How long does it take to create a fragrance?
The fragrance industry is one of the most competitive businesses in the world. With more than 1,200 new scents arriving online and instore each year, the development process has evolved into a precise science that rivals a perfumer’s recipe. The journey from a creative concept to seeing the first bottle roll off the factory conveyor belt is fascinating and a little unexpected. You will never believe what the most challenging aspect is when manufacturing a new perfume.
Let’s start at the beginning. Almost every new perfume begins with a brief from the marketing department. This detailed document outlines the target customer for the scent, explaining his or her interests, lifestyle, desires and tastes. What marketers look for is a niche in the market where they believe there is a need or desire for a product.
The first people to see the concept will be the lawyers. That is because the legal team has the momentous task of securing a name that is available in every country the perfume will be sold. This can take two-to-five years in some cases. Imagine a century of perfume launches, tens of thousands globally with registered names. It makes finding a name very difficult.
The marketing department will often consult trend forecasting agencies to get an idea of what notes, colours and styles will be fashionable in 2 to 5-years-time. Guess where they look for colour trends? The automobile industry. Car companies spend millions of dollars developing colours for their new models and this technology quickly spreads to all areas of fashion, home and fragrances.
Food trends are incredibly important to the fragrance industry as the global flavour firms not only develop new tastes and flavours for food manufacturers, but they produce the fragrance formulas as well. So if an exotic fruit like guava becomes hot in the food industry, you will likely see it in perfumes.
Technological advances in green chemistry and clean beauty play a pivotal role now as retailers and consumers demand eco-friendly products. So the latest science will be tapped for any new eau de parfum. Plastic packaging will soon become a thing of the past as recycled and green cartons are phased in. Sephora has played a defining role in moving the industry to clean formulas and packaging.
Marketing executives will then create extensive mood boards and videos that precisely describe the customer and the theme of the scent. A detailed budget will be created that the perfumer will have to follow. This will dictate the quality of ingredients and how the formula is crafted.
Now here is the surprising part: the perfumers are invited to pitch the fragrance brand for the project. It’s kind of like Dragon’s Den in a way. Each perfumer receives the same brief with all the details and is invited to develop a concept and samples. They then each get the chance to pitch their ideas to the brand team. It is highly competitive and perfumers will put hours and hours of work into these proposals. The brand and management teams make the final decision.
Once the perfumer is hired, the marketing, digital and creative teams start mocking up designs, instore concepts, visuals and video concepts. Bottle designers will experiment with different shapes, colours and themes. Shipping containers and tankers are booked a year in advance to transport the bottles around the globe. Most travel by ship as that is the most cost effective. In an emergency, shipments can come via airplane but that is very costly. Raw materials such a rose oil, sandalwood, citrus, etc must be booked to have enough to produce the fragrance. And the accountants have to figure out exactly how to price the finished product.
When the first prototypes of the scent arrive, consumer sample groups will be engaged in blind sampling sessions. Most executives will test the new scent against the top sellers to see if customers will like it enough to purchase. The reason they do this is a global fragrance launch can cost upwards of $60 million. They want to avoid any costly mistakes.
It takes about 12 to 18 months to develop the fragrance from idea to approved formula. The minute the scent is signed off, lab samples are shipping to top retailers for buyer feedback and pre-orders. Training and PR material are developed and launch plans made.
There is usually big fanfare to mark the debut of the scent with influencers and VIPS attending some sort of party. Retailer teams host online and in-store events and within four weeks the company will know whether they have a blockbuster success or a sleeper. It’s dynamic and complicated process that is endlessly fascinating.