“Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeing, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains.” American naturalist poet Diane Ackerman explains what we all know: the sense of smell is inextricably tied to memory and emotion. Increasingly, perfumers and scent marketers work to enhance the sensory appeal of brands’ customer experiences, as a means of differentiating brands in saturated fragrance markets.
Avant-garde fashion house Maison Martin Margiela’s Replica fragrance line focuses on the “reproduction of familiar scents and moments of varying locations and periods.” It uses a fragrance marketing positioning strategy, weaving olfactory narratives to captivate luxury consumers. Replica’s fragrance marketing strategy is deliberate: it seeks “to increase the dollar amount of a single sale through a simple up-sell,” said Dalia Strum, a professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology and founder of Dalia Inc., New York. Maison Martin Margiela, like other makers of niche super premium fragrances, focuses heavily on the narrative behind the perfume – the story, ingredients, and craftsmanship – rather than using celebrity faces as frontmen (or women).
The high price point pushes Replica to interweave storytelling elements into the full product experience. This functional element gives the product life and justifies the $125 purchase price for essentially, a bottle of “chemicals.”
Maison Martin Margiela ‘Replica’ Beach Walk is the best seller in their fragrance line and was an Allure Best of Beauty winner in 2014. It combines fresh ingredients of bergamot, coconut milk, lemon, pink pepper and musk to evoke a familiar moment – an afternoon stroll along a sandy beach; more specifically, capturing a summer’s day in Calvi 1972, and the bliss of “Sun kissed salty skin.” The design and craftsmanship of the bottle doesn’t fall short of the premium quality of the line’s fine fragrance consumer: while superficially simple, the minimalist packaging is inspired by classic apothecary jars, which allows the line to be easily identifiable. On the jar is a 100% cotton label with black ink text printed on it and resembles the tags used on Maison Martin Margiela’s Replica couture collection. The fragrance pumps are also wrapped with white rope, which symbolizes the reproduction of the original Replica couture line.
On the mass end of the fragrance marketing spectrum, Demeter offers 250 different fragrances inspired by similar, though perhaps less nostalgic sense memories such as “Dirt” and “Pure Soap.” Unlike Replica, however, Demeter packages these sense memories without storylines or narrative cues evoked by varying locations and periods. They are also very inexpensive and are not in the super premium fragrance price point, with products ranging from $2.50 to $25.00.
But Replica’s target audience doesn’t want to just buy a fragrance for its scent, but also for the story and experience. In contrast to Demeter, Replica uses a narrative-based fragrance marketing strategy that achieves 3 outcomes: 1. establishes the line’s luxury market positioning, 2. builds customer engagement with the narrative, and 3. creates a sense of investment for the consumer, in the time it takes to appreciate and relate to the narrative of the product itself.