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.