Fragrance Watch: Interview with Fabien Callens, Marketing Director, Kenneth Green Associates

In our latest guest blog, we share with you an insightful interview conducted by Imogen Matthews, of Imogen Matthews Associates.

Throughout his 20 years at Kenneth Green Associates, Fabien Callens has seen enormous change within the fragrance industry.

New launch activity has ballooned out of all recognition, brand ownership keeps shifting as major fragrance franchises change hands, and consumers have become more discerning about the brands they buy and use.

I’m delighted to welcome Fabien to the blog to discuss the effects of these changes and how the fragrance industry should plan for the future.

What are the most significant trends you’ve seen in the fragrance market during your time at KGA?

The most significant trend has been the commoditisation of fragrances with an increase in yearly launches (not just many new products, but also many new line extensions), the introduction of promotional activities typically used in the FMCG sector (Buy One Get One Free and large discounting) and the development of value offers (GWPs and Christmas sets).

The growth of niche fragrances seems to be a reaction to this commoditisation but niche is now at risk of becoming overwhelmed by a plethora of new products with less and less distinction between them.

How has the relentless increase in new fragrance launches affected the way you do business?

At KGA, we are very careful at striking the balance between investing in new product launches (which drive the market) and continuing to invest and develop our existing bestsellers.

We are conscious that we need to compete on newness but are also very focused on our pillar lines in order to develop a balanced portfolio that does not rely only on the latest fragrances.

This exercise has become more and more difficult but we firmly believe that it is better to invest in retaining existing customers instead of only focusing on recruitment.

What effect have so many launches had on the way that consumers choose and buy fragrance?

Customers have become confused with the plethora on offer and sometimes are more inclined to purchase a fragrance because it is the latest one, comes with a promotion or a discount and less because they actually like the fragrance.

This does not generate the all-important second purchase of the same fragrance.

Michael Edwards says that 44% of all 2016 fragrance launches were shared, which have overtaken women’s fragrance in numbers. Most are niche/artisan fragrances. Why do you think this is?

Niche fragrances tend to be created by a person, not a Marketing team.

As Serge Lutens says: “I create fragrances, not for a Man or a Woman but for whoever will love to wear them”.

There is no customer definition, no specific targets for these brands, hence no distinction in gender.

Do you think the acquisition of niche fragrances by the multinationals is a good or bad thing for the fragrance industry?

It depends on what these multinationals intend to do with these niche fragrances.

If they plan to let them run independently and keep their singularities whilst giving them a better financial base, then it will be beneficial for these brands.

What do you consider to be the biggest challenges facing the fragrance industry in 2017?

The challenges remain the same but it seems that macro-economic and political factors in particular might strongly weigh on purchasing power.

Fragrances are very often an impulse or a comfort purchase, but not necessarily viewed as essential.

What can fragrance industry players do better to engage with consumers with a view to them buying fragrance?

This is a difficult one. For me, the industry should concentrate more on the key ingredient: the scents.

You can sell the first bottle based on a name, an advertising campaign or a strong promotion, but you will not sell the second bottle if the fragrance is not distinctive and appealing enough.

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Coming soon from Imogen Matthews Associates: The Fragrance Report for 2017, featuring brand new exclusive consumer insights and analysis on men’s and women’s fragrances.

This article originally appeared here.