Friday, July 17, 2020

Launching a new perfume in an uncertain world


    I had been writing about a new fragrance I was developing and then stopped while the fragrance was aging for the required 30 days. Now the aging days are over and I've launched the fragrance, it's called $timeout. The name is derived from a computer command that halts an ongoing routine for... some amount of time. When that time is up, either the old routine is restarted or $timeout switches you to a new routine. "$timeout" seemed like an appropriate name considering our current Corona virus situation.

The bottle

    I had planned to bottle $timeout with a press-on spray pump. Until now I had always used screw-on pumps. Crimp-on pumps are the industry standard as they are cheap and can be mounted by an automatic machine on an assembly line. But crimp-on pumps require some sort of machine, either manual or automatic. I have neither.

    I was introduced to press-on spray pumps at a packaging trade show and told they could be attached to a bottle by hand... or at least it might be possible to attach them without a machine. I should have become suspicious when I couldn't find any of these press-on pumps from a U.S. source. But, when I saw press-on pumps and matching bottles advertised on the Plush Folly (U.K.) website, I watched their video and bought a small supply. Now I was going to use them for $timeout. It didn't work out.

    It turns out that a good deal of force is required to mount a press-on spray pump to a glass bottle. The video shows a hammer being used with a warning that getting it right could be tricky. Pump and bottle must be perfectly aligned when the force is applied. Trying to do it by hand can damage the pump and even break some glass. After breaking two bottles and damaging three pumps I gave it up in favor of the bottles with screw-on pumps that I had on hand. This is the bottle shown in the picture.

How would you rate my new fragrance?


    Launching a new fragrance on the internet without a celebrity endorsement or a ton of social media promotion is a risky path to success. But I want to give you an opportunity to experience $timeout under the most favorable conditions and so I am making a special offer here.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

The new perfume: thoughts and preparations for a small, limited launch


    I've been documenting the sometimes boring details of developing a new perfume, how starting with aroma materials in dropper bottles, the drops are weighed out into grams, grams are converted into percents and those percents give me my production formula. I've made a small production batch from this formula and if you want to see what I've done, go to this web page. I won't bore you here.

    Now that I've produced the finished fragrance I'll wait a month before I bottle it. But while the fragrance is aging -- blending the components into a harmonious whole -- I'll be busy with other activities this launch will require.

    I've started writing an ad for my new perfume. I've got the main picture already and I want to superimpose a bottle of my new perfume on that picture. But before I can do that I have to select a bottle and "produce" that bottle with fragrance and label. Sometimes I'll dummy up a bottle for photography if the fragrance isn't ready yet. In this case I won't do that because I want the color of the fragrance to be right, not just something I've imagined. So I'll hold off on the bottle photo until my fragrance is fully blended and shows its true color.

    I've mentioned before that my market is the people who visit my online shop, PGLightyears.com. That is a small market, too small to expect much in the way of sales and profits. As to why I'm not planning a more aggressive launch, let's talk a bit.

    An aggressive launch -- which you would want -- requires both a sales push and logistical backup. Your sales push would involve setting up distribution. This could involve getting retail stores to carry your fragrance and then working your tail off to send them buyers. Distribution alone won't work. And it is the marketer's -- not the retailer's -- job to generate desire for the fragrance and sales. The retailer just offers an opportunity for people to obtain your fragrance. They aren't going to sell it for you. All this involves phone calls, travel, personal meetings, networking and anything else that you can think of to make it happen.

    How about online? Other people's websites and social media? It's the same problem but even more complicated. You have to entice the site owners to offer your perfume and then send them good traffic. What about the shipping? That will come back to you. You can't expect social media people to stock and ship your fragrance. If they take orders those orders will go to you for fulfillment and, based on my experience, there can be delays in forwarding those orders to you (after all, they already have payment in full and may not be so eager to pass on your share to you) so, by the time you get these orders, your customers may be a bit grumpy and less favorably inclined toward your fragrance than they were initially.

    Working with other websites and social media people, you also have the problem of refunds. If you have to refund an order for any reason, will you be able to claw back the refund amount from the person who took the order and pocketed their profit?

    Logistics is a big pain. When I had a warehouse with a crew to process and ship orders, the more orders we got, the happier I was. (At the time, these were not orders for perfume.) But as I scaled back my involvement, shipping became a chore for a reduced staff. For a while it worked but supervising people takes a lot of focus. Now I don't want the headaches of managing a staff while trying to develop new fragrances and writing about them. But what about you?

    If you are going to sell perfume you have to be prepared to ship it yourself or arrange with some service to ship it for you. And "shipping" isn't just shipping. It's also customer service, having a plan to take care of lost orders or returns or just dissatisfied customers. Even when your operation is running smoothly this can be a far more expensive and time consuming task than you might imagine, even when almost all of your customers are honest and generally pleased with what they get from you.

    I hope this helps explain why I am not aggressively pushing sales of my fragrances. I want to create but I don't want the responsibilities of building an organization again. But YOU have to push if you want to sell your fragrance. It won't sell itself. So you have to do all those things that I once did. Ultimately you'll find it's a rewarding experience, even if, at times, it can be stressful.


Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Weighing your drops can get messy


    I've been writing about a new perfume I'm developing. I've posted some pictures of the tools I'm using here. In describing the project I explained how I was working with dropper bottles and I claimed that by weighing out the drops in grams I could translate my formula into percentages. I mentioned that, like it or not, I would always weigh out a second bottle to confirm the weights from the first bottle. In this case I weighed out three bottles and have compared the numbers. I've posted the numbers here.

    When you look at the numbers in my Exhibit A, you'll see that none of the weights are an exact match from bottle to bottle. For the aroma materials used in a smaller amount, the weights are close. For the aroma materials used in larger amounts, there is more deviation. For example, the three weights for "Tonk" are 5.950, 5.405, and 5.606. So what weight do I go with? Here's where it gets messy.

    What I want is simple. I want to write out my formula in percentages. Once I have this I can easily scale up for any amount of production -- kilos, gallons, drums, or whatever. I can also send my formula out to a fragrance house and have them put it together for me, in any amount I require. But right now I'm looking at some messy numbers. The weights from A, B, and C don't quite match. Here's how I handle this.

    To start, I've taken an average of each of these weights and see if these numbers give me something practical to work with. As it is, the averages look workable. Remember, these measurements are in grams so the difference between 5.950 (the heaviest "A" weight) and 5.6 (the average for three tries) is just 0.35 gram (35 hundredths of a gram!)

    In Exhibit B, I've calculated percentages for each of my seven aroma materials. Ideally, when added, the percentages should total 100. Everything, together, really amounts to 100 percent, even if my numbers do not. But in the real world, as in my example, the sum will always be slightly off but I can work with my "99 percent" numbers. Although the sum of the percentages for A, B, and C (0.9952, 0.9996, 0.9995) are each closer to 100 than the sum of my averages, I'll go with the sum of the averages -- 0.9913. We're looking at a very small discrepancy.

    One point now may shock you. After all this weighing and jiggling numbers, when I get ready to go into production, I'll use the contents of all three bottles, A, B, and C. In fact, I'll just mix them together.

    This fragrance will be 7-1/2 percent oil to 92-1/2 percent alcohol and water (a light fragrance) so the three bottles together should give me enough oil to produce about 18 or 20 bottles of finished fragrance. If sales take off, I'll send the formula to my friends in Bangkok and have them make more for me, perhaps a kilo. This would allow me to produce a bit over 12 kilos of finished fragrance.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Drops into a bottle: mixing and weighing can put you to sleep


    Today (5/21/20) I weighted out the formula for my new perfume. I had finalized the formula in a small, plastic mixing pot. The contents of that mixing pot were 87 drops of aroma materials from seven dropper bottles. Simple. I was pleased with the results so I was ready for the next step which I am describing here.

    I needed to make a larger batch for two reasons. First, to be sure I would still be in love with this fragrance as it headed toward a production batch. Second, I had to weigh my ingredients and an 87 drop batch was too small to give me any accuracy. By weighing my ingredients I could calculate the percentages of the formula, by weight, that each ingredient represented. Then, when making my larger batch, I could add each material to the mixture by the required weight rather than having to "drip drop drip" materials from dropper bottles. Follow me as I explain the process.

    To start, I multiplied by ten the number of drops of each of my raw materials. This brought the formula up to 870 drops. From experience I know that this volume would be contained in a bottle of 1-fluid ounce capacity, a very standard size bottle for a finished perfume.

    I cleared away my desktop and set up my electronic balance, being sure to level it. The model I use has a built-in bubble level and, when each of the four adjustable legs are in correct position, the bubble is centered in the level.

    To start the weighing out process, I zero the balance so it reads "0.000," and then I weigh the bottle I'm using to contain the formula. This is called the "tare" weight. I record it in my notebook, Now I begin weighing out the aroma materials. Before weighing each material I zero the balance so that the weight shown will be just for that material. When I've added the required number of drops of each material, I wait for the readout to freeze and indicate that it is showing the correct weight (in grams, to three decimal points but accurate only to two). I then record this weight in my notebook. Then I'm on to the next ingredient: zero the balance, drop, drop, drop from a dropper bottle, read the weight and record it in my notebook. I go through this for all seven ingredients of this particular formula.

But here's where it gets dicey

    Squeezing out drops from what is, in essence, an eyedropper, can be tedious. It's not bad for the small quantities, for the original batch when for two ingredients the drops numbered just five each and where the most plentiful ingredient, just 25 drops. But multiply that by ten as I did. Now your lowest quantity is 50 drops and the largest, 250. Seems simple enough -- until you have to do it. My eyes start to glaze over by drop number 107. My attention starts to wander by drop 205. I begin to wonder if I've lost count. Did the drops I just squeezed out bring me to 40... or was it 60? Am I falling asleep?

    For items with 100 or more drops I do them in groups of 50, making a check mark on scrap paper each time I've done another 50. But I have to remember to make that mark for each batch, otherwise I'll be way off. It's good to take a break between ingredients but I don't dare. I'm afraid if I don't keep going, I might knock over the bottle, or the scale might go dead, or I'll be interrupted and lose my concentration -- so I just keep going.

Confirmation needed

    I hate to do this but I always do it. Since I could have made a counting error, I'll wait a day or two and do it over again, with another bottle. Then I'll compare the results. If they're close, all is fine. If they're seriously off on one ingredient, I'll do a third bottle. The process can seem painfully boring but it's part of what needs to be done.

Work with care

    When you are squeezing out drops from your eyedroppers, try to get the same size drop each time. The rubber bulb should be in good condition to give you good control. But sometimes your fingers get tired and, without meaning to do it, you squeeze out two drops where you only wanted one. Worse still, you squeeze out a drop and a half. Then what?

    A high degree of concentration is required. This is a downfall for me. My mind tends to wander and I have to force myself to focus, to get "clean" drops and to count them properly.

    Be sure, when you start counting out drops, that you have enough material for the project. It can be very frustrating (and expensive!) to get half way through the last item -- and then run out of that material. Then you can't finish what you started. If you can't get more of what you need quickly (and usually you can't!) you may have wasted all of that you've used. Now you may need more of all the materials you're using, not just one.

Accuracy

    Developing a fragrance with dropper bottles lacks the precision you would find at a major fragrance house. Careful as you might try to be, your drops won't be 100 percent uniform. Your weights will be close but will not have the precision  achieved with an electronic balance costing $20,000 rather than $200.

    But ask yourself, is your nose sensitive enough to know the difference? My nose isn't bad but it's not that good. And, face it, your finished fragrance is what it is. If people like it, isn't that enough? While the "dropper bottle technique" may be crude by industry standards, it gives people like you and myself a very good, practical way to create our own fragrances -- commercial fragrances -- if that is our goal. Customers won't judge us by how our results were achieved but simply by the results -- the fragrance -- we did achieve.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Sometimes I think I'm creating a new ping-pong ball


NOTE: This is a continuation of a story detailing the progress of a perfume I'm developing. Previous "chapters" can be found here and here and here.

    I'm being guided by a picture but a single picture can tell many stories and I only want one. As I look at the nuances of the picture that has become my inspiration, I'm struggling to aim the scent in the right direction. Is it a men's fragrance or is it for women? The fragrance itself is sexless but my on-hand stock of bottles is not. I generally lean toward spray bottles for feminine scents and splash bottles for the masculine. Plus, I sometimes make the masculine scents more edgy so only a handful of guys will appreciate them although my wife seems to find all of them quite nice... so what's the message there?

    Two days ago I declared my formula finished. I was ready to work up a larger batch, weight out the formula converting drops into grams and percents. But I was rushing and, in spire of my enthusiasm and desire to get on with the project, I forced myself to take the final intermediate steps which, for me, involve mixing a few drops of the fragrance with alcohol in a tiny spray vial, letting the alcohol and oil blend at least over night, and then spraying some on a smelling strip and on my wrist, to see how the fragrance comes across in the real world. I hit a speed bump.

    I had partly anticipated it. Although I had declared my scent "finished," deep down I was worrying about a lingering note that might not be considered pleasant. I had calculated it was the result of "too much of a good thing" and I wondered if the problem might be solved if I cut back on one of the ingredients. So, right away, I made another trial with the supposed offender cut back.

    My speed bump -- the fragrance being not quite right -- told me to try the new trial to see if the correction had worked. On a test blotter it smelled like an improvement so I made up another spray vial sampler, this time with the "post-final" formula. My first impression was favorable but patience is required. As much as I would like to rush forward I have to wait for the aroma materials to blend, both with each other and with the alcohol. Like it or not, I have to give it at least a few days.

    As I look back on the trials I have made in developing this fragrance, I sometimes feel I am trying to create a ping-pong ball, the raw materials seem to be bouncing back and forth. There haven't been many changes in raw material since the first "blind" shot at it. A few materials have been injected and rejected. Only one new scent has been added since the beginning of the project but there have been lots of changes in quantity of several aroma materials. This can get tedious and I've had to train myself to make just one change at a time. This is the only way to tell how a particular change has changed the scent.

    By time time you read this I will have tested the "post-final" scent and, hopefully, in a few days I'll be able to weigh out the formula and get ready to make a production batch. Hopefully the ping-ponging will have a happy ending, at least in terms of getting the (male or female or both) fragrance "out there."

Friday, May 8, 2020

Start your perfume with a picture


    What is the best way to get started on a new perfume? You don't need a committee and a 50-page brief. Try finding a picture that can inspire a story and a perfume that goes with the story. I found this strategy particularly useful last week when I was working on my new perfume.

    I had a name and I had the beginning of a formula. I planned to use a picture in my ad for the perfume so I started looking at pictures. I found three that seemed to suggest the story I planned to tell. Each would have suggested a slightly different telling of the story. Finally one picture was selected.

    When I selected that picture I just hoped it would "work" with the scent, the working name for the fragrance, and the story I would tell. Then something magical happened. The picture -- the visual image -- took over as my inspiration. Looking at it, it told its own story, the story I had in mind but with a significant twist.

    First, my working name now looked slightly off. It wasn't wrong but it wasn't hitting the bullseye. My first thought was to find a synonym for the name I had but one with a slightly different shade of meaning. This would involve a trip to Roget's Thesaurus and a synonym search online. Neither source gave me what I was looking for. Then I discovered a very similar word, one that was new to me but whose meaning was exactly what I was looking for. I'm sticking with it for now, even with the recognition that I will have to do some explaining in my ad. That will become part of the story. As for the story, the picture and the new name express my original idea but with new depth and a way forward that should make them far more powerful.

    Then for the scent. I had been working in several directions, pushing the smell this way and that way, but now, looking at the picture and thinking of my "enhanced" story, the direction the scent would take became clear. The direction suggested would synchronize with both picture and story.

    Thanks to these insights I can now go forward with this project with confidence, win or lose. The scent, the story, and the picture work together and, for a new perfume, that is ideal. Now how could starting with a picture help you?

A picture could bring your project into focus

    I've been involved with photography for a number of years so I have a pretty large file of images. But you don't need your own pictures to find inspiration and a clear story. Use magazines, old and new, use newspapers, use catalogs, search for the perfect "shot" for your fragrance, even if you can't use the image which is inspiring you because you don't have the rights to it. Suck all the meaning, the theme, the suggested scent out of the image you've chosen. Then, if all goes well, if the fragrance comes together and the scent comes together, you might see if you can't find an artist or photographer who can produce for you your version of the chosen picture. (A good artist or photographer will guide you though copyright law as it applies to the image you're trying to create.) Then, if you can pull this off, you'll have a scent, a story, and a picture that go together, the ideal situation for a new perfume.

Test for free

    How effective is this technique for putting together a very convincing promotion for a new fragrance? Try it yourself. It won't cost you a cent. This is just a drill, a student exercise. Find a picture that inspires you. With pen and paper take notes. Make a story from the image. Write up a description of the scent that would go with your story. If you come out with some strong ideas, perhaps you'll want to recreate the image (in your own way) and develop a scent to go with it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

My new fragrance is evolving -- more personal notes (#2)


The beginning of this story can be found here.

    Picking up from where I left off (see above), I had a scent and I had a theme and working name but they didn't go together, or so I thought. Then, looking harder, I began to see how the name and the scent could go nicely together. The name actually had a double meaning but I had only been looking at one side of it. Now I began to see that, with this fragrance, I could go in two directions, but not at the same time. One version will get worked out now. The other may make an appearance some time in the future.

    I mentioned in my last message that I was planning to use a big picture in my ad for this new perfume and the picture had to harmonize with both the scent, the name of the fragrance, and the "story" behind the fragrance. For a picture I turned to my archive of photos for which I own all the rights. I wasn't exactly sure what I was looking for; I just hoped to get some ideas and find some inspiration.

    Browsing through hundreds of images collected over a period of twenty years or more, I began to spot pictures that could fit my theme -- not a lot of them but some. Images can tell a story. Sometimes a single image can make a stronger point than a video or even a feature film. While any image is always subject to interpretation by the viewer based on their own experiences and world view, certain images almost transcend subjectivity and lead people to a common thought. These images have great impact. I can't say that any of mine claim that distinction, but a few were leaning in that direction.

    Out of all the images I viewed, I selected three that seemed to work for my new perfume. Each, as I viewed it, shared a common theme but each would give me a slightly different slant when it got down to my writing a "story" with it. Of the three images I selected, one was chosen as my starting point. The other two, quite different than the one I selected, are being held in reserve, perhaps for future use.

    With the image selected, I can now bring the working name of the fragrance into focus and create my story. This story will harmonize with the scent and the image, each reinforcing the other, making the promotional material more powerful.

The ad

    Now it's time to get started on the ad, with the photo for my inspiration. The "big" ad will be a web page at my pglightyears.com. If done nicely, it will lend itself to "little" ads being extracted from it for use elsewhere, perhaps on Facebook, or Twitter, or an email, or as a mention on other websites. In the process of developing the "big" ad, I'll also review the working name for this fragrance and see if I can improve on it. You never know.

The scent

    I had taken my basic scent in two directions. Besides the basic scent, I was working on a simple accord that could "decorate" each version, taking them, for the most part, toward the meaning of the name I was not going to push. Still it might, I was thinking, work for both.

    So now I have to polish up this "decoration," and polish up the two versions of my basic fragrance. Then I can see how my decoration works with each of them. I might need to make modifications to the basic scent. I might need to add a bit of something or change a bit of something. Here's where multiple trials come in. The aroma materials I needed arrived yesterday (4/27/20) and so I'm ready to go at it.

Going forward

    Now that I have my photo, I'll work on both the scent and the ad. This will take a few weeks and, during that time, not only will I get this work done but I'll probably get some ideas for another scent ... or another ad.

    Be patient and, in three to five weeks, I'll give you the next installment of this story.