usually I follow my own tastes, regardless of the eloquence of the reviewers. I'm probably a lot more influenced by fellow Basenoters than by fragrance blogs, and though that's not necessarily better, it means dozens of people's views rather than one.

    Sometimes I really don't smell something that is supposedly there. I love myrrh, and I love Paestum Rose, but I do not smell myrrh in Paestum Rose. Likewise, I like Farnesiana, but the mimosa is quite minimal if at all there.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Lost in translation...

    Great post. I'm still new to this and far too influenced by packaging and marketing, despite my efforts not to be. (One of many reasons that I like to take sample vials with me and sniff in the movie theater when I take my kids to see something that doesn't require my full and undivided attention. I can judge the merit of the scent on its own terms, without my own preconceptions. I just grab a handful of vials and go!)
    Thanks for the advice! ^_^

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Lost in translation...

    Quote Originally Posted by lizzie_j View Post
    ...I like to take sample vials with me and sniff in the movie theater when I take my kids to see something that doesn't require my full and undivided attention. ...
    Sorry I didn't see this elsewhere, since my comments are now a bit OT, but I have to say that's a really great idea. Not the least part being that I was wondering how I could have had this time-consuming hobby in my earlier, kid-rearing days. I may do this now - a movie theater is a great place to sniff, thanks to low light, etc. Especially the back row. But only if the film is a dud. The joy of more grown-up kids is being able to see movies you can discuss over coffee afterwards, but it does take some attention!
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  14. #14

    Default Re: Lost in translation...

    I have to confess I am influenced by reviews (perhaps even some of you Basenoters) but, only by the ones with which I am already familiar and interested in the perfumes' notes. I resolve to sample, sample, sample before buying.
    "Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel."

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