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Creating Time-Defying Scents

By Nancy Jeffries, Contributing Editor | May 24, 2011

CEW panel explains how to create timeless fragrances.

The scent of success was in the air as Veronique Gabai-Pinsky, The Estée Lauder Companies, and Christine Dagousset, Chanel, Inc., took the stage at New York’s Harmonie Club as part of Cosmetic Executive Women’s (CEW) Women in Beauty Series. The presenters spoke about their strategic approaches to creating scents that defy the hands of time.

“A beautiful fragrance never goes out of style," observed Carlotta Jacobson, CEW president. "When women find a fragrance they love, they continue to use it forever. Veronique Gabai-Pinsky and Christine Dagousset are two of the most renowned women in the fragrance industry, and I’m delighted they will be joining us to share their expertise about how fragrances are created to leave long lasting impressions.”

Gabai-Pinsky, global brand president of The Estée Lauder Companies’ Aramis and Designer Fragrances is responsible for the global business for the Aramis, Lab Series Skincare for Men, Coach, Tommy Hilfiger Toiletries, Donna Karan Cosmetics, Michael Kors Beauty, Kiton, Missoni, Sean John and Calyx brands. Dagousset, Executive Vice President, Fragrance and Beauté, Chanel, Inc., leads strategies designed to build the US business as well as enhance synergies and collaborations on all global activities, overseeing long-range planning, new product development, marketing, sales, and promotions.

Fragrance Activity and Brand Equity
Moderator Jenny Fine began the discussion noting that fragrance sales are going up, however, noted Gabai-Pinsky, who agreed that there is new activity taking place, the average numbers are hiding different realities. “There are classics and other high end fragrances that are driving the bulk of the business,” she said. “In addition, while great launches also contribute to the growth, maintaining the support of the classics is absolutely important. We’ve been blessed with great launches, like Coach Poppy and DKNY Pure this year, but the classics are also important,” she said.

Dagousset noted the continuing success of Coco Mademoiselle. “Coco Mademoiselle has been doing exceptionally well and people are continuing to look for quality after 10 years,” she said.
Veronique Gabai-Pinsky, global brand president, Aramis and Designer Fragrances, BeautyBank and IdeaBank, The Estée Lauder Companies, Inc. (left), and Christine Dagousset, executive vice president, fragrance and beauté, Chanel, Inc., at CEW’s Women In Beauty Series presentation.

Gabai-Pinsky said, “The crisis impacted people in their financial planning, but it was much deeper. It resulted in a loss of confidence and people had to reassess their own values and decide what they would pay a premium for. There were a couple of consequences. There would be a polarization of what people consider true luxury and what they considered commodity. The quality and focus on juice has always been done, but now it is important to understand and explain the juice and the experience of the fragrance.”

Dagousset referred to the Chanel model, which maintains Coco Mademoiselle at number one, noting, “This position is a result of our loyalty to the product. We don’t launch every year and we’re very true to our fragrance. We don’t treat them as a commodity. We don’t give away our products. We think that at one point the customer will get back to us if they value quality.”

Gabai-Pinsky added, “In the case of Cashmere Mist, it is the juice that drives the business. In seven years, we have gone from number eleven to number three with the fragrance. We have introduced new delivery around the juice that keeps our customer loyal, and we put our money into fragrance sampling. We have also cut our promotional spend and have reinvested in building the equity.” She noted that it is essential to be respectful of quality and the consumer. “We never say, ‘oh this will be a success for one year.’ Don’t launch if you’re not ready. It’s hard to recuperate from failure,” she added.

While it is difficult to know when the juice is ready, Gabai-Pinsky said, “Never compromise on quality. Be sure you have a message simple enough to understand and compelling enough to be intriguing.”

Dagousset said, “We have an in-house nose and whenever a fragrance is ready, we launch it. We trust our creators to know what’s right. For us, it’s a long process. Sometimes it’s five years. Chanel Bleu took five to seven years to create the juice and then the packaging. But when it’s ready, it’s perfect,” she said.

Gabai-Pinsky said, “The understanding of the world becomes paramount in fragrance creation. We’ll never touch the equity of the brand. This is how the brand is understood and how it sends its message. As the world is evolving at the speed of light, with growth in Brazil and China, for example, you have to take into consideration the olfactive tastes of these parts of the world. You have to accept the fact that you may never be truly global, and that some brands will be more successful in some regions than others. It’s all right as long as you keep the brand equity.”

Dagousset concurred, noting that the first time she went to a fragrance bar in the US she found it depressing.

“If you lose the ability to seduce and create desire, you’re not selling fragrance. When I think of my mother and grandmother, and the way they used scent, fragrance was so special.”

Gabai-Pinsky added, “After a great juice you need a way to present it and to explain it that will make you feel so special. Without that it’s not right. You have to reinvent the experience around the fragrance. That is key.”

Showcasing Fragrance

Dagousset said it is very important to go to the roots of a brand, while Gabai-Pinsky emphasized keeping initiatives going to always drive traffic. “Make sure you have the story when you have the fragrance, like with DKNY Pure,” said Gabai-Pinsky. “We started pre-recession when there was a crazy frenzy for shopping, and we started looking at truly going back to the roots of perfumery with Pure DKNY. So, the entire platform of Pure is based on one ingredient (Ugandan Vanilla), an environmentally friendly supply chain, and giving back to the communities harvesting the juice.”

Dagousset cited Bleu de Chanel, saying, “We raised awareness with new advertising and since it was a men’s launch, it was different for us at Chanel. We have utilized Chanel Confidential, our new website, which shows what’s happening behind the brand, and we are always telling our story in different ways. We have our own roses. We have our own noses.”

“Social media is very intriguing for us and we had to get a little reverse mentoring to get more information about it. It has opened enormous possibilities. What I love about it is that it allows us to change the way we tell the story to the consumers. We started a Be Delicious Club on Facebook that is unbelievable, with customers talking to each other all around the world. It is opening up brand building,” said Gabai-Pinsky.

In answer to a question about preparing for Christmas, Dagousset said, “We are continuing to do what we are doing, which is making sure we have great programs and great products.”

Gabai-Pinsky said, “Reassessment of values has forced us to look at our own business model. We fine tune every day and we balance classics and new products, doing it when it makes sense.”

Dagousset noted the importance of looking at the ingredients. “If you’re going high end it’s about the creative process that goes into the juice, with a little less marketing and a little more passion for the product. Chanel puts trust in its creators,” Dagousset said.

Gabai-Pinsky said that to a certain degree the way Chanel operates is the way Lauder operates, saying, “I don’t believe market research the way we do it today is necessarily right. It’s understanding, basically what is happening in the world and what’s influencing desires. Market research answers a need, but our business is about creating a want.”

Dagousset added, “If you know the brand you don’t have to prove yourself every year. We’re a private company, so in the long term it’s a profitable model, so you have to be free from the financial pressure, which is not something that can be grasped immediately.”

Both executives agreed that keeping the passion alive and letting the talent around you emerge is key to maintaining professionalism. Additional information about CEW and its upcoming programs and presentations may be found at:

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