Whether you love a sugary floral smell, a spicy and woodsy vibe, or something more fresh and vibrant, when it comes to scents, what you go for tells a lot about you and your personal brand. Certain scents bring out certain memories, but despite how much you may secretly love your granny’s old perfume and the lovely old lady herself, you don’t necessarily want to smell like her, too.
The fragrance industry had been built on luxury and seduction. Even before the world was turned upside down earlier this year, changing the ways we work, travel and shop the fragrance industry has been struggling to keep up with the ever-changing consumer demands, with transparency and accountability at the very center of it. In global comparison, with a market volume of US$7,610m in 2020, most revenue is generated in the United States, while the UK comes fourth, right after Brazil and France.
Not surprisingly, scent has been among the hardest-hit categories in beauty in 2020. Ever since March we’ve been going out less, if at all, and the same marketing techniques that the perfumers have been using all these years are not selling anymore. High-budget ads with beloved celebrities are not cutting it anymore. According to the NPD Group, the fragrance category was down 32 percent in the second quarter of 2020, but not everything is foul-smelling.
The niche fragrance market has been growing steadily and outperforming the general market proving that the consumer interest in fragrance hasn’t disappeared. Consumers are turning towards emerging indie brands with authentic brand stories and marketing tailored to consumers’ needs. The mystery element that was one of the industry’s strongest selling points is no longer appealing. Just like with any other category in the beauty space, there’s a clear shift toward a more ingredient-conscious mindset. One of the biggest challenges the category faces in a post-COVID-19 world is that fragrances are notoriously difficult to sell online.
What we’re noticing right now is that recent independent fragrance launches are not only supported by the digital-first marketing strategy and strong branding but the products themselves are cleaner and sourced differently. Clean may not have quite arrived in the fragrance sector, but indie increasingly has mainstream acceptance in the fragrance realm, at least from retailers. One of the notable examples recently has been the recent placement of the indie beauty brand Ellis Brooklyn in 350 ULTA stores across the US in September. After launching in 2016, Ellis Brooklyn has been selling online in Sephora but the recent major retail rollout shows that not just consumers but retailers too are betting on indie brands.
The main thing to remember is that fragrance and fragrance trends reflect people.
It’s not just about what’s on the inside that matters. Brands are thinking about eco-friendly packaging and how to make it more sustainable. Consumer trends and growing environmental concerns have made solid and waterless products more popular than ever. Now you can hold a solid block of your Eau de perfume in your hand without worrying the precious bottle might slip through your fingers and break. Othus Perfumery’s artisanal and contemporary solid scents come in twist-up tubes that make applying perfume on the go one of the easiest things.
“From true indie perfumers, consumers will get a product undiluted by market research,” says Barbara Herman, creator of Eris Parfums. The global trends show that not only are our noses fed up with sultry billboards but with traditional scents, too. Emerging fragrance brands are utilizing weird and wonderful notes such as sugar cubes and saffron, but also benzoin and animalic effects of all kinds to deliver a truly unique sensory experience. Toronto-based Zoologist Perfumes are so inspired by the animal kingdom that their entire perfume collection celebrates it.
But it’s not just about you anymore. With most of us spending more time than ever at home, it’s only natural that you’d want your favorite scents wafting through it all the time. Moving into adjacent categories is one way to drive consumer demand, and faced with these challenging times this is the category a lot of fragrance brands are exploring at the moment. It plays well into the wellness and self-care angle that’s been more popular than ever and from a business perspective, it reduces the company’s reliance on solely one category, increasing the number of touchpoints through which the customers can experience the brand.
Henry Rose, the totally transparent fragrance brand created by actor Michelle Pfeiffer, recently expanded its product selection to help you achieve just that. Their recent launch features two different types of home fragrances: candles and diffuser oils.
When you take a look at the key niches within the beauty industry, it’s pretty clear that all the major shifts came from challenger D2C brands that deep dived into consumer trends and offered the market something new, different and a lot more approachable. From the way they communicate to potential customers and channels they use to do so, to all aspects of the product itself. It is safe to say that the fragrance industry will follow the same pattern. There is a lot of disruption to come as we’re moving away from the traditional word-of-mouth and glossy magazine ads, and fragrance brands can learn a lot by looking at the D2C brands that have changed the way we look at and shop beauty, makeup and even personal care products. While not too long ago buying a concealer or foundation online before trying it on seemed unimaginable, it’s the default and only way to do so in our new reality.
With clean ingredients and detailed and informative labeling, up and coming fragrance brands are ready to deliver, not just when it comes to you, but every aspect of your lifestyle, including your home. While there’ll always be consumers with a sweet spot for the iconic Chanel No.5, Gen Z is slowly turning their noses away from the classics and towards a cleaner, fresher, and more transparent future.