At industry gatherings over the past year, I have been pulled aside countless times by perfumers and other fragrance industry colleagues and asked what I make of fragrance critics and bloggers. These colleagues tend to be filled with a mix of anxiety, irritation and distaste born of a sense of being either misunderstood or misrepresented in venues outside of the industry’s control. While I share many of these misgivings, one cannot paint with too wide a brush or ignore the fact that new media has changed the playing field for all of human communication and interaction—and it’s not changing back.
— Jeb Gleason-Allured, the editor of Perfumer & Flavorist magazine, from Everyone’s a Critic: Are Fragrance Bloggers and Critics Good for the Industry? at GCI. (found via 1000 Fragrances)
This anxiety/question is popping up in all fields of endeavor. On the one hand, information is more widely available than ever before. On the other hand, it is often difficult to discern the quality, reliability, or universality of that information. Alas, reader beware!
That said, I am grateful for blogs like this one, which open up the forum for conversation around a particular subject matter to those interested in said subject. YIPPEE!!
Robin, thanks for the link. I found Gleason's article well-reasoned and balanced – definitely worth reading. I guess the word to you and other perfume bloggers is: keep at it!
Anyone who thinks blogs are bad for the industry has not seen my credit card statement since I discovered this one.
But flipness aside, it's a good article and I agree with most of what he says. And I want to add that while it's true that misinformation abounds on the internet, the cream rises to the top. True, I arrived here via google search–but I stayed because I found the reviews to be clear, well written, and remarkably consistent with my experiences of the actual perfumes. So it's natural selection!
It is true, but I think it has hit fragrance harder than some other fields because up until fairly recently, the fragrance companies had control over what was said & where. You could argue that if they hadn't so entirely stifled independent opinion in the mainstream media, there wouldn't be 100+ fragrance blogs now.
It is a nice article. I would note that the anxiety is not just on the part of the industry, but also on the part of consumers — I've been surprised at how many people were taken aback by the Turin/Sanchez book, and felt the need to point out that “it's only their opinions” — as if any criticism was anything but opinions.
Dead on, Peanut. I would add that some perfumers and their advertisers are probably most afraid of just those sites, like NST, that do offer quality, reliability, and universality (or, at least, a really good cross-section). A balanced site is all the more dangerous to them, precisely because many people trust the reasoned opinions of amateurs over the statements of advertisers with money to make.
LOL — but as the author points out, people in the fragrance industry might not agree on which is “the cream”
Amen to that – I probably never would have discovered many niche perfumers or the wonder that is purchasing samples and decants without this blog.
I've also tried (and bought full bottles of )things that I probably never would have tried before because of reading this blog and the comments – it stands to reason that the more you read about, talk about, and analyze a subject, the more you will come to love and appreciate it's nuances (and the more money you will spend pursuing your passion).
Without NST and Perfume: The Guide, I don't think that I would have ever understood certain notes in perfume or why some perfumes gave me a headache, let alone gave the perfumes another chance as my nose developed. I certainly never would have let perfumes with an iota of “stank” have a chance to dry-down and perhaps become something lovely and interesting – they would have been scrubbed off during the early stages and I never would have know what could be.
The cream will always float to the top and uninformed blogs about the subject will not end up being influential among true perfumistas (or aspiring perfumistas).
It makes me laugh to read some comments on Amazon about The Guide though – some people really take offense at the ratings. The people who argue that something must be great if it has sold oodles and oodles of bottles are the funniest, as if popularity has anything to do with quality – and I say this as someone who has had at least a full 50% of the perfumes that I like rated 3 stars or below. I think that one of them was even called insipid and another was labeled “horrible” – and perhaps I'll agree after my nose has developed more, but perhaps not.
The thing is that from the industry standpoint, the fact that people are buying samples & decants is not necessarily a good thing. It's pretty clear that blogs & critics are good for consumers, whether they're good for the industry, I don't know. I am pretty sure that whatever additional perfume sales are generated by blogs, the industry would happily forgo to see us all disappear.
Ha, ha – that's true; I didn't even think about the fact that decants are bad from their viewpoint. Why sell a decant when you can force people to buy full bottles? And, of course, they aren't even the ones selling decants.
Of course, I would never buy a full bottle of something really expensive if I couldn't find a way to really try it ahead of time. I've been burned too many times by something that smelled lovely in the store and turned rancid on me during the dry down.
Well, the powers that be were upset about the printing press back in the day…I say it's good for consumers. I am hopeful that usefuls blogs and citicism will help bring better fragrance products into the market; keep quality classics from being discontinued; and prevent the industry from feeding us boring fragrance drivel that dominated the market so much the past decade. Can we all thank the bloggers and critics from brining back such wonders as Donna Karan Black Cashmere, Signature, etc, …. I think it's good to shake things up. The fragrance industry needs to figure out how to re-work their development, marketing, etc. Eventually it will make them stronger. I'm more worried about limitations and restrictions on essences and raw materials.
In my opinion, industry for the moment has not understand that some rules have changed.
Blogs and critics are exactly on the oposite side than all their ad' campaigns.
They discover that some people are interested in the juice, not only the myth.
Except perhaps Hermes, all mainstream brand are only using sexy images to sell perfume. None of them is using scent notes to sell perfumes.
I would be very glad to transform every girls I meet in N. Kidman with a No5 pshiiit .. but it doesnt work.
The first niche were only selling … perfume … before being a snob affair. (I still beleive that SL has created snobery in perfume) .. If you look L'artisan, CSP, … at the beginning they only sold what was written on the box.
Since Dior “Poison”, for Mainstream brand, the juice is only a thin part of a perfume. A perfume for them is first “a concept” … they need a name, a bottle and after that a juice.
So blogs and critics are good for industry … less ad, more vanilla ..
And I think that's definitely their short-sightedness. They're more interested in consumers than customers. Blogs (and the resultant decants/swaps/etc) allow us to become, first, informed, educated consumers – and after that we become customers.
All the industry want are sheep who buy because they are told to do so by a marketing dept.
(and I'm in marketing!!!!:-)
“…a sense of being either misunderstood or misrepresented in venues outside of the industry’s control.”
The last part of that phrase says it all. Any time a company, government, or individual starts complaining about not being able to control the flow of information, whether it's via old media or new, I automatically start to distrust everything they say. If they think there's misinformation out there, they should start their own damn blogs, and if they're good, we'll read 'em.
Gleason-Allured sounds like a very smart and astute man. It's a shame that modern technology/communication make some so anxious, though that's always been true, I suppose.
Thanks for pointing out that Perfumer & Flavorist journal — looks like some interesting articles there. I think my dream might be to work for IFF in NY, even as something very unglamorous. LOL
Wouldn't that be lovely? Now, if only they would listen to the great bloggers and critics out there and “un-reformulate” some of the classics that they ruined – like the original Shalimar and Emeraude! I still have fond memories of my grandmother's Emeraude.
Well, do note that they think bloggers are in it for the money too (an idea that gave me a nice laugh given that my family delights in pointing out that my hourly rate is probably less than I'd make flipping burgers at McDonalds).
“If they think there's misinformation out there, they should start their own damn blogs, and if they're good, we'll read 'em.”
My thoughts exactly. Plus, I am *really* tired of the fragrance industry constantly riding the waahmbulance. We've seen behind the curtain, we know what you do is not magical alchemy, and it makes us more likely to love fragrance than less.
I do think they'd like to find new ways to embrace & educate consumers. The industry has been very welcoming of Sniffapalooza, for instance. They'd just rather not embrace consumers who have negative things to say — and in that, it's hard to blame them. They had it nice for a good long time, it can't be easy to see the sheep start to speak up.
Exactly…this all reminds me of the same reception blogs and websites got in medicine! True, the stakes are a little higher, but the same in group/out group thinking applies.
What Regina said.
The industry can either fight the web (a truly dumb idea) or work with it. After all, has it hurt Amazon's business since they opened up their site to customer comments on the various products they sell? No of course not. And I haven't seen publishers refusing to sell their books on Amazon because of customer comments.
The smart people in the industry will cooperate with bloggers, providing information, interviews, etc. They'll understand that it can improve their businesses. Change or die, as my B school prof used to say.
So far, haven't seen many of those smart people. Old habits die hard.
Ann, I'm more worried about regulations & reformulations too. Unfortunately don't see that blogs will have any effect on that at all.
While Hermes is better than most, the ad image for Kelly Caleche was most certainly meant to be sexy, I'd say!
Agree that the juice is almost an afterthought much of the time, that's pretty clear.
I am also irritated by the glitzy, uninformative ads for perfume. I hope that one day a more factual approach comes into favour, as the average perfume buyer or giftee acquires scent in a pretty haphazard manner, as far as I can see. The same was so for me over the years. I got on and liked what I had rather than choosing what I knew I liked.
Yes, that's really a major problem, esp. in light of the fact that a beloved formula can be changed at any time! I'm already worried about some of my favorite fragrances that feature sandalwood as a major note. I know there've been other posts about this topic, so I'll just shut up. But I always think it would be funny to see outcry from perfumistas at the level of the “New Coke” debacle to try and fix the reforumlation problem!
And I'd love to smell an original Emeraude too! My mom wore it when I was young, and I'd have no idea whether it was the original or dumbed down version. But I have fond memories of it. Even the name sounds so beautiful.
I may lose sleep tonight worrying about the anxiety that the fragrance industry is experiencing at the thought that we can actually find out what a fragrance is like via the web and decants, rather than flying out to buy something based on ridiculous ads. Personally, I too have purchased FAR more perfume since discovering these sites and services and with much greater satsifaction (my husband is somewhat less happy). So instead of being such anal retentive control freaks they should be happy about the HUGE interest such sites and services generate.
As far as blogs having no effect on whether a fragrance is reformulated, I disagree. Manufacturers should, by now, be wising up to the fact that they may slip me one altered and substandard reformulation, but they won't slip me two. Furthermore, I would have no hesitation blogging about it 'til my fingers dropped off! If they were really smart, they dedicate entire departments of people to scanning the blogs to find out what they want and then give it to them! $$$$$$$$$$$
BWAHAHAHAHAH!!!! Beware the power of the blog!!!!
Joking aside, it’s about time consumers had a forum for their opinions of fragrances. Fragrance manufacturers have been spoiled for a long time. Other manufacturers solicit the opinions of their customers as a means of improving their products. As many have complained on this blog, there are hundreds of fragrance launches each year; how many are of any quality? Yes, to a certain extent creating a perfume is an art, but a bottle of fragrance is not a one-of-a-kind Degas or Picasso painting. In the end it becomes a consumer product, one of thousands or millions just like it that will be offered for sale on store shelves, like laundry detergent. And when it comes to subjectivity or objectivity in judging fragrances, well, that can apply to laundry detergent too. You may feel that my favorite does not have the cleaning power you require, and moreover you may hate the scent. Fragrance companies have brainwashed us with the mumbo-jumbo of their ad copy to make us believe we are not buying a mere bottle of scented, colored liquid, but something ineffable, indescribable, out of this world………
And as others have pointed out, sharing opinions on a blog can lead to sales. I’ve bought more fragrance in the past year than I ever have in my life! It’s all because I can consider a variety of opinions, decide what’s worth trying, and from there decide what’s worth buying. Power to the consumer!
I am also a more satisfied consumer – finding fragrances I'd never heard of, experimenting with different styles/accords, etc. I've certainly spent more this year – on decants and full bottles – than ever before. My chosen expenditures run the gamut from department store finds to unique niche frags. I think the “industry” is just having some sour grapes that all this money is transacting and they don't have a corner on the frag market and how frags are sold anymore. When we demand (and get) what we want, then it makes them work harder. The “test market” has turned into a few million people. Look what happened to poor Notorious, Covet, and others that got creamed by reviewers. They are too worried about the next great thing or all the BS marketing and making a frag that everyone will like, then actually giving people something interesting that will satisfy some.
Fascinating. I came to perfume through Makeupalley's reviews. These wildly diverse experiences and often very perceptive observations piqued my interest in a way non of the industry's inane ads had ever done. I can assure you that my piqued interest meant serious business as far as one person buying perfume can ever be serious business, where before it had been all but non-existent.
As for The Guide, what I personally found a turn off is not the book as such (which just doesn't interest me), but the worshiping and adulation of Turin and the (at the time of the book release) seemingly incessant referring to his words, as if they were scripture and as if he (with sidekick Sanchez) was the only one who had ever published a guide book on perfumery. The value of boards in particular is, imho, in the sharing of opinions on equal footing and in that context even the most educated or senior one is indeed just that, a single opinion: valuable for sure, but not the authoritative or definitive word on it. After all, it is no science. So if one voice starts to dominate the discourse – and I'm not faulting Turin himself here – the equal exchange between aficionado's gets lost and the dynamics change into something more fit for a school class, a lecturing hall or a church. My guess is that some of the annoyance ('it is only their opinions') with the Guide had to do with this phenomenon. Anyhow, I left the scene. I do suppose things will have normalized at some point again…
Lilydale, well, the interesting thing is that I never would have started a blog if it was easier to find information about new fragrances…
Joe, interesting — why would you want to work for IFF?
Great link and great thread, Robin! Thanks very much.
My little hope is that industry types would quit their collective bellyachin', wake up and smell the aldehydes, and make changes based on what consumers really want- which they could find out easily enough by scouring the blogs, especially NST, instead of disparaging them. Give us the alternative of 15ml bottles, more and better info, fewer releases and better quality. There you go!
ummmm, forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but isn't it the mainsteam brands who are raking in the big bucks!?!? It is in their best interests to keep any dissention quiet but basically, it is out of ti\eir hands and they had better move with the times. The stupid argument that critics of bloggers make about us not having industry knowledge is stupid cos the idiotic copy in ads is most certainly not written by anyone who knows or probably even respects perfume but we have to listen to THIER drivel. Blogging, and niche perfumery is good for the industry as hopefully enough pressure may be brought to bear on the mainstream companies and quality can only go up. (hopefully)
Everyone has so many “All right!” statements, it's impossible to comment on all the positive things I want to say. Collectively, I really feel our spirit of unity on this blog.
Nothing is going to hurt perfume sales, nothing. I feel bad that I like so many perfumes seasoned perfumistas frown upon. But this blog and even Turin and Sanchez have a right to their opinion, as do I. But you have to get over such things quickly.
If the industry thinks people's opinions will hurt their sales, perhaps they should examine their motives. This is America. We have freedom of speech. I can't believe we were ever censored.
Besides, Robin and other contributors are always fair. No-one argues over one's taste (how can you?) Most consumers of fragrance are not even aware there are perfume blogs.
If fragrance companies would read the blogs, they would find out that we are sick of fruity florals, unimaginative names and boring bottles. People know so much more than they used to. Listen to them!
Mr. Gleason-Allured's article was a pleasure to read for its content and because it was so well-written in English. As he mentioned, some blogs are “sub-literate” and frustrate me to the point of not reading them at all. (English is not my mother tongue but I was born in an English-speaking country.) A good editor is needed before committing to print.
What “poor” Notorious — is Notorious not selling? I know poor Covet did not do well, but I liked it!
I doubt there's any company on earth that likes the sound of “power to the consumer”, LOL…
Lou, but I think it is precisely because Turin is the only game in town that his words are “taken as scripture” — imagine if Ebert was one of 3 movie reviewers, total? I thought the Turin/Sanchez book was wonderful, but there ought to be more opinions out there — I mean, you say “as if he was the only one who had ever published a guide book on perfumery”, but offhand I can't think of another critical guidebook. The other books I know of were all uniformly positive, and only geared towards helping you find the perfume you might like out of all the wonderful perfumes, if you know what I mean.
There you go — you saw a void and filled it. If the fragrance industry thinks there's misinformation out there, the way to counter it is with MORE information, not less.
No one likes to be controlled.
If it wasn't for blogs like this, I never would have gotten into perfumery and be spending the amount of $$$ I am now to explore scents. The industry-especially niche – should be thankful for this media or just get over it.
I, too, have bought more perfume in two years than over the span of my life after starting to read perfume blogs (NST top fave) and the Turin/Sanchez book. I've noticed that there are some wishes for the retail perfume world that crop up time and again. 1. Bring back original formulations (where possible). 2. Admit it when a perfume is reformulated. 3. Sell perfume in smaller quantities (15/30mls)-and price accordingly. 4. Give some warning about perfumes being discontinued, ask first! 5. Write informative copy. I'm sure there are more, these are what are top of mind today. Knowledge is power.
I understand it perfectly. It would be nice to find a book that is informative, lists notes, and a few good and bad reviews. It is irritating when people make snarky remarks on your favorites–but really pleasing when Turin, the perfume guru, smiles upon your choices. But I have learned not to rely on the critics. I like the People's Choice Awards on movies. And normal people's ( Not frag. bloggers) comments on mainstream and niche fragrances they have tried.
Critics look for masterpieces, most people buy what they like without a lot of, if any research. I am so glad that Sephora.com has opened a review section on each and every item sold. I personally like the perfume remarks.
I didn't mean to cast you on the role of critic, Robin. You are fair, and realize every-one's taste is different. That definitely is not Turin!
Now I have to give my two pence… I write my thesis about common sense and blogs:-) I am a blogger in Germany for three years now and these days I got offers from companies to write from them.
I guess they try to convince people that they allow critics, allow beeing sincere and have differnet opinions that go further than the advertising.
At the end of the day it remains all the same, like some critical philosophers said.
The only thing we have as a consumer: information, and the mighty creditcard.
I hear what you say, but I've never seen reason to regard Turin the only game in town, that's exactly my point. I've never found his opinion more interesting (or less random) than of numerous other commenters and bloggers. Moreover, it seems to me we're talking applied art (like fashion) not fine art (like cinema). As a consumer, I first and foremost seek information on perfume, not a single person's 'critique' – particularly not when it is presented as authoritative (The Guide?). And frankly, to me, the experiences of women, who are actually wearing the scent, like the dress or the high heel, are just a bit more relevant than the male point of view. It's not that I'm not interested (and surely some men wear women's scents as well as women's clothes), but it certainly won't do as the main source – 'the only game in town'. It feels quite 'retro' and conservative to have a man's opinion on a women's product somehow to become to be seen as 'the only game in town' against many eloquent opinions of women, that suddenly somehow hardly count.
Robin, I don't know that if I was a fragrance brand, I'd find out what consumers wanted by reading blogs — neither the writers nor the commenters are necessarily representative of the market, you know?
“Most consumers of fragrance are not even aware there are perfume blogs” — so true!
Well, again, “we” probably aren't representative of the market as a whole — clearly, not everyone is sick of fruity florals since they're still selling! Agree it was a well written article, and gosh, we'd love to have a good editor
I don't know that they'll ever be thankful but I suppose they'll have to get over it.
Here I go again, I must get a life!
It occurred to me last night after posting my comment that in all likelihood, the fragrance companies really don't care if we're going to like a fragrance enough to buy a second bottle. Rather than hitting a small market many times, their aim is to hit us all, at once, and then move on to the next substandard issue released with copious quantities of advertising and hyperbole. That's why there are soooo many releases now, quantity over quality. Please note that there are a lot of exceptions to this and still many find perfume houses, but generally speaking. . . .
One last thought, Robin, why don't you write a guide to perfume? I guarantee it would fly off the shelves and everyone on this blog would be salivating to get their hands on it, including me. You won't, however, be allowed to stop your contributions to this blog!!
They yanked it from the Macy's near me.
Like anything else—or what influences any other industry, public discussion keeps expectations high and people are more likely to invest in something of high quality, even if it's expensive. Plus, imagine all the free market research the fragrance industry could have, simply by being a fly on the wall online and getting an idea of how their products are being recieved. I can't imagine how this would be a bad thing for them. The only problem I could see, is for companies that use animal–based ingredients that were previously concealed in their formulas, who might get negative feedback from the public (perhaps not in Europe but definately here). Overall, I think this blogger “phenomenon” would improve the industry (although, I'm sure perfumers and flavorists would never actually admit to being artistically influenced by the uncouth masses).
I second! Although I think I remember your saying somewhere that this isn't something you'd want to to, it would delight me. While I ADORE the Turin/Sanchez book, my biggest disappointment about it was the lack of Robin-style reviews, which give you a good sense of what you can expect something to smell like in addition to a critical response.
But in some way, aren't they giving us what we want? On the whole, we're a disposable society (on many levels) and companies are responding to what they see.
Sometimes that's the case for SA's too, believe it or not!
Holly, that's flattering but beyond the fact that I don't really think I'm knowledgeable enough, I much prefer the immediacy & feedback of blogging. Writing a book about perfume sounds boring in comparison. And if I wasn't allowed to stop doing the blog don't know how on earth I'd pull it off anyway!
The guide could be more like a pamphlet perhaps. Like something you could carry with you. I for one would love something that is not a coffee table book-there's enough of that. But something is needed for the everyday person written by an everyday person (someone who understands us). You should do it Robin. You deserve the rewards that would come from it too. Or Your fellow writers could help you put it all together. It doesn't have to be huge. You could even use Xulon press.
Wow, Macy's is getting tough…they seem to remove things really quickly these days. Too bad.
Oh, I can imagine how it could be a bad thing — if all the buzz is negative, I'm sure they'd rather have no buzz at all.
Ah, but in a book trying to cover everything, you've no room for that kind of review! Another reason I prefer to blog.
LOL — it is true, if we have to suffer through ad copy, they should have to suffer through blogs
You know, I guess that's just a joke… it sounds like it could be fun working with clients of a flavor/fragrance company, but it's probably about as exciting as working for Shell Oil or Kraft or some other chemical-based conglomerate. I did some poking around and found out that IFF & Symrise's American operations are both in NJ and I've been considering moving back, so who knows… stay tuned. LOL.
You'd think with the $ they spend, some of the bigger companies could put together marketing test-groups that would eliminate negative buzz, wouldn't you?
It's why I sometimes think marketing is a joke — how can companies *supposedly* do so much testing and opinion-gathering, and still turn out flops, whether they be perfumes, films, or what have you? Might as well just go back to trial and error or throwing darts and seeing what sticks.
Givaudan & Firmenich are there too, and I think Mane as well? So your opportunities will be many
But it's all already here…you can print it yourself and you have a free book
Here here! for Giveitomespicey. I am on the same page as your comments. The perfume industry should give me some kind of award for all the perfume I've bought. I am soon going to have to build a perfume room onto my house. We need smaller bottles, even some of my favorites have turned…after eons of course. They should be grateful and stop making that *safe* crap..excuse me, drivel. But I guess they are targeting a certain market–teens and people who don't know there are other options. They may not win awards, but they make tons of money. So shut-up and make better fragrance.