April 23, 2013

A Marketer's Analysis: What is niche perfumery really all about?

There is a lot of confusion about this, yes even among expert perfumistas in serious fragrance sites. Here are my two cents.

FIrst of all, it is very important to make clear that the concept niche, as in niche perfumery, applies to a whole brand of perfumes and not to a single perfume. Forget about your Marketing or Economics courses where you were told all about niche markets. While related to what you learned there, we are talking about something completely different, when referring to niche perfumery.

If the raison d'être of a company is to create perfumes, then it can be considered as a niche perfume company (brand). This means, the main purpose of said company's existence is the creation of perfumes.

Additional traits of niche brands is that normally, (1) they do not invest in massive marketing communication efforts. They also work with (2) exclusive distribution channels, contrary to mainstream brands. Many niche brands offer their products at a high (3) price (super duper high even). However, a niche brand does not have to be expensive, a good example is Smell Bent

Well, since their purpose is not to please everyone, follow the last trends and to be best sellers, the noses have creative freedom to invent whatever their heart tells them to. This is too, thanks to the fact that the target market of niche perfumery are true perfumistas: people who study, appreciate and see perfumery as an art, not only as an accessory, to "smell good" and whatnot. There are also those who look into niche brands to satisfy their urge to set themselves aside from the mainstream: the opportunity to be unique or feel that thei carry an über exclusive brand. Again, this does not refer to the need  to wear a heavily priced fragrance but to the need to express one self's uniqueness.

Do not forget that price (of any given product) is a marketing variable. Price speaks directly directly to consumers, it communicates something about the brand and the product. Sometimes, the prices of some niche brands are very high, in order to keep the brand as something exclusive, not readily available (to everyone), worthy of the royalty and of the richest people on the world, for example. Other times, a niche brand's price talks directly about the quality of the ingredients used or sophisticated and complex processes of production. At times, the prices back up cruelty free philosophies and fair trade practices reflect on a niche brand's pricing strategy. 

Why, of course. It is very important to make clear that niche brands do make marketing communication efforts. They just do not make them massive, such as mainstream brands. Annick Goutal, Amouage, Acqua di Parma are all good examples of brands who have presence in cosmetic editorials of fashion magazines. Others, such as État Libre d'Orange do have some PR events. Let's not forget that, even though they can be considered to be art, niche perfumes are also luxury consumer goods!

Mainstream brands are simply brands that almost everyone knows and wears. They do invest in massive marketing communication efforts. Mainstream perfume brands can be classified in the following categories:

Designer Scents
On one hand we have the fragrances of the fashion houses: Chanel, Dior, Dolce & Gabbana. And we also got the jewelry houses: Bvlgari, Cartier, Boucheron. Here, the common factor is that for these brands, their perfumes are one of many product lines that they manage. For example, Chanel's core business is to make fashion, clothing namely, but perfumes are that accessory that complete the consumers' experience and contribute to their engagement with the brand. Finally, we can find some brands in this category, such as Clinique, Benefit and Estée Lauder whose main business are cosmetic products, and perfumes are another of their product lines. 

Celebrity Scents
Another classification of mainstream brands are celebrity perfumes. The majority of these products are made by brands that do not fit into the niche definition, for they do invest in big marketing communication efforts in mass media. As you probably know, celebrity scents are perfumes developed by some company but their branding is built around some kind of celebrity. Word of caution, these perfumes are not only endorsed by someone famous, but their brand is the celebrity's name. For example the über popular Britney Spears perfumes which were developed by Elizabeth Arden. Wait... what?! Did you really think Britney was concocting her own fumes? Companies such as Parlux specialize in making this kind of scents, they work along with Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson, for example.
Drugstore Scents
Finally, we know that there are some brands that announce themselves in some magazines, even in TV or some point-of-purchase promotion. Perfume brands we can find at our local supermarkets and drugstores: they smell nice and they are quite affordable. Brands of this kind vary greatly from one country to another. The fact that they are inexpensive and readily available, does not make drugstore scents necessarily bad: do not make assumptions before sampling! Examples of this type of brands are Jovan, Adidas, Playboy, Myrurgia, Revlon, etc. 

Do consider that the ideas above are general guidelines and not strict definitions. There are some exceptions to the rule, when a brand can belong to more that one classification. And there are also those brands that have almost all the traits of a niche brand, except for one. And so on. Good examples are:

Who can deny that Guerlain existed from its origins to create beautiful perfumes only? They added their cosmetic and makeup lines later on. Their distribution channels are exclusive but not as exclusive and hard-to-get as other niche brands' channels. However, it is also true that they are not as available to the general public as other mainstream brands. Their high-end prices also make them less available to the masses. However, they do make quite large marketing communication efforts. But there is absolutely zero doubt that Guerlain is a niche brand.

Dana and Coty
Both are companies dedicated to the creation of perfumes. But, do see that their creations are quite mainstream: they are sold in many places, they prices are very affordable and yes, they do invest big time in marketing communication efforts. Their products are for the masses, they fit into current trends. Coty also develops perfumes for other mainstream brands, such as Adidas. 

There is yet another category of perfumes, that some perfumistas mistake for niche. I am referring to those exclusive lines of some fashion houses. Again, perfume is a luxury item alright. But there are some people for whom regular luxury brands are not enough and of course they want something more exclusive and unique (of course, a lot more expensive). Awesome examples are Tom Ford's Private Blend, Hermessence by Hermès and Estée Lauder's Private Collection. These kind of lines are very similar to niche brands: high quality ingredients, creative freedom for the nose, they follow the niche perfumery trends, exclusive distribution channels and sky high prices.

I hope that I have helped you understand more about perfume brands and what their marketing departments are up to. I consider feedback and healthy discussion to be very enlightening so please do not refrain to give your personal thoughts!

February 4, 2013

The Mascara Files: Great Lash Waterproof by Maybelline

I am obsessed with iconic products. Of course I had to buy and try this. I love the packaging and all the hype and controversy around it. I mean look at it! All pink and green and adorable.

My eyelashes are sparse, thin and have an average length. Not bad huh? Well, the problem is that they are stick straight. Yes they point downwards. So my first and most important expectation from mascara is for it to keep my eyelashes curled. 

The first experience I had with Great Lash Waterproof was nothing short of TERRIBLE. It did hold a curl but I found that it did nothing for my eyelashes and I might as well buy one of the cheap Mexican mascaras. But I am very susceptible to marketing and I decided to try it again. This time I came to the conclusion that this mascara is ideal for an every day natural look. Great Lash Waterproof holds a curl perfectly (if that is your concern) but do not expect drama from it.

You will get a bit of volume and a bit of length with this mascara but that is about it. I find the brush to be very well designed. It is easy to work with, compared to the massive brushes that are have been so trendy in the last years. I also like that it is very affordable, even when I see other Maybelline mascaras prices constantly going higher.

So, in conclusion it is an OK mascara, period. Not excellent, not terrible, just does the work fine enough. I wish it were a little bit more buildable, I notice that I have to rush to apply the second coat because otherwise it would start clumping. I also wish it was a bit easier to remove, like other Maybelline mascaras, such as Colossal Waterproof and Falsies Waterproof. Anyway, my Nivea waterproof eye makeup remover does the job pretty well. 

I personally want more dramatic eyelashes so that is why I have not consistently purchased Great Lash Waterproof. But I do recommend it as a basic mascara. I wish its flankers Great Lash Big and Great Lash Lots of Lashes came in waterproof versions as well, because washable ones are for me completely useless. On second thought, I think I will be avoiding Maybelline, given that I am trying to buy only cruelty free products. 

February 3, 2013

The Perfume Reviews: Michael Kors

So, finding a  new signature scent was not so hard as I thought. There are so many beautiful scents out there to choose from. Once I realized what my favorite note was (tuberose namely), the journey was easier.
Michael Kors is the modern tuberose. Forget the structures of complex white florals, such as Amarige and Fracas (which I also love). No, this baby is green and fresh. But the most important part for me is that it smells like the real flower. The opulence of tuberose should never be mistaken for jasmine or gardenia. Tuberose is the Queen B of white flowers and that means that she is the queen of all flowers, at least fragrance wise.

Michael Kors opens with tuberose. It is a bomb of tropical sweetness. I also feel freesia and tamarind which makes the scent a little tart. Michael Kors feels very creamy, almost like there is some coconut there and at some point I think it smells a bit like banana bubblegum? Not in a bad way though. 

The tuberose in Michael Kors reminds me of the one in Do Son by Diptyque. Fresh, real and very different from the compositions made in the days of yore. There are some other notes listed but to be honest I do not perceive them. To me, this is all about the tuberose, freesia and some tamarind.

The pyramid note according to Fragrantica looks like this:

freesia, labdanum
tuberose, violet root, iris, peony
musk, cashmere wood, vetiver

And then Sephora lists: freesia, tamarind, osmanthus, incense, tuberose, peony, orris, aurum lilies, cashmere woods, musk, vetiver.

This is an über feminine perfume and a compliment getter. The sillage is insane, so this eau de parfum should be applied with moderation. Longevity is excellent as well, I can even smell it on my skin the next day.

Although Michael Kors has gone modern, do not forget it is still a bold white floral. That means love it or hate it. This screams woman all the way,  so girly girls please refrain.

February 1, 2013

A big fat THANK YOU!

To the MakeupAlley community for making me a Top Reviewer! I discovered this website thanks to my very best friend and I have visited it many a time before buying all sort of beauty products (which I do all the time). I want to share with you that I will be sharing those reviews with you of course in this blog.

For those of you who do not know MakeupAlley please visit it soon then it is extremely helpful. When a member is named Top Reviewer it means that other users have found his/her reviews useful. 

March 8, 2012

Prodigious Products: MAC Fluidline

And of course the shade I'm talking about is... yes, you guessed it: Blacktrack. Although I can't wait to try other colors. 

MAC Fluidline is so far the only gel eyeliner I have tried but I really feel like there is absolutely no need to try other brands.

Well, I lied! 

In the name of full disclosure, I am very, VERY curious to sample Maybelline's Eye Studio Lasting Drama Gel Eyeliner:

And also Catrice's Gel Eyeliner:

But my curiosity is only based on budget and it's not related at all with the quality of MAC Fluidline. Like I said, I am crazy about this product. 

I am a heavy eyeliner user. I wear it every single day. Black and dark brown are my favorite colors.  My signature look for many years included a soft smudged eyeliner on both lash lines and the waterline as well.

So I figured out that applying gel eyeliner would make my look better and boy was I right!

After months of practice and experimenting with it, I changed my signature look to a more natural eye with winged eyeliner on the upper lash line. This allows me to pull of bold red lips, but that is a story for another time.

I use my MAC Fluidline with a flat, angled eyeliner brush from CALA

No eyeliner that I had used allowed me to create a perfect winged line in a deep, rich, creamy and bold way such as Fluidline. I also apply it sometimes in my waterline and it lasts much longer. 

I love that this product is very intensely pigmented and even when it dries (I know, I know, I know I am not supposed to use it like this, I experiment with products) it still works wonderfully. Mine lasted around 13 months before it started to dry, it was used at least once a day. 

I have a bit of smudging but I think it comes mostly from mascara because once its set, this thing does not budge. However, it is very easy to remove at the end of the day. But I will of course share my make up removal secrets with you later on. 

March 6, 2012

A Marketer's Analysis: The Ideal Mascara

I love mascara. I am totally obsessed with it. I have spent at least ten years of my life learning non-stop about this little product that makes such a big difference. 

Last year I had to do a market research project for my studies, the objective was to practice the Adaptive Conjoint Analysis so we had to choose a product and make some questionnaires about it. I don't want to get too technical so I will try to explain this as easy as possible. 

We had to look for the ideal attributes that a certain product would have. So of course I chose mascara. And I used the following attributes and attribute levels (click to enlarge):

For this project Differentiated Brand refers to those brands that have a very special Unique Selling Proposition, such as being hypoallergenic, contain fair trade ingredients, or some kind of innovation that puts their pricing between the drugstore brands and the luxury ones. Examples of this kind of brands are The Body Shop, La Roche Posay and Kieh'ls. It doesn't mean differentiated in the traditional marketing meaning, because of course then all brands must be considered as differentiated. 

If you don't know what tubing mascaras are you are missing out! Instead of painting your eyelashes, they coat them with the so-called tubes that are totally smudge proof since they hang on to your lashes until you take them off with warm water.  I will talk about my personal experiences with this kind of product later on.

By rubber brush I meant those with little flexible spikes such as Cover Girl's Lash Blast:

Or the one from Maybelline's Great Lash Lots of Lashes:
Well, you get the idea.

And by ball/round brush I mean the brush that Givenchy Phenomen'Eyes features:

and L'Oréal Paris Telescopic Explosion:

OK so now to the fun part, the results:

My sample was very small, but I still thought it would be interesting to share the results. With help of a program and based on the data I collected, the ideal mascara should:

- Be black
- Be waterproof
- Have a traditional brush
- Be from a differentiated brand
- Provide length as main benefit

So from now on, whenever the ideal mascara is mentioned, I am referring to a product with the characteristics mentioned above. 

Analyzing these results a bit it's obvious that being black is a given, I think it's safe to assume that most mascara users choose black. Now, I conducted this project in a humid country so I guess that's why it's so important that mascara comes in a waterproof version too. To be quite frank, I was a little surprised because in general I thought people would find removing waterproof mascara to be a hassle. I guess in this case the pros outweigh the cons.

It was not a shock to see that consumers prefer a traditional brush. Curved brushes are not super popular in my very personal opinion, since they don't really curl the eyelashes, sometimes the rubbery ones seem too exotic and the ball/round ones seem well, quite scary. 

Consumers want differentiated brands, I somehow thought that they would prefer either simpler purchase choices from a drugstore or luxurious and fancy products. I somehow assumed that these differentiated brands would appeal to consumers that are more involved in learning about the cosmetic industry. 

Finally, I learned that length is the most sought benefit. I reiterate that my sample is way too small to draw any kind of generalization from it and it was merely an exercise just to learn how the Adaptive Conjoint Analysis works. I think this is the most important attribute in mascaras. I perceive that brands base their communication and product development mostly on this. Promises about extraordinary volume, out-of this-world length, extreme curve and microscopic definition or sometimes combination of those benefits makes resisting running to sample all the new products very hard.

So in my mind this allegedly ideal product does not really exist yet. The Body Shop has Big & Curvy Waterproof mascara which judging by the name and its description provides curve and volume. 

I don't remember Kiehl's having waterproof mascaras (but please correct me if I'm wrong) and as far as I know Too Faced makes only washable and tubing mascaras. I know there are many other brands out there that fit the bill but so far only Tarte comes to mind with their Lights, Camera, Splashes! 

So for this project, this is one that comes close to the concept of the ideal mascara: it is black, waterproof, from a differentiated brand (natural, cruelty free, without synthetic fragrance, no phthalates, green packaging...), has a traditional brush and well it doesn't specifically provide length but it promises the bombshell lashes you love. So I could definitely recommend this one to the participants of my study. 

Please remind me of other products that could be considered ideal, according to the findings of my project.

The final part of the study was to perform three so-called market simulations. Besides the ideal mascara, I had to choose two other products so that the program would tell me which one was most likely to be purchased.

The fun thing about this is that I got to choose two real and very popular products: 

The first one is Diorshow Waterproof by Christian Dior that I chose for being black, having a traditional brush, coming from a luxury brand and providing volume and length:

And the also beloved Maybelline's The Falsies Volum' Express, chosen for being black, washable, having a curved brush, from a drugstore brand and providing volume and length:
So as you can see, I was trying to play a bit with the attributes of the products. 
The outcome from the two first market simulations was that the ideal mascara was the favorite, followed by Diorshow Waterproof and finally Maybelline's The Falsies
The third market simulation showed that Diorshow Waterproof was most likely to be purchased, followed by the ideal mascara and then Maybelline's The Falsies

If I had to do this study again I would definitely adjust the attributes to make it a better research tool and of course use a bigger sample. So far, this project was the most fun I've ever had doing. 

March 3, 2012

The Perfume Reviews: Tease by Paris Hilton

I thank Fragrantica for opening my mind. A couple of years ago I wouldn't even consider sampling celebrity fragrances. I just assumed many things about them and boy was I wrong! Alright, not all of them are masterpieces but the best thing about the perfume world is that there is always something for everyone.

Now I have to say already that tuberoses are my favorite flowers and by far one of my favorite notes so it is natural for me to hunt around for my tuberose fix. 

That's how I came across Tease by Paris Hilton.

I am in no way a fan of Miss Hilton and I really don't read tabloids or care about celebrity news. Except when it comes to their fragrances.

It is well known that Paris Hilton's fragrances are usually located where the line between fruity florals and sugary gourmands is very thin so kudos to Parlux for venturing into the white floral world. 

I think that the real reason behind the choice of notes is to stray a little from their usual target market and appeal to women in their late twenties, thirties and so on. 

The whole marketing around the scent is different from her usual image. I have to confess that I find the bottle lovely.

Now to the good part, here are the notes:

bergamot, white peach, Fuji apple
frangipani, jasmine, tuberose
blond wood, hot sand, amber

 The author of this composition is Steve de Mercado.

Tease opens with tuberose and a syrupy fruit juice composed mainly of apple and peach. The bergamot is almost completely overpowered. One does not need to wait long for the fruits to tame down and the tuberose to shine as the queen of this composition. The jasmine is slightly noticeable, it stays in the background. At this stage I also perceive what I assume is the hot sand, turning the composition a bit rough and a tad rancid. 

Tease by Paris Hilton is classified as a Chypre Floral, although to me, it is essentially a fruity tuberose.

This Eau de Parfum has an incredible sillage that might scare those that cannot bear white florals and fascinate those that can be enchanted by their sweet, fleshy dewiness. Tease has an excellent longevity too.

I must confess that although it is quite enjoyable, Tease is not my favorite tuberose. I find the fruits too syrupy and overall the notes not being perfectly well blended together. I do wear it, because I do like it but my tuberose journey is far from being over.