Thursday, June 25, 2009

Optical Scentsibilities: Faces, faces, what's in a face?

Perfumery is 70% image, 20% sex and only 10% composition, a fact scientifically proven at the Research Institute of Elena's Holy Shrine on mount Hymettus. I am pulling your leg of course, trying to inject a funny note in what is something that has always impressed me as signigicant in actually having the desire to actually sample a fragrance that is fronted by it. I had admired the Clinique approach of highlighting only the product in the ad for quite a long time (right till Happy that is). Certain faces have the potential to deter us, rather than entice...

Case in point, for me, the English actress Sienna Miller for the launch of Boss Orange, a new feminine fragrance for the German collossus which is launching this July.

Sienna is cute and possibly a nice person if you get to know her (not that I stay awake with that thought, mind you) but she has gained more popularity for having gained popularity via the tabloids than anything she has acted in! Then again I haven't been impressed with a Boss fragrance yet, so this is small potatoes in my personal universe. Might I also add that the bottle looks really, heinously ugly??

On another multi-European juncture, the Italian designer Alberta Ferretti has enlisted the help of benign giantess Claudia Schiffer for the launch of her first eponymous perfume (seriously a dent in the fragrance cosmos?) and it will be her face that will adorn the ads and launch a thousand ships....eh, bottles.

Frankly, Claudia (like Heidi Klum) has never done anything for me and in more intimate moments I call her The German Frankfurter for her spiciness and sheer zinginess on the palate! But perhaps a lot of other people might disagree with me and I have to admit she photographs well, most of the time. I really miss her kittenish Guess by George Marciano photographs that launched her career all those years ago though...

Pics via elleuk, zimbio and djanecouture.wordpress.com


  1. Rappleyea22:57

    Just to prove that I really do live under a rock, I had never heard the name Claudia Schiffer until I watched the movie Love Actually (from the movie clips you've put up E., I'm betting you haven't seen this - lol!). Her name got mentioned in a joking manner a couple of times in this movie, and I had to go look it up to see who in the world they were referring to.

    Personally, I won't smell anything with a celebs name on it, no matter who they are! It's as good a way as any to narrow down the field.

  2. Oi Querida.
    Realmente ? Penso que depende do lugar.Na pesquisa lugares diferentes podem significar resultados diferentes.
    Diria que no Brasil é 60% composição, 20% sexo e 20% imagem .
    As pessoas gostam da imagem ,mas compram pelo cheiro e poder de sedução.

    Hi Dear.
    Really? I think that it depends on the place.
    In the research different places they can present different resulted.
    It would say that in Brazil it is 60% composition, 20% sexy and 20% image.
    The people like the image but they choose for the smell and power of seduction. XOXO. Elisabeth

  3. Oh Helg, funny. But it depends on the brand and the creative team behind it. For some telling getting the message across is a priority, some is soly on sex appeal. But face selection is really, seriously important for the mass market though: it becomes a first impression, even something tangible for the customers to rely on sometimes.

  4. Mike Perez05:08

    "The German Frankfurter"!?


  5. Alexandra08:23

    I would never test new Boss fragrance anyway, somehow I don`t pay attention at all on that brand (and many others). Bottle really looks like a worm.
    Celebrity faces are a must now it seems, but Natalia Vodianova as a face of Guerlain and Shalimar is most annoying to me. I don`t think she is right for that at all, for CK fragrances yes.
    Claudia and Heidi are for me Brunhilda and Hildegard.

  6. D,

    oh LOL! You're not missing much! I think she had a childish Lolitesque naughtiness in her face when she was very very young (see the Guess photos) but now just seems...I don't know, wooden??
    Personally I find it harder to adjust my perceptions and expectations when there is someone well known fronting something. I bet it happens to a lot of people...

  7. E,

    darling, I was merely joking of course!! These are completely fictional stats. But I think you got it and you're joking too, right?
    Seriously, I'm sure in hoooot Brasil things are more sex-o-centric and people are more appreciative of a good juice that just smells alluring. I believe US and western Europe are especially driven by image and celebrities, due to the media.

  8. A,

    certainly there is a kind of "not all things to all people" which is good! And different teams bring on different things to the project. But yes, a face really influences us. This is why I so much like the older ads where the product or an illustration were fronting the perfumes.

  9. M,


    Equally "challenging", yes?? :-)

  10. A,

    they have been issuing very confusing things too, I had a giggle when reading Burr's book with two pages dedicated on this!
    I hadn't thought of the bottle as a worm, but you're absolutely right!!! Yack...

    As to Brunhilde and Hildergard, my my, if you're bringing those two girls in this I am starting to have bad associations with my own little sobriquet (ie. helg)!~ Since Brunhilda to my knowledge is the Germanic form of the Norse Helga. (I could be wrong)
    *shakes head to let these associations get out of there quickly!*


  11. Rappleyea13:24

    Speaking of your "sobriquet".... is there a story behind it? If so, I'd love to hear it. Sorry if this is already well - known by your readers.


  12. D,

    oh, I'm sure it's not well-known by my readers although everyone knows me by it.
    So it might be as well mentioning the background:
    It's merely a contraction of my real Christian name (and one initial of my S.O.) but it also means "weekend" in Swedish, making it a perfect choice of a username for crowded boards because if one Googles by username they come up with a thousand pages of results in Swedish! So it began for boards' use and it evolved from there into blogging. :-)

    (I feel like I am losing my Mata Hari-ish cloak slowly...)

  13. Anonymous13:54

    Dear E,

    I must include myself among those who are entirely turned off by a celelbrity fronting a fragrance campaign, whether the fragrance is that of a house or their own (even worse). I won't even try the scent because I know I could not wear it even if I like it. Every time I put it on I would think of the celebrity and I wear fragrance to make it my own, not to make me feel like J Lo or SJP (wonderful women though they may be).

    I think, however, that it is difficult these days for perfume houses and designers to find anonymous faces for their fragrances because even models are instantly recognizable names and faces. Thirty years ago, the supermodel era was just being born and most models were just beautiful faces, today we call Natalia, Claudia, and Heidi by name as if they are our familiars. I hope this trend will reach a tipping point and we will go back to illustrating ads and maybe discover something as compelling as those amazing vintage ads of Dior, Guerlain, et al.

    Just to add a caveat to all this, I find that a perfume that we know to be associated with a particular celebrity (Chanel 5 with Marylin Monroe, as an example) or created for a celebrity by a perfumer (a just-discovered new vintage love: Guerlain's Sous le Vent for Josephine Baker) is not off-putting at all. Is it because these women are no longer celebrities, but cultural icons? No idea.


  14. N,

    there seem to be lots of us who are deterred I see. I think you've got an excellent point there: those people of the past have become cultural icons, so they are more glamourised. There is also another element in my opinion: stars of today lack mystique thanks to the tabloids. Ever little detail is scrutinised and they have no mystery about them, we know what they eat, what they drink, when they checked into rehab and what colour their knickers are (if at all...) This has shattered the glamour status of them and made them very approachable but also very easy to condemn to our contempt.
    Like I mentioned in the article, there are companies who still use only the product in their ads which is a good idea. I should devote a post on it!

  15. Oh, my sister.

    I suppose, these are predictable and safe choices.
    I've nothing against the young things; I simply prefer a bit more substance with my pulchritude, you know ?

    Just one lone voice, wailing into THE VOID ;)


  16. And notice how they look eerily similar in those photos?
    Predictable....commercial...unexciting....I am joining your lone voice!

  17. Anonymous16:12

    I am totally with you. Claudia is very languid, I don't get why they choose her. She is Elseve shampoo. :)

  18. Anonymous16:40

    Elena -

    Personally, I trust infallibly all information from the R.I.E.O.E.H.S (heehee).


  19. Oh great, Marko, encourage me like that and I might start expounding little factoids with all the pontifying attitude of a faux expert!! :-P


  20. Lavinia,

    Elseve shampoo really sums it up for me as well!

  21. Rappleyea20:44

    Thank you for the explanation!

    You wrote: "And notice how they look eerily similar in those photos?
    Predictable....commercial...unexciting....I am joining your lone voice!"

    That in itself is another post. Do all of the actresses, models and other celebs, go to the same plastic surgeons?!? These young women are looking increasingly alike. Same sculpted jaws, wide eyes, same noses, etc. Then add homogenous makeup, clothes and hair and they begin to look like clones!

    I could write an essay, but to me this seems linked to your "aspirational" post and the "kitsch" post. No individuality (either in looks, dress, perfume or opinions) = low self esteem. I blame the patriarchy! (Sort of kidding there.)

    But have a great weekend, Helg/Elena (now I need to know which you prefer).


  22. That's an interesting formula:
    70% image, 20% sex and only 10% composition and pity it's the most popular one.

    I'd prefer a more classic approach:
    70% illusion, 20% temptation and well... still 10% composition. Of course, the proportion of the last component might be much higher for a connoisseur (I guess the most of parfumista prefer something like 70% composition, 20% olphactory orgasm experience and 10% bla-bla-bla whatever):o)

  23. I don't know that celebrities fronting scents sway me or deter me... unless it's someone I really loathe, and those are very few. However, ads often strike me as making someone look particularly good, or being well art directed.

    I enjoyed seeing Anne Hathaway and Clive Owen on Lancome; the fact that I like Magnifique and Hypnose Homme I think is coincidental. I think I'm quite immune to the effect of celebrity, but I do wish someone would bring Isabella Rossellini back to be the "face" of something.

  24. Donna,

    I believe what you say is an interesting phenomenon and as a reader of mine has commented elsewhere the issue for a project focusing on "sameness" (the whos, the hows and most importantly the whys).

    Re: explanation: You're welcome! I do prefer Elena but most people don't remember it as vividly as the sobriquet, curiously enough, so whatever pleases you.

  25. Max,

    thanks for tweaking the formulae to something much more interesting! And I had to laugh on the olfactory orgasm experience bit expected!! How true!!!

  26. Joe,

    good point. They're honed to look their best and when the art direction is inspired the result is often memorable. This is why here on Perfume Shrine I have occupied myself so much with the visual aspects of perfume advertising (and will continue to do so).

    Anne Hatahway and Clive Owen are very agreeable to look at and they have their own personal charm. I think they'd look good in anything and representing anything, but that's beside the point. I believe it's their recognisability which accounts for them being picked as well as their positive reception by audiences (not all recognisable celebrities are liked).

    But I have to agree that Rosellini was perfect for Lancome and she seemed so real, so human; which was a huge plus for the consumer to identify with. I wish someone grabs her up!! (after all Kim Basinger does the Lancaster ads and Sharon Stone the Dior ones, so what stops a major brand from picking Rosellini?)


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