Monday, October 14, 2013

Perfume Marketing & Prices: A One-To-One with an Indie Player, Tauer Perfumes

You may recall that last week's post on perfume marketing went down as quite engaging for readers, mainly -I hypothesize- because it dared speak (with a quote or two from actual perfume insiders) that Which We Do NoT Speak Of in perfumista-land, namely that marketing isn't necessarily the Big Bad Wolf in the perfume business but an important and essential component of the fragrance experience. The counterargument to the role of marketing has always been "but see how indie & artisanal perfumers do it without all this fake fanfare!" So in the interests of providing the views of -exactly- an indie perfumer on that score and prompted by this post of his on his personal blog, I asked Andy Tauer of Tauer Perfumes (a successful business "story" in the artisanal field, if there is one). What would Andy think? After all it had been ages since I last interviewed Andy Tauer.
So read on to find out (NB. Italics mine).

To all my Greek (or Greek savvy) readers: this is NOT intended as a mountza

Elena Vosnaki: Do you consider that marketing is integral to the promotion of a fragrance? Some people believe that marketing is something "dirty", devised to con and influence beyond a product's inherent value, but your small-time-marketing "story" which is tremendously successful proves that it can just be "the right push for the right audience". Do you agree with that assessment?

Andy Tauer: Thank you for this question. Let us first have a look what marketing is all about. Marketing is all about the 4 P: Product, promotion, place, price.
Product actually is the sum of a couple of things: The scent, the packaging, the emotions that we might try to transport through it, the flacon. When I started my venture, I was almost exclusively focused on one aspect there: The scent. Everything else was secondary to me. I did not even think about where and how I position my products (place), I did some promotion through blogs and tried to talk to magazines and to clients directly through my blog. I picked a random price that I figured is OK without worrying about margins and the chain of sales and logistics and else. Rather naively, I did a couple of things right. I was lucky, too.

After about 7 years in the business, I would dare to say that marketing is incredibly important when it comes to perfumes. Think about it. Nobody really NEEDS perfume. It is pure luxury. And at the end of the day, you want to convince consumers to pay a lot of money for something they can't see, for something that vanishes in front of their nose. Quite a challenge really. You mentioned "a perfume's inherent value": Basically it is close to nothing, for most fragrances. Be it 50 $ or 500$. In the end you pay for the margin of the retailer (50% of a fragrance's retail price), maybe the margin for the distributor (25-30%), the margin of the producer (10-20%), you pay for the publicity around a scent (free samples, ads, ..), the packaging and at the very, very end you pay for the scent (usually less than 1-2% of the fragrance's retail price. The more expensive a fragrance, the smaller the percentage of what goes into the scent). You bet that you need great marketing to push and pull.
Of course, some brands do it differently, and there are always exceptions, rare gems in the market, where the scent is actually more expensive than the packaging, where promotion is minimal, where prices are moderate and where promotion is mostly word of mouth. But then: You can't really grow beyond a certain level using this marketing model.

EV: A famous "star" perfumer has expressed a certain disdain for "perfumistas". Perfumistas went up in arms and went on to state that that'd be unwise on his part, as they (perfumistas) make up the bulk of his business anyway. Do perfumistas form the bulk of niche perfume buyers  indeed in your experience? 

AT: Let's first clarify the term: For me, perfumistas are perfume lovers whom you find on the blogs and forums, who exchange and discuss publicly, who are very keen about fragrances and who explore the universe of scent on a regular basis. They usually have a large selection and an incredible knowledge about perfumes. They spend a lot of time and % of money available on scents. They are not the average perfumery client who comes in, uncertain of what to get, who might need some help to find a new fragrance. Now to your question " Do perfumistas form the bulk of niche perfume buyers in your experience?" No, they don't. By far not. An educated guess might be: 1/4 of niche perfume buyers in my experience are perfumistas. For sure not more.

EV: As a creator and your own creative director, why is "splitting" bottles and buying/selling decants [i.e plain vials filled up from one's own bottle and sold at cost or little profit in the interests of sampling as many things as possible] detrimental to your finished work? You said: " [...]although you might not like it [...], bottle splits and doing decants is pretty much not good and you hurt the creator. It is actually worse than not buying a bottle. It is destroying the kingdom that we creators build around the king, the fragrance".

AT: You know... I do not want to point my finger towards anybody and I understand that in a world of little money and rising expenses for everything full bottles are out of reach for many. So, yes: I understand and am far away from blaming anybody splitting her or his bottle. Yet, from a creator's perspective, it hurts. It hurts because I do not only create a scent that I launch one fine day. As creator, I am constantly building on an universe, a brand universe. I put my scents in a context of values, and esthetics, and experiences. And these I try to communicate through everything that is around the scent. The flacon, the packaging, the hand written note, the way how and where you can get the scent. I wish consumers to experience these values, and I want that they can actually feel the difference, feel at home when they open my boxed scents, feel that I am grateful when they buy my products via a little card saying "Enjoy".
Getting a decant in a simple spray bottle is nothing of all that. It is like a stripped down to the bones scent experience. The scent is still the same, but everything else that I wish perfume lovers to experience is gone. I feel it would be better, from time to time, to just get one fragrance, instead of 5 splits.

EV: What constitues a "good story" in niche perfumes? Older more established brands have relied in status cachet, couture prestige and sometimes sheer lyricism (like with Guerlain's classics).

AT: A good story for me comes with a couple of attributes. Modesty is one of them. Honesty is another. Brands promoting their oudh banalities through exotic stories with little true elements behind are midterm prone to fail, maybe not commercially, but on other levels that might be more important.
A good story is also a story that does not need to bring in underwear, body fluids, or other elements that make you shiver rather than feel at ease. A good story may use strong elements but always stays on somewhat clean ground. A good story should always allow the wearer of a scent to continue building it. You do not want to imprison a perfume lover in a Mideast harem if he or she feels more like flying away on a oriental carpet. Thus, a good story is an invitation to dream and build the dream, yourself.

EV: What's your vision about the future of the Tauer brand in regards to marketing to two different demographics? (perfumistas/blog readers and wealthy patrons).

AT: I will try to serve them both, but maybe through different brands.


  1. I enjoyed this interview very much and was particularly interested to learn that we perfumistas only account for about 25% of niche scent buyers. It doesn't surprise me really, but I had no sense of the numbers before.

    Regarding AT's view on the rights and wrongs of decanting / splitting, I do see where he is coming from about it being a pared down, denatured experience to just have a portion of the scent in a plain atomiser, and have some empathy with his view. However, it is still incremental sales, because the splitter wouldn't have invested in a full bottle themselves, and neither would the 'splittees'. This can be because of finances or because a person doesn't consider a scent to be 'full bottle worthy' - they only love it 5 or 10 or 15ml worth. That said, if all bottles were 15 mls I would never acquire another decant and would go for the larger amount right off the bat to enjoy the full flacon experience, even if that was slightly more juice than I felt my interest warranted.

    And I am pleased to say however that I bought 3 full bottles from a shop or perfumer's own site this week! And there's me swearing I didn't need any more perfume...:-)

  2. Bettina12:57

    very interesting. especially interesting to read and learn that the smallest amount goes into the actual juice. I can see Andy's point in terms of the splits. but then, like Vanessa said, not everybody wants a large bottle. I consider 30 ml large as well in the context that I own more than a few bottles. 50 or 100 ml are quiet nuts anyway unless you want to douse yourself or take a bath. from the splittees perspective there are already two reasons to participate: one is cost and the other one is size. the prices along the way increase, as well for fragrances. at the same time, when I take myself, I have not received a payraise. not only perfume prices raise, but the cost of living. so in the monetary context sure there is the need for split. Again, I can see Andy's point when he looks at the whole process that is involved in one creation. nothing to argue about. but then on the other hand, like Vanessa said, the splitter will purchase a bottle. And I join here: with more products on the market in the 15 ml size I personally would not "mess" to buy a decant. less trouble to buy such a size from the manufacturer.

  3. I love Andy Tauer and I love the phrase "oudh banalities" (who isn't sick of oudh right now?), but I do have to disagree with his assessment of decants and splits.

    I've bought many, many decanted samples from vendors like Luckyscent and resellers like The Perfumed Court. It's true that we don't get the full experience — the package, the bottle, the gestalt of it — but by purchasing decants, we do get to try many new scents we wouldn't otherwise, and also things that are discontinued. And more than once I've bought a full bottle after trying a sample and deciding I couldn't live without more of it. (I just bought a Serge Lutens on a trip: it was something I'd bought a decant of a couple of years ago.)

    It's kind of like books: I'm sure authors would love it if every single reader bought their own copy, but when libraries buy a few copies, then many more people get to enjoy the books, the authors still make some money, and some readers will love the book so much that they'll go out and buy a copy just to have it.

  4. Vanessa,

    hi there darling, thanks for chiming in!

    You know, it does put things into perspective, doesn't it, to know that ultimately, what we say about a product and how we "vote with our wallet" has an influence but that influence is only incrimentally superior to no influence at all...

    Re: the point about splitting/decantage.
    You know, I understand where you're coming from and I have bought a few decants myself (though I usually prefer to swap for samples; numerous if necessary before making up my mind), therefore I'm NOT playing it smart ass or guilt-free.

    But, in pure mathematics, if just 25% of those buying niche are perfumistas and if -say- half of them (if that!) split their bottles with other interested parties (which isn't as easy as it looks), then it's only 12.5% of sales that amount to the splitters, which is negligible really in the eyes of the niche companies. If you have 100 potential buyers and you risk losing aprox. 10 of them, I think the equation is pretty easy to solve, right?

    Furthermore, to make the product more desirable (more luxurious, more glamorous and therefore more enviable/covetable) in the eyes of the rest of the 90 people out of a potential 100 that WOULD buy a bottle if it meets their criteria, you need to have a size that guarantees that not every one can easily and oh so casually can buy some.
    Therefore, bigger sizes, increased prices and glitz presentations rule the day. It all makes sense, from a business point of view, doesn't it?

    I know it's an unpopular view, but there it is. And if Andy, who is genuinely sweet and very much in touch and in tune with his audience, says so, imagine what more jaded and cynical brands are thinking and doing!!

    It's fabulous that you bought artisanal even though you didn't need it. Who needs perfume anyway. Who needs poetry, who needs films, who needs dessert...but they do make our life more enjoyable and that's what counts.

    Thanks for your contribution to this interesting discussion.

  5. Bettina,

    thanks for commenting and sharing your point of view.

    For the pure logistics of how "splitters' aren't a considerable buying potential for the creator, please see my comment above replying to Vanessa.

    As for smaller bottles, the smaller sizes do exist in many niche brands, though they don't get advertised as such for reasons of prestige. But it's not easy to do for most indie and artisanal brands, because a different size demands -something not many people are aware of- a separate glass mould and that costs money both to design and to produce; it's not just a miniaturized version of the bigger one. So only niche companies who charge a lot (or who come from bigger, mainstream companies who do a more esoteric, limited distribution "exclusive" line) can accomplish it. Indie and artisanal are sort of in a rut, concerning offering smaller sizes, unless they go way lower end on the packaging.

    I do sympathize with your price points, which I am well aware of. In a time of crisis, spread like wildfire in Europe at that which is something I am keenly observing and living through, it's a sensitive issue.
    However please allow me to say the following and this only comes from a personal perspective, not necessarily wanting to "persuade" anyone.

    Bigger bottles do serve a purpose. Thinking back on what I have LOVED in my perfumed life (which all right spans decades, so the numbers do logically add up), I find that every single thing that has totally captivated me has come out of a full bottle; numerous serial bottles of the same stuff actually. I do go through them and no, I don't shampoo with them. They just get consumed because I put them on twice or three times a day when I really love them. And then there are some days when I don't put anything on. But I have rarely loved things that have just stayed in the level of "decant": if they satisfy my craving with just 10ml or 20ml then they do not apply to my criteria for love.
    Like a spouse or a mate, you know when you want to spend all (or the majority of) time with them, the choice is right. If you only want to have a romp or a short chat, something's missing. Right? :-)

  6. Pyramus,

    thanks for participating in the discussion, I feel it is very important to openly discuss this and to have as many varied viewpoints as possible from as many perfumistas as possible.

    Let's not discuss vintage perfumes here, because those do not affect niche producers which is our subject today. Let's concentrate on decants/splits of current juice.

    Now, I was having a discussion with someone in the business the other day about Luckyscent and they told me the samples sales help them break even. Just that. They don't make a profit out of the sample sales. However how many people buy samples off Luckyscent? A lot. Sometimes it helps towards upgrading to a bottle, lots of times it does not. That's a problem of the perfumes themselves, of the sheer number of launches (in niche as well as in mainstream) and of the jadedness of the perfume lover per se. One can't love everything, not enough to want to buy a full bottle of lots of things, right?

    In view now of what I replied to Vanessa above (please read so I don't repeat myself too much and become a bore) niche companies have realized that even though samples and decants make many people try their product, it does not make any business sense in the way of assuring a satisfying number of sales to justify encouraging (or even keeping) this practice! Namely, the people who split perfumes are so few all over the world, relatively speaking, and spread so thickly amongst the brands, that they do not arithmetically matter. I know it's a huge blow on our perfumista ego!! Believe me I know! But...

    As to books, I suppose they don't work quite the same way, because author's rights are dependent more on the actual publication and the distributing rights later on re: adaptations, translations, movie making etc. (which I believe are more "set" from the outset) than on how many people borrow the book off the library shelf and then upgrade to a copy of their own. (Do many do that? I think only nerds like you and me do that and then re-read the same beloved book hundreds of times later. Most people just want some chic-lit or pulp paperback to pass the time on the train commute or on the beach or to be "in the know" about what the neighboor and their "circle" is talking about....Sad but it happens.)
    I think it's more like music. Free music is fine and rampant on the Net, but can you blame the producers and songwriters for wanting a cut off something they made themselves? I think perfume makers operate in a similar way, especially since unlike books perfume is a constantly replinishable product; you refill, they keep on producing it. Books are eternal, perfume is ephemeral.

  7. "spread so thinly amongst the brands", I meant.
    Sorry for sounding thick above!!

  8. Andy15:50

    Dear Elena (perfumeshrine)
    Re samples: I heard this from more than one retailer offering samples. It is considered a service that pays itself. Samples are not a way to make money really. I feel , from my perspective, offering samples is important for an indie brand, though. It allows to serve a lot of perfume lovers who, hopefully, will in keep the communication going. Thus, in the niche market serving perfumistas, samples are key. Serving a larger clientel, for instance in a distribution based sales model like I have it in Italy, offering samples is not possible due to numbers and margin issues.

  9. Obviously, people are not going to buy a $200+ full bottle of perfume without trying it out for awhile on skin, or at least most people don't impulse shop perfume that way. So the samples are helpful, especially for many who don't live near anywhere the perfume can be tried on in a retail situation. Indeed many perfumes are not in retail, or maybe they have a few boutiques here and there. Which is why most indies have sample programs so people can pay for or try perfumes. If people want to split to get a little more than a tiny sample, as it breaks down, this doesn't seem to hurt anyone. Many, especially Americans also are known not to want to pay so much for the packaging and marketing of anything, including perfume. Being constantly bombarded from an early age, we are adept at avoiding and ignoring the marketing, ads and "stories".

  10. I do have a strong liking for Andy Tauer and his perfumes. I get what he says about decants and splits. But for someone like me, I've got more perfume than I can use in a lifetime or two. Luca Turin mentioned in The Guide (blasphemy, I know) decants can help out a niche perfumer. I like my decants because I don't really want to sink $100 or more on something I've never smelled. Anyone that lives in the 1st world can go to the mall and smell the latest mainstream releases along with the classics but not all of us live in Paris and don't have access to Serge Lutens bell jars.

  11. like others, i disagree with the negative attitude toward decants. perfume, for me at least, is something that i can buy with assurance only after testing it on my skin for a few days. this allows me to see if it is pleasing to me, whether it lasts decently, and even whether it will provoke any sensitivities i have. at any price point, but especially at niche or luxury pricing, it's imperative that i be able to try before i buy. samples and decants also are important to helping people learn about perfume; one simply cannot understand perfume without being able to experience quite a lot of it. mr. tauer himself, in fact, would not have been on my buy list had i not been able to test-drive several of his beautiful perfumes through decants. will i purchase a full bottle of every perfume i try in a sample size or decant? of course not. nor do i buy every piece of clothing that i try on, but the trying on is imperative for me to see if a garment is suitable for me to buy. can't try it? not likely to buy it! i'd think that a perfumer would want an educated, enthusiastic clientele, and a part of building that client base may be best served by decant availability.

    i don't think marketing is necessarily evil at all---we need to have things brought to our attention in order to buy them at all. i do appreciate a more intelligent approach to marketing, one that doesn't rely on "status" or "luxe" as a main selling point; all perfume is, as pointed out, a luxury. also, paying a celebrity to flog the latest on-trend offering tends to put me off. telling a "story" about a scent in words or pictures can be helpful.

    in the end, perfume is an art. like all art, it is best appreciated when we know about it and have been exposed to a fair amount of it. and like art, it will be very much subject to individual taste. in order for us, as either consumers or as aficionados, to enjoy the art and know what we like, we need to have access to it in a way that supports learning and development of taste.

  12. Mimi G19:29

    Dear Elena and Andy

    Thank you for the great interview. I have learnt something new today . I didn't know that perfumistas were a much smaller groups of buyers in total .I also did not know (after all these years of being perfume mad) that decants and splits hurt perfume brands especially smaller niche brands like Andy's. Fortuntaely, I am one of those people who do not really like decants and loves full bottles ( probably not v practical but it is true ) .Full bottles are normally the way I go with purchases .

  13. Ellen01:57

    I love samples. If it weren't for samples, I wouldn't have purchased 90% of the perfume I own. Samples have educated me and prevented me from making some really bad purchases.
    A great number of samples have gone on to be full bottles--four of Andy Tauer's, I might add. And yes, I was thrilled by the personalized card, however, especially with the myriad of perfume launches, the sample becomes the only sane way to navigate through a very overcrowded field.
    I appreciate what all has been said about the need for marketing, but considering the disproportionate amount that is spent on marketing as opposed to the actual ingredients, I'm still not a fan.
    Thanks for a really interesting interview.

  14. MIss Heliotrope02:19

    Interesting interview - as I said previously, I think the anti-advertising is still advertising, & with increased snob value.

    While of course the perfumer is going to want me to buy a whole bottle, I use sampling to work out which whole bottle I will buy - I cant get out much, and would rather not waste my time touring stores to sample perfume, given how few one can smell in a session before keeling over. I get samples, I play with them at home, and if I like something enough to spend the amount of money required (or my birthday is coming up), I buy it - if I couldnt sample, I dont think I'd buy as much or as expensively.

  15. Here's a comment to Lucy Rauberta's statement "Obviously, people are not going to buy a $200+ full bottle of perfume without trying it out for awhile on skin, or at least most people don't impulse shop perfume that way. ".... Well, actually, this is the perspective of the perfumista. Here's the thing: People buy a lot of 100-200+$ bottles, impulse shopping , for instance as husbands in duty free environments, or as woman just getting the latest thing from Armani, or Chanel. And people buy multiple units of 200$+ fragrances, just because it looks nicely packed and the bottle is fine and it smells ok on a strip. Many high end selective perfumeries would go out of business without those clients who sniff for 30 seconds on a blotter and then get one or 6 bottles of a 250$ scent for friends and family, back home.
    You see: This is where the market is, where most bottles are sold. It is not your friendly apothecary, it is the boutique where they spit out lots of bottles of expensive stuff; folks just buy because for many, it is not expensive and 200 $ don't matter really.

  16. Coming back to this after a few hours, I find it highly interesting that what has stuck with most perfumistas is the subject of decanting. Very very telling and very interesting because it showcases exactly what we were talking about with Andy, namely that perfumistas aren't the target group of niche companies because they do not invest in full bottles as a rule.

    Replying now to each and every one of you separately.

  17. Andy,

    obviously samples are key. No one is disputing that.
    For a long time I thought that LS and others were making some profit from this selling practice, but no, I know it from the source that that isn't so, so your corroboration is very welcome.

    It's interesting that the Italian model works differently from the rest of the European sales (and US sales) for you.

  18. Lucy,

    I believe Andy (as others) offer samples just fine (indeed Andy in particular has been known to routinely offer free samples through his blog and giveaways, which is highly generous of him). It's splitting bottles and decanting which hurts the brands, as per his words and others', I believe, because it "appeases" the craving and lets the buyer think "I'm set with that, next!". (At least this is what transpires to me while reading and listening to people who participate a lot in this)
    Samples are OF COURSE necessary to gauge whether we like something or not enough to upgrade.

  19. Eldwaren,

    I know what you mean. I suppose that's what samples are for!

    However, samples are different than decants. I think the discussion degenerated a bit (excuse the term, can't think of another word right now) after Lucy's comment about the sampling programms of several indie perfumers, which is absolutely true. Readers then took it on and run with it, but no one is opposing samples!!

    Samples are a promo, part & parcel of the marketing of the fragrance and therefore accounted for in the creation of the product. Decants are breaking up the brand, because like I said above they give the illusion of owning the product, but divested of the rest of the experience. And because they give that illusion, the buyer has their craving/desire satiated (if incompletely) and moves on to the next niche decant....

    As to Serge Lutens, he does provide wax samples (solid perfume versions) for the bell jars which are quite accurate, if a bit softer than the actual perfumes. These are often swaped for on perfume loving boards.

    As to Luca, he doesn't really know what he's talking about, as he's not really close to any of the indie perfumers and creators (and no wonder on multiple levels!)

  20. NFS,

    I applaud your wisdom on seeing that marketing isn't necessarily faulty when done with honesty and integrity. Not many realize this. (I guess we have so many examples of false claims and silly marketing/advertising, so we have become jaded).

    And obviously one would need to sample first, but that is what official samples are for!! Decants, fine as they may be and I have been guilty of buying a couple over the years myself, create -as I said above to Vanessa and to Eldwaren, please read- an "illusion" of owning something when in fact you don't.

    But what I find most interesting in your comment and I do want to comment on it, is that you reference sampling before buying as an inherent part of building an enthusiastic and informed clientele and referencing art.
    Let's tackle these separately:

    1. This is where most perfumistas can't get their heads around (I suppose our ego can't take it! LOL). Niche brands do NOT care about having an enthusiastic and informed clientele any more than mainstream brands do! Why would they, when they can make a huge number of sales off non informed, impulse status buys??? I think it's pretty obvious. They cajole us at first because they need the word of mouth to have their brand established, but other than that, nil.

    2.Referencing art to perfume is pretty fascinating as a subject, especially when we refer to decantage as an addendum. Because if perfume IS art (and I have some doubts) then would you break up a Miro or a Velasquez in tiny pieces and sell them piece by piece to "highly enthusiastic and educated" buyers, so they can own their own little piece of Miro or Velasquez?
    I doubt it. See where I'm coming from?

    It's a quite complicated matter, as you can see, though I assure you I can see where you're coming from and appreciate everyone's effort to communicate their need to sample via a medium that is affordable and dispensable (like a decant).

  21. Mimi,

    thank you very much for taking the time to comment and say so.

    Like I said, in perfumistadom we don't talk about certain matters. Perhaps however it's best that we do talk about the skeleton in the closet. There's no shame and truth will set us free :-) ;-)

  22. Ellen,

    thank you for chiming in, as always with candor and genuine interest.

    I agree about the disproportionate amount of marketing vs. juice, sometimes, with some brands.

    But I have to say that there is no opposition to "samples" as in official samples. The sample part entered the discussion after Lucy's comment above about indie perfumers having sampling programms. But this is not what is being opposed by creators, rather decants and splits are, because like I explained above in detail to Vanessa and Eldwaren (please read so I don't become a bore), they create a false reality for the consumer of "owning" something they don't really.

    Obviously one has to try something first before buying, well most of the time... ;-)

  23. MH,

    thanks for dropping by!

    Oh yeah, anti-advertising is indeed advertising and with a high snob value. Just look at Serge's bell jar exclusives!! Worked pretty well for him, didn't it?? :-D

  24. @Andy,

    excellent point and one which I wanted to bring into discussion many times before. I know of a couple of people who buy the same thing repeated ad infinitum for all their Christmas gifts: they chose one thing each year and they buy 15-20 pieces of it, everyone gets the same thing reflecting supposedly the taste of the giver.

    @To everyone,

    we tend to forget that it's not just niche companies and final purchasers/consumers of perfume. There are also the perfumeries and the distributors in the middle! And they play a role in the equation too, a role of which most perfumistas know nothing about, it seems.

    Hard as it might be to chew on, yes, many many people have the necessary funds and the inclination to mass-buy perfume, making up the bulk of the perfume buying audience in the end. It sounds vulgar to our ears (and it might well be, I'll give you that) but that's the reality of it. And both distributors/perfumeries and niche creators are keenly aware of it and plan accordingly.

  25. This has been an enlightening conversation, not just with Andy but with all the readers as well.
    I would have never guessed perfumistas make for such a small amount of people buying niche perfume. I based my opinion solely on the fact that 99% of people around me have no idea the niche perfume market exists. But those in contact with me are widening their horizons.
    I would call myself a perfumista but I also do impulse buys, mostly in cases where the perfume I'm holding and liking will be extremely difficult to obtain once I decide if I love it so much I need a full bottle. That said, buying a 200$ bottle is something I would think about long and hard and certainly not something I could do easily.
    The thing with Tauer perfumes is a bit different though. From my perspective, Andy seems to keep his ear to the perfumista ground and offers large samples for trying perfumes and now even smaller bottles as those are not just economical in terms of money but also in terms of perfume usage for people who have larger collections.

    Hmm, now I feel like everything I said is all over the place. :)

  26. Thank you for this informative interview and the ongoing discussion. I'm still a bit puzzled by the 25% figure. Is that an educated guess, or is it based on consumer surveys?

  27. Ines,

    not all over the place at all and on the contrary a valuable comment!!

    It's true that we are usually surrounded by people who don't know about niche perfumes, but we need to think that this has to do with regional specifications (in the case of both of us,Ines, this is the prime reason) and also with less of an interest in perfumes in general!

    Therefore, if people are not especially interested in perfume in the first place, as perfume juice I mean, they're not especially keen to broaden their horizons even if given a chance. However they ARE often keen on buying something for the status or luxury it imparts, especially if that has to do with a gift or a memory in the making (i.e. during a trip). They may therefore lay down lots of $$$ without really knowing (the way we define knowing us, perfumistas) what they're buying. It just looks good, smells OK and appears luxurious. If they have the monetary allowance to buy it, they do.

    Incidentally I do know of a certain "type" of buyer who goes in to buy whatever Chanel or Armani makes next. They're clearly not interested in the specific product itself (which is the whole raison d'etre for the perfumista) but in the brand (as in company profile perception) itself. if Chanel makes it, it's got to be good, right? This is probably why the Chanel (newer) mainstream (and some exclusives) fragrances' quality has gone downhill.

    It's also very surprising that people have not noticed that Andy recognizes this discrepancy between perfumistas and $$$-yielding clients and has decided to cater to both under different brands, as he so candidly states in the end. He's very business savvy, even if he's not a marketeer. One more thing to admire him for, I suppose.

  28. Sabina,

    it's based on the reports on the Tauer distribution channel (just imagine! If Tauer is bought by 3/4 by $$$ yielding folks with no "education" re: perfumes, what happens with Kilian, Malle, amouage and all the rest???)
    BUT it's also corroborated by an esteemed distributor for the US market who operates quality niche brands. I honestly believe the % for perfumista buyers is even lower!

  29. Stephan13:18

    Thanks for the enlightening aspect of this interview. But I'm missing one definition in this discussion. At what ml size does a sample become a decant? I'm very grateful to be able to get to know different scents by buying what I perceive as samples. When I have no clear idea of what to expect, I'm going for the 1,5 ml size spray head vial. If I'm confident that this could be very much to my liking, then it will be a 2,5 ml size, which serves my need to decide whether I really love it so much or not. If there is love, it wouldn't be financially clever to get anything less than 50 ml. Please tell me, whether or not I'm guilty of hurting the creator in this way. Thanks.

  30. Stephan,

    thank you so much for taking the time to comment and excellent question I might add!

    I't not a perfume creator but allow me to reply in what I believe is the way a perfume creator might be thinking about this. It's not a question of mow many mls (i.e. how much?) but a question of form (i.e. official sample or someone is "splitting" their bottle to interested parties to defray some of the cost -and please note I have on occasion done just that myself).
    Therefore, samples officially sorted out and accounted for by the company (whether official from the source, i.e. the e-boutique of the brand, or from a licenced distributor like LS) are OK, because they're monitored into the price & logistics of the company. Splitting one's bottle and selling unofficial decants (at cost or at profit, no matter to the brand) is probably hurting the business, because these provide a false sense of satiation to the rest of the buyers.

    I agree with you that buying larger sizes for things we do love and would use is financially sane. ;-) :-)

  31. Anonymous16:16

    I understand Tauer's wish for consumers to have the full experience he has crafted, that this is something he cares about as a serious parfumeur, and that he feels our buying a decant (or samples) undermines the careful selection of the flacon etc.

    But Tauer's "full experience" is fleeting and ultimately not that important, because what we are going for is the stuff inside the bottle. I doubt there are many of us who marvel anew over his "Enjoy!" card every time we apply his creation, nor do we wear his flacon around our neck as a sign of our impeccable taste. The only thing we wear is the juice.

    So while I understand where he's coming from, he hasn't changed my mind.

    Great interview though!

  32. Chamekke,

    thank you for commenting and what an honest comment that is.

    I think the bottomline is this:
    Perfumistas care about the juice only.
    Perfume gets massively bought by non perfumistas.
    Ergo perfume will increasingly cater to the needs of non perfumistas, which involves anything BUT the juice.

    Tauer can be absolved from above cynical scenario as he plans on introducing another line for the non perfumistas and not changing the juice he offers ;-)

  33. Wow. so many comments! Great.
    A reply for Sabina. This number is of course a well educated guess, very well educated guess I might say. It is probably very high for my brand, much higher than for others. It is based on my sales figures: How much do I sell to which retailer/distributor and the discussions with them. I ask them regularly who their clients are: Perfumistas, or clients who just enter the boutique etc. etc. Some retailers - of course- can't say, as they sell mostly online. Others, and distributors alike can give pretty good numbers. Like close to nothing in this market or 10% in that market....
    Thus, I ended up putting the numbers together and making the guess, trying to be optimistic in terms of percentage bought by perfumistas.
    I have discussion with perfume making and selling friends on this topic, too. They tell me that 25% is a pretty high number. I hope this information helps a bit.

  34. Zazie19:57

    Andy and Elena, thanks for the discussion.
    20% surprised me as a high percentage of a cake. No business owner would want to cut that slice out, but as Andy pointed out, I imagine the share of perfumistas in Dyptique sales is much lower than that, as it strongly depends on the brand, its distribution channels and its marketing strategy.
    But I want to discuss with you something: say you sell a bottle at 1000€, gold dust included in the juice, on one side. On the other you sell 100 100€ Bottles, a small percentage of which might end up, or might not, in splits, samples and decants.
    Let's also say that the margin for the perfumer is similar, probably higher in the one 1000€ bottle scenario.
    Which of the two BM will be more relevant on the long run for the perfumer, and which for the money maker?
    I guess that those 100 bottles might trigger repeated purchases (non perfumistas that have found their signature scent, for example), might bring new customers to the brand (you smell great, where's your perfume from?) and place the perfumer in a certain place on the perfume map. It's just statistics, you have more chances to spread around and become visible.
    The perfumer might not make as much money in the short run than targeting the very wealthy (too wealthy? I'm Italian, I've been raised to believe that such thing as too much money is not an oxymoron, but maybe being socialist and loving perfume that is one), but in the end I think he will be the one with a more reliable income, with a longer commercial life, and with a possible recognition from a wide public and the industry.
    One of course can tackle both BM at once, but I personally feel a certain "malaise" in front of cynical commercial behaviors, and I take the trust relationship I have with a brand seriously. If I think that, say, Guerlain, is being too "smart" with their abeille bottles that cost 5000+€, from this I gather they are not averse to playing tricks on customers, albeit spoiled ones, and being a customer myself, should I support them, while I despise them? Am I the object of other tricks, maybe less apparent but proportioned to the size of my wallet, I am not aware of? Should I still trust them?
    I have no answer to these questions, well, I do, but I love my G classics too much.

  35. rickyrebarco21:09

    Wow, this is a really interesting topic. I agree with Andy's perspective. I am lucky enough to own 3 bottles of his perfume and I must say that part of the experience is opening up that gorgeous box and taking out the beautiful bottle, watching it glint in the sunlight, read Andy's charming note and then spray with abandon. And I am using all my niche fragrances at a pretty good clip- decants would not do for me.

    Also, I find decants don't smell as "true" as the original, maybe it's the oxygen when they are sprayed into a decant bottle. I do buy little samples to try new scents, but when I want something for real I buy a full bottle- oh yeah!

  36. Anonymous01:14

    Wow, a very interesting article, and the candor of Andy is really appreciated.

    I have always been a perfume lover but only became a "perfumista" over the last several months, and am saddened but grateful to now be disabused of my knuckleheaded romantic idea that this is an art form, and not merely an industry, mainly concerned with the 'flashbang' that will sell the product most quickly.

    I will be honest to add that my love of perfume does not concern adulation of the creator, it is with the smell, the feeling it gives me; the bottle is insignificant and the marketing is usually insulting. As a minor and apparently disposable member of a small segment of the afficianado subcategory, this has convinced me that never again will I purchase another perfume that will directly benefit the industry. Aftermarket from thrift shops, swaps and using up my existing lifetime supply will do just fine.

  37. I would agree that we perfumistas are a small but important percentage of overall sales. It would be interesting to see some market research on this topic. Also, on the topic of how splitters impact overall sales. I would not be surprised to find that we are orders of magnitude more influential than the average walk-in consumer. We share. We talk passionately about perfume. We blog! We post online comments.

    Let's hypothesize that I am in a split group of 100 people. Collectively we purchase, say, 300 bottles of niche perfumes per year. We get variety, the perfumers get sales. Most of us enjoy the experience intellectually, by considering how the perfume fits into the perfumer's overall body of work, does it advance the art of perfumery in a meaningful way, etc etc. Also, we experience it aesthetically and emotionally, e.g. How does it make me feel. Then we talk among ourselves. We blog. We tell anyone who will listen. We spend all day with our noses up our cuffs. Then most of us buy full size bottles of the ones we truly love. How many additional bottles are sold to others because we shared our experience? How many of those additional full bottles would any of us have purchased had we not tried a decant first?

    I would eat my hat if research proved that decants don't increase sales overall. And that all perfumistas, loud and proud, sell a lot more perfume than many SA's.

  38. Felicia S.23:30

    Very nice interview. As a niche perfumer beginning her foray into sales and marketing, I really appreciate Andy's very balanced perspective: realistic both about the need for marketing, as well as about the desire we might have to avoid it and the faint-though-real possibility of being able to avoid it! I also really appreciate his ability to continue to assert that true quality doesn't show up in sales figures or marketing copy.

  39. Zazie,

    as you succinctly say, it varies according to brand.

    Diptyque is an interesting example, because it was the proto-niche, in fact the prototype of niche when it began. It did take on a life of its own later on with the candles of the "rich and famous" though which were reported on all glossies, so people have a different undestanding of the brand than, say, Mecheri or Montale. (random examples)

    To address your question:
    I'd rather have less $$$ customers than more $ ones. It's less effort on my part and less time-consuming. Additionally the more $$$ ones have less desire to nit-pick their purchases, so I'm safe even if I blunder. How does that sound?? ;-)

    Serious artisans, like Andy, take their brand seriously and address perfumistas with all the respect they deserve. Less serious ones, or ones who want to expand a lot (or have been bought out by companies who want to expand a lot, and this is what is happening right now) do not think that way.

    LOL on the socialist and commercial view point. Very very true!

    Guerlain has a unique selling point, because it has heritage, but it also has bling bling appeal. They're doing the best they can with what they have, I suppose. It's a very difficult course and they did misstep a couple of times, but they do try. I'll give them that.

  40. Ricky,

    thanks for chiming in and your nice words.

    I have found that many decants I have had over the years either evaporated or turned. It's a disappointing fact of decantage, but true enough.

  41. Anon,

    thanks for your comment and I can say that this unpleasant truth requires some cojones to share, so kudos to Andy for being so candid (and for being one who respects perfumistas).

    The "perfume is art" bandwagon was designed specifically to obliterate this very aspect of perfume niche. I think it was a scheme that stuck (there was a lot throwing on the wall to see what sticks) back when people and business were vying for attention.
    It's semi-obsolete now, except for the very hard cases of perfumistas who don't want to see the truth in the eye. It's a business....

  42. Kuromi,

    I promise to report on actual research conducted if I find it. There are reports that only the luxury and niche segments of the business are growing exponentially so it's natural that all brands are now positioning themselves as niche, even when they do not necessarily the quality criteria.

    Now, on to your comparison between more bottles sold to $ customers to less bottles sold for $$$ customers: see above reply to Zazie.

    Additionally, let me venture a thought: I don't really believe that perfume niche creators necessarily want people to analyse their perfumes too much, intellectualise them so much, break them up and say what is this and what is that. This stems from both a sense of hilariousness (sometimes one can easily go overboard with our analysis-paralysis) and a sense of "as long as I'm selling bottles and making my living, who cares?"
    Obviously, don't expect the last part being admitted publicly, but privately, let me assure you, it HAS been uttered more than once.
    I know that distributors think the same way.

    Last but not least, word of mouth (and recs by perfumistas) is important when (and if!) a brand is trying to establish itself (For instance Malle or Lutens or a few others were never needing those endorsements, because they already had their connections in the business, able to secure their niche boutique locations and their distribution, hence they never actively sought the PR employment of blogs and the like...)
    Later on it's no longer important. Therefore, it only matters a bit for struggling ones at first. ;-)

  43. felicia,

    I hope your business will go very well indeed, and I know that reading all the people's comments here is a valuable lesson for your business. So take note! :-D

    Andy is a great example of a perfumer who is both keen on providing something that reflects his own values, but also with a keen eye on the reality of the business. He's not onto cloud 9, up there in cuckoo land, but he's not cynical either. No wonder he's so popular and successful.

  44. Interesting interview,Elena!
    And of course marketing is an integral part of the whole experience. Whether the marketing 'works' or not is of course a whole other question (sometimes it does and many times it doesn't. For me that is. But I understand that I am not the target or representative buyer). And as Andy points out in one of the comments- 25% is a pretty large percentage and that number is probably lower for many other brands.

    Regarding decants/splitting (and I do see the logic of saving up for a full bottle of something you love, rather than buying five decants of perfume you like. But I see the logic more from my point of view than from the perfumer's point of view. I don't see how that makes a difference to the perfumer. And I would really like to know..:))

    It seemed to me in the interview that Andy was opposed to splits more from a ‘creator's vision’ point of view. Basically he wanted his perfumes to be viewed in context of his brand/the presentation/story etc. And I can totally see that point of view. In the comments it seems like it was from a business point of view that he had a problem with splits. What I would love to know is whether perfumers think splits/decants hurt their business or their ‘creative vision’? Because those are two very different things. And the arguments for one can possibly (but not necessarily) negate those for the other.

  45. A marvellous post and a thoughtful discussion. Great stuff, and sincere thanks to PS and Mr. Tauer for getting involved with the comments and offering clarifications, addenda &c.

    There's a contradiction at the heart of this that I think drives this discussion, with people making similar points and similar rebuttals to those points.

    The contradiction is this: perfumistas use scent as art. Perfumistas use scent for pleasure. Perfumers - especially indie perfumers running small companies with little help - do care about art, but ultimately they use scent for profit.

    Perfumistas care about the abstracted qualities of the experience: olfactory sleights of hand, references & allusions, structures, and ironies all matter to them. Those things give perfumistas pleasure. Perfumers care about those things too, but they use scent for profit.

    Mr. Tauer is a perfumer because, at the end of the day, it is an economically sensible choice for him. But because Mr. Tauer is a good, conscientious and ethical man, he also cares about his juice as art and about his customers who are juice driven.

    I think there's an Oedipal angle here, too - it's fair that Mr. Tauer wants to have the freedom to do something without being badgered or cajoled by a group of strangers who feel entitled to have their say about his work. I remember reading him saying that the 5* review for LDDM was a very important moment for him; I remember reading that PoL was his favourite fragrance forum. Let's not kid around - however small a part of his income comes from perfumistas, they have been very important to him in the past. I see this set of remarks as acting out an unconscious hostility toward a fanbase that, like every fanbase ever, can be narcissitic, possessive and demanding. So that's interesting.

    But the bizarre compulsion that perfumistas - myself included - are suffer from is that we feel that we ought, somehow, agree with Mr. Tauer's views. In truth, we are under no such obligation. Intentionalism is dead. The author is dead. Barthes, structuralism, and all that followed are long behind us now. Mr. Tauer can say what he likes, and can package something however he likes, but I don't give a stuff, and nor should I. I don't care about anyone's bottom line: I care about scent as art, not brand integrity; I care about the affective powers of aromachemicals, not of glass and cardboard; I care about stimulating my amygdula with my nose, not about the experiential cohesion of an arbitrarily defined set of procedures (go to a shop, buy a bottle, unwrap the cello at home, read the perfumer's nice note, look at the notes list, open the box (sometimes two or three boxes), take off the cap and finally pressing *spritz*). Of all those eight stages, guess which one matters to me? And guess which one, ultimately, matters most to the indie perfumer? My objectives and Mr. Tauer's will never align completely. That's fine.

    Maybe this is a coming-of-age moment for niche frag culture. Mr. Tauer will realise that he can't control how his products are used, and perfume enthusiasts will realise that we can't control how his products are made. They maybe we'll all feel a bit less intense about what the other lot gets up to.

  46. Lavanya,

    thank you for your comment and sorry about being late in replying. Just saw this.

    As you say marketing sometimes works and sometimes it doesn't: the promo part should have reference to the price, place and product parts and sometimes it does not. Besides that, the promo is sometimes conducted as if it's aiming at two different audiences. This is what Andy addresses and gives his reasons for this: obviously the perfumistas expect one thing and the more $$$ carrying audiences expect something else. It's hard to reconcile both.

    I don't necessarily see myself thinking that it's either the business end of the deal or the creative vision end that get hurt or that the reason supporting one view between them is exclusive to the other. To illustrate it I will bring an exaggerated example, but it might be more demonstrative than more verbose analysis. The Parthenon Marbles at the British Museum create a chasm in the art appreciation (and the presentation of the Acropolis to the world) of the monument, but they also end up hurting the business side of Greek tourism in some part. One is not necessarily mutually exclusive to the other.
    You'd argue that of course the Acropolis and the perfumes are not on the same par artistically, and they're not, but the logic is the same.

    I think as perfumistas we will always be tempted to get to sample as many things as possible in as many ways as possible. It makes sense because we have been conditioned to believe that "the next best thing" might be waiting for us out there. I think this is the triumph of marketing, in the end, as newness is an integral appealing point use in marketing. Creating an eternal dissatisfaction that craves to be filled.

  47. Martinus,

    fascinating commentary and thanks for the nice words on the article/interview. I thought it was an important point to be made.

    You're right that there is a discrepancy among the reasons and rebuttals in the discussion. People want to be on Andy's side (EXACTLY as you say, spot on!) because they genuinely like him and his work (and his business ethics as transpiring from his career so far and his blog musings). On the other hand they do not like being told all these market-reality things, so they try to rationalize, intellectualize and contextualize them in order to soften the "blow".
    Perfumers, especially indie and artisanal perfumers, need to pay the bills too! They cannot afford to not sell enough bottles to do that. This isn't some dirty secret, it's the truth plain and simple. They don't need to sell a heck of a lot, but they need to be able to maintain the standard of living that would allow them to continue to do what they like to do. Some small concession must therefore be made.

    Structuralism is indeed obsolete by now, but the theory of the author is not dead, at least in perfume circles, especially niche. The auteur view point has in fact been the prime selling point of the Malle line and has thus created a monster since 2000 in that all (?) niche lines have since decided this is the way to go. When you have even more mainstream companies or direct sales one (I'm thinking about Gucci, Oriflame etc) present the "inspiration on the perfumer's mind" behind their newest creations -steadily and regularly- you realize that the author presentation does hold a very attractive bonus for a kind of consumer. Especially now that the niche customer who is a perfumista first and foremost has been a bit alienated by the rising prices of the very posh niche lines and is reverting to more economically sane choices (alongside the jadedness of juice that doesn't correspond to the claims made, as well). The main brands are thus emulating niche brand "stories" to appeal to that demographic! Personally I find this fascinating to watch! It's even MORE interesting to see that only the perfumer gets spotlight, as if the rest of the team (art direction, bottle design, copy writing etc.) is non sensical. This is not random. I believe there's a purpose behind it, a business one, as explained right above.

    Additionally having discussed with many many people interested in niche and buying lots of perfume, contrary to you (judging by your point of view presented) I'm not so sure any more they are solely interested in the art of it all. By that I don't mean they're not interested predominantly in the juice, because they are (we're talking perfume aficionados, not just people buying perfume). But several people just opt to choose, own and wear perfume just for the pleasure of it all. They do not necessarily internalize or intellectualize so much -at not least not so much as we do on blogs and a few discussion platforms- because for them perfume is a sensualist escape, a guilty pleasure, a renegade defiance of the societal rules that inflicts such strict controls nowadays on what we can and can't do when in public. In short, perfume is first and foremost, a personal statement that has to do with their personality, their place in the world, their pleasure principle and only much later with the art appreciation they may derive from the work presented by the brand (notice I'm not saying just perfumer, I will revert to this later on). This is why ultimately Secreations Magnifiques is being discussed so much, but so few people buy it. It is a perfect example of what I'm saying. (I realize fully that SM is an essential part of the ELDO line and the brand couldn't exist without the buzz about SM as it does).

    [continuing on next comment due to lack of space]

  48. [continuing from above]

    Furthermore, contrary to a Braque or a Miro, perfume is worn and therefore has the potential to be an accessory rather than something to admire and analyze in a museum. It's a worn commodity and as such it has tangible value.
    But if we claim that perfume is the same as a Braque or a Miro on artistic terms, then -as I said above in some reply- how can we engage in splitting? Aren't we deducting something from the work of art? You might argue that it's all about the liquid which is artful (so what are the rest, garbage?), but still there are finer points to be made; juice withholding as well in a plain plastic vial as a glass bottle, juice turning easier in decant presentation materials (it happens, I have had it happen myself), spraying vs oozing, dab vs. full spray etc etc. What the "artist" intended can so easily get trashed when we intervene ourselves. (As if we put a lace doily over a Miro; how would that look?)

    And now that I come to think of it: many people layer their scents with other scents (to create a personalized effect, to "amend" something they don't like, to just see for the fun of it all etc). How is that conductive to thinking perfume is an art and therefore to be respected in its integrity?

    As you may have surmised I have serious doubts myself as to whether perfume can be definitely considered as an art form.

  49. Anonymous05:19

    There is no value in losing decant customers. If you have 100 customers, and you cut out 10 of them, you now have 90 customers. Period. You have reduced your revenue by 10%. Nothing about that improves a perfumer's ability to 'pay the bills'. It seems the idea is that by cutting out the poor slob who wants a decant, it will attract another elite buyer who cares about the flacon. If the elite buyer cared about the flacon, they would already be buying them. Cutting out customers does not attract new ones, and it does not necessarily bring in more revenue. If he believes so, then he needs to raise his prices to measure the elasticity of demand, and see if the loss of decanters helps or hurts his revenue stream. Somehow I doubt an increased price would reduce the desire to decant. What would do that, and encourage more people to purchase the 'full experience' would be to LOWER prices to make the entire package more available to a greater number of people.

    I won't hold my breath on that one.

  50. Anon,

    I think you're losing the whole point of this. Please (re)read the comments above.

    I think people that are trying to explain this mathematically do not approach it from a business point of view. Let me explain.

    The total revenue might be less compared to without the decant customers, but the loss of customers because their itch shall be scratched for cheap and the liquidation of the brand account for losing more in the end. In luxury it's a definition to sell to few for high prices than to lots for lower prices; isn't that self-evident? I can't imagine anyone asking this from Hermes or such.
    The fact that people are so chaffed that Tauer comes out and says so is purely their ego getting hurt as if Tauer is their territorial property and are annoyed it's getting snatched off their hands.

    Andy is unique in liking to preserve his hardcore perfumista audience and pleasing the elite with 2 different lines. No fault there either from a marketing or from an ethical point of view in my books.

    Raising or lowering prices plays a role in positioning a brand. By raising you're positioning as luxury, by lowering as more approachable. The decanters on't be deterred by either because it plays no role in their choice (in fact the more expensive it is, the more prime target for decanting, no?), but it plays a huge role for the desire sparked in the elite buyers that are interested mainly in that which cannot be obtained easily (price/distribution). So the percentage of the decanters is more or less solid in either case, but the REST of the desired market share actually increases with each increment in price.

    Clear enough?

  51. Additionally, I need to point out that Andy in particular has noted that already elite buyers are buying the flacon (this is the reason sparking this interview in the first place) and the entire niche market works on this principle; I don't see anyone lowering their prices, they're all increasing them. Odd, eh?

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