Mathilde Lion is a beauty expert covering Europe for the NPD Group. A fragrance specialist, she tells us which trends to look out for on the market in 2017.
Flankers and niche perfumes
One of the big trends in recent years has been the huge leap in the number of products coming to market. “Last year, 671 new fragrances hit the French, Italian, Spanish and UK markets alone. And the numbers keep climbing. There were 1,624 launches worldwide in 2014, up from 1,300 in 2012 and fewer than 200 a decade ago”, Mathilde says, before going on to explain that the two key shifts powering the growth are increased numbers of flankers and the rise of niche perfumes.
Flankers are reformulated versions of existing scents. They may stick close to the original or break away from it, with both approaches offering benefits for the brand. Some flankers, then, are merely variations on an original fragrance, either toning down or highlighting specific aspects. Their job is to strengthen the existing line. “These are tactical launches: on the one hand, they create buzz around the perfume, and on the other, they enhance the product line by building on the existing offering”, explains Mathilde. Other flankers set a more ambitious goal. Because they are targeting a new clientele, they feature a new bottle, a dedicated communication strategy and more pronounced differences in the notes. Some of these break away products have gone on to taste real success, even eclipsing the original. A prime example would be Black Opium, the youthful version of Yves Saint Laurent’s legendary Opium fragrance launched 40 years earlier. Mathilde says: “Black Opium was designed to be a rock’n’roll, sensual interpretation of the original fragrance. It has been a hit with early millennials, allowing Yves Saint Laurent to broaden its customer base. In fact, Black Opium has been the brand’s main growth driver over the last couple of years”.
The second major trend is the rise of alternative, or niche, perfumes. Although they retail at over €150 on average, which is two or three times higher than the price tag for classic fragrances, these niche scents are enjoying growing success on the market. “In 2015, of the 2,000 fragrances launched on the market, 500 fell into the niche category”, says Mathilde. She suggests several explanations for this, beginning with quality: “These fragrances are crafted by artisans who work with noble materials and are faithful to the ethos of the 19th century”. Originality is another factor: “At a time when consumers find that all perfumes seem kind of the same, niche products are something different. Often tailor-made, they set themselves apart from the mainstream, which in turn allows customers to stand out from the crowd. The fact that these fragrances do not go in for big communication campaigns, coupled with limited distribution, enhances the impression of exclusivity”. Last but not least comes the relationship forged with consumers. “These products tend to be sold by independent boutiques where guests are not assailed by countless fragrances. Customers sit down for a lengthy interview – a consultation you might say – about their fragrance rituals and expectations before any recommendations are made. Niche perfumes are an answer to the quest among today’s consumers for authenticity and meaning”, Mathilde says.
Playful and subversive: millennial codes
Another important trend identified by Mathilde is the influence exerted by millennials. She says: “They are heavy fragrance consumers on many markets, notably stateside. Because of this, brands are trying to win them over by tapping into their communication and customer experience codes”.
On the communication front, a growing number of brands are promoting youthful values that break with those of past generations. On the women’s fragrance market, for example, more launches are highlighting the rebel and subversive side of new products. Poison Girl by Dior is described as a “delicious trap”, and “the fragrance of a modern-day girl, free and sexy”, while Black Opium urges women to “break the rules”, and proclaims the “glamorous, impertinent femininity” of wearers. Brands are also reaching out to younger customers by choosing celebrity children to be their faces. “For its new fragrance, Chanel is using Lily Rose-Depp, the daughter of Vanessa Paradis, herself a long-time ambassador of the brand. This is a way to reinvent the codes while staying true to the history of No. 5”, explains Mathilde
Meanwhile, most brands are going digital and stepping up their interactive offerings to enhance customer experiences. Black Opium, for example, devised its Nuit Blanche concept, which lets fans go online and synchronise their smartphones with that of Edie Campbell, the supermodel representing the fragrance, to share an intense Paris night with her. Digital methods are also featured prominently in store. Guerlain invites visitors to its new boutique to define their “olfactory profile” so that they can choose the perfect product. Personalised advice and assessments are provided on a tablet using a digital consult app. Customers then choose from three Guerlain fragrances that match their expectations.
Is a global fragrance market taking shape?
Do the expectations of millennials reflect the emergence of global tastes? “We are not there yet”, says Mathilde. On European markets alone, there are marked cross-country differences in preferences. In Spain, citrus scents have a big head start, while people in Italy and the UK like floral fragrances. Mathilde, however, sees one overarching trend: “Gourmand scents are becoming more popular, especially on the French and UK markets, where they account for 68% and 74% of the market respectively”.