Thursday, January 6, 2022

Have you given your perfume the right personality? (for your target audience)

I've been struggling for about a month to reformulate Rough Day, a fragrance of mine that was lacking in personality. I had tried taking it in several directions but each try was a failure. Each new personality I gave it was wrong. I didn't have a clear vision of what I wanted and thus could not fix the problem. I was experiencing a perfumer's version of writer's block. I needed an idea but was coming up with nothing.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas my wife and I were involved in a church study group focused on the birth of Jesus. Whether you're Christian or not you may be familiar with the story of three kings from the East bringing gifts to the baby Jesus: gold, frankincense and myrrh. I had a small bottle of frankincense and a few drops of myrrh on hand so I sniffed them to get in the spirit of the Nativity story. The myrrh caught my attention.

Historically, myrrh has been associated with sadness and preparations for burial. Both the odor and the story seemed to fit Rough Day perfectly. With only two drops on hand, I sent off for a new supply.

Myrrh has a mild but somewhat unusual aroma. Since it's not a strong odorant I'll take care not to smother its aroma with the other materials I'll be using but I'm confident I'm now on the right track. I'll tell you more about this when I'm closer to what I want.

Meanwhile I have another scent adventure to report. My wife and I had driven down to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to spend Christmas with the kids and grand kids. To put us up, my 12-year-old granddaughter relinquished her bedroom for the better part of a week. On the drive back to Walden I thought I would thank her by sending her a bottle of perfume. I had some nice bottles with gold trimmed caps and press-on sprays and I thought I'd fill one with one of my own fragrances but put her name on the label, in pink. Besides making the label (I have a supply of sticker paper for this), all I had to do was select a fragrance.

Certain of the fragrances I had on hand were not, in my opinion, age appropriate for a 12-year-old: too pronounced an aroma; too unique. I wanted something with a mild aroma and just a subtle character, something that a young person might enjoy -- or at least not gag at. Manama was too rosy; Summer Air was too clove. Several others were just too bland. It became a runoff between Mimosa and $timeout.

But Mimosa is a strange and exotic scent. Too much for a young person. On the other hand, $timeout looked good... and the more I sampled it, the better it looked for this project. Although not my personal favorite, it is a pretty decent perfume. And it has personality.

This brings me to another point. Not only will a good perfume have personality, it will have a personality that is right for the audience for which it was created. Of all my fragrances, my favorite for personal use is Xotic followed by Blackberry. These are not fragrances most wives would buy for their husbands but my wife finds both quite pleasant on me. Her favorites are Summer Air and Manama, fragrances, perhaps too strong for most American women. For my granddaughter I wanted an easy-to-live-with, non-controversial fragrance she could show off to her friends without embarrassment, whether she decides to use it herself or not.

Perfume should be enjoyed. Selecting the right fragrance for the right person is important. When you have a few scents to select from it's easier. And when none of your scents seem quite right for a particular person, you have a gap in your inventory. This can give you inspiration for new fragrance... to fill that gap.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Extracting yourself from a messed up perfume project

Turning a failure into at least a small success

Last October (2021) I was sampling one of my own fragrances that I had almost forgotten.

It had not been a success. The fragrance wasn't great. Now when I sampled it I felt something was missing. I was in Canada at the time and I resolved to "fix" this fragrance when I got home to Walden in November.

Now for several weeks I've been working to "fix" that fragrance (Rough Day) but, although I've assembled a collection of aroma materials that I thought could correct its shortcomings, I'm feeling frustrated at my progress and I'm not sure I'm taking the right approach. Should I just set it aside and go on to something else? I'm almost at that point.

Perhaps I took a double wrong approach. On the one hand I wanted to tweak Rough Day as it already existed. On the other hand I wanted to redevelop Rough Day, keeping some of the original theme but enhancing it. Working mostly on the second approach, the real problem hit me like a rock. Rough Day had no personality. It was what I thought it should be "intellectually" but lacked any note, theme, or riff that could grab me, or anyone else. Zero personality.

This is something that can happen in any of the arts. You develop a creative project thinking the world will be at your feet only to find nobody has much interest in what you've done. In time you realize that YOU have no interest in what you've done either. Yet you keep examining it, sampling it, hoping that by some magic it will come to life, but it doesn't.

I'm giving the "Rough Day Project" a few more days, to see if I can create some gem of personality for it, a memorable note, a new heart, a new core from which I can then rebuild Rough Day, hopefully into something worth marketing.

Last night sniffing a sample I detected a faint smell of something that, if blown up, could be interesting. Now I want to see if I can do something with it. Stay tuned.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Perfume Making -- the vital step people ignore

(Which is why their perfumes tend to fail)

Are you preparing to develop a new perfume? How do you plan to get started? If you were Coty or Chanel or Elizabeth Arden your first step would be to define, with words, the perfume you wanted developed for you. Your words, which could run dozens of pages, would be called a "perfume brief." But you're not Coty, you're not Chanel, you're not Elizabeth Arden , so how do YOU get started? If you want to develop a perfume to make sales, you start by creating your own perfume brief, before you start smelling anything; before you start mixing anything.

This first step stumps many because they haven't defined what their perfume should be. More important, they haven't thought clearly about who they expect to buy this perfume. To write a perfume brief you need a well defined target market. The fastest way to begin your brief is to select ONE PERSON who will act as the center of your target market. Then it all becomes easy.

Now you just write up everything you know about this ONE PERSON. What are their likes? Their dislikes? Where to they shop? How much will they pay for a bottle of perfume? How would they like it packaged? You want your perfume to be pleasing to this ONE PERSON.

Spend a few days – or weeks – writing down everything you know about this person. The work you do now, which you may think is silly, will make your life a whole lot easier once you start to select materials for your perfume.

Now find a name.

You want a name that will appeal to your ONE PERSON, that will entice him or her to want to try your (their!) perfume. All the rules of naming apply of course but, although some of your ideas might have to be rejected due to conflicts with existing names, keep trying until you have a name that "fits" your target and is available for use, i.e., not in use by anyone else.

If you really "know" the ONE PERSON you are targeting, a name will not be that hard to select. Think of all the nicknames that ONE PERSON has been given, nicknames that are unique to that ONE PERSON. This can be a good starting point.

Where will you go from there? My suggestion is to watch this video. I've watched it three times in recent weeks -- and I've sat though the same lecture "live" another three times -- but it takes time for the lessons to sink in.

Pinning down exactly what you want your perfume to be is the hardest part of the creative process. It is easier just to sniff a bit and experiment a bit, which can be useful, but if your object is to develop a perfume that people will buy, don't skip over this first step of closely defining your target ONE PERSON and they tastes. Think in your head that all of this fuss of making a perfume is about selling ONE BOTTLE to this ONE PERSON you have targeted. From this, everything else will follow.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

A perfume formula can be valuable -- very valuable!

To produce a perfume you need a formula. A formula is more or less valuable depending on the perfume produced from it. The formula for a successful perfume will always have great value... and will be a closely guarded secret.

If your interest is in developing a business where you produce your own perfumes you will need formulas. If you are not a perfumer yourself, the simplest way to get formulas is to work with a fragrance house and let their perfumers create formulas for you. You will never see these formulas – the fragrance house will not show them to you – but they will be yours exclusively. What you will see and smell are fragrances produced from these formulas but they will be given to you without any guarantee they will sell.

If you want to start with the formulas for someone else's winners, this too is possible. You won't be able to get your hands on the exact formulas of the originals but, depending on the fragrances you want, you might find good approximations.

What will it cost? Will anything be free?

It you are just starting out with a very limited budget you might wonder if there are formulas you can get free. Two kinds of free formulas can be found online. The first variety involves mixing essential oils. Want formulas? Search Google for "perfume formulas for mixing essential oils" and take your pick. None of these formulas will approximate a best seller.

If you want a more commercial formula for free you can occasionally come across an older one but when you look for the materials needed to make it, two problems arise. Specialty bases used in the past are no longer available and certain raw materials from the past are now banned.

The reality is that a formula, for even an approximation of a successful perfume that can be produced today, is valuable and not something given away free. Why would you want someone else's formula? Usually to produce a replica that can be sold at a lower price. While an authentic bottle of Chanel's No.5 may cost $150, a replica version may sell for $1 (yes, one dollar, and I have purchased one at that price). So how is a knockoff produced? Obviously from a formula but where did that formula come from? Certainly not from Chanel.

The project begins with gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. A sample of a popular fragrance is purchased from any store that sells it and the "juice" is run through a machine which breaks down its components by their evaporative times. The results are matched with a database which identifies (or tries to identify) each separate raw material. From this information a crude formula is produced. Then a skilled, experienced perfumer takes the rough data and fills in a few blanks to produce a coherent formula. A good deal of work and expense is involved but now a tool exists to produce an approximation of the original.

Looking at this approximation, two points must be kept in mind. First, since the replica cannot compete with the original on price, its formula must be adjusted to achieve a lower production cost. Expensive naturals are replaced by synthetics. Expensive synthetics are replaced by cheaper synthetics. But there is more to it. Most current best sellers make use of "captives." These are specialty molecules available only to perfumers working for the company that invented them. The knockoff formula has to fudge its way around them because they are almost impossible to replicate.

Innosol, Inc. advertises that it has 20,000 formulas for sale. These formulas are modeled after popular brands and are sold for $500 each. The buyer is warned that to produce each formula a considerable inventory of raw materials will be required but, if you wish, Innosol can arrange the production for you. Their service gives you one way to develop your own product line.

PerfumersWorld offers contemporary formulas as part of their Formulation Bulletin series. Each Bulletin package includes a number of formulas. Also available are physical samples produced from the formulas. A set of formulas plus samples if offered at $149.95. Formulas are sent by email; samples by mail or courier. PerfumersWorld is a source of all raw materials needed to produce these formulas, in small, large, or very large quantities.

Even with a formula in your hands it is recommended that you test it by producing your own small sample before diving in and ordering raw materials on a commercial scale.

The truth is that perfume formulas are valuable. The more successful the perfume made from the formula, the more valuable the formula itself... and even a formula for a good replica of a big seller can be quite expensive.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Formulas: find them, buy them, or create them

To create a great perfume you need a great formula. To create an average perfume you need a ... formula. To create even a stinky perfume you need a ... formula. Excluding packaging, the formula is the heart of your perfume. Where will you get it?

We usually think of perfume as something someone has created. Every major launch by every major fragrance marketer involves an original perfume formula that has been created by a major fragrance (F&F) house.

If you get together with a group of investors to market your own perfume, you will almost certainly employ the talents of a professional perfumer, introduced to you by a smaller, less well known fragrance house, who will create a formula for your perfume.

Whether a perfume formula is created by a major or a minor fragrance house, the formula itself will remain with the creator, not you. While you will pay to have the work done, you will never see the formula that was created on your dime. Formulas are trade secrets, carefully guarded by fragrance creators.

Now suppose you want to develop your own perfume but you are not flush with enough money to hire a professional perfumer. You want to produce your own perfume but you can't do it without a formula – or can you? A simple solution is to buy one of the many quite acceptable fragrance oils already on the market. They were made using formulas you will never see but, as you can get the oil ready made, you don't need to see the formula. For the non-creator this is the perfect solution.

Now suppose you want control over the formula. Suppose you want it in your hands so you can mix the recipe yourself to produce the oil and perhaps make a few adjustments as you go along. Here you have three possibilities. You can buy a formula from someone who is willing to sell one, perhaps a perfumer who has a formula he or she isn't intent on keeping as a trade secret Or you may get lucky and find a formula that has, for whatever reason, been posted somewhere on the internet Or you can create your own formula, if you have the skill.

Creating your own formula can be the most rewarding path but also the most challenging. You need skills: you need aroma materials to work with and, when you're finished, the fragrance you have created is not likely to be anywhere near as polished and professional as any fragrance available at the mall or in a drugstore.

This doesn't mean your fragrance can't be good. Following your own muse you may create something quite beautiful, quite compelling, and quite different than anything on the market. But it won't be quite as polished. A few rough edges will exist. Yet if people like it – a good possibility – the rough edges will be overlooked.

If creating your own perfume from scratch – from a formula you've written yourself – is your goal, an excellent starting point is the home study Perfumery Training Kit K26 from PerfumersWorld. The course includes both materials and equipment and is quite reasonably priced.

Finding a formula somewhere on the internet is another not impossible possibility. Books on perfumery with formulas exist. Written many years ago, the formulas are generic and old fashioned. Moreover, they require materials no longer obtainable due to various reasons. Formulas from this age of "all natural" perfumes can be found in Piesse. Bland by today's standards, they were drafted in an age that had not yet enjoyed the benefits of synthetic odorants.

On the other hand, if you find a modern formula such as Honey Lips Kiss Macaron Au Cassis, you will have difficulty obtaining the required odorants as some are "captives" whose distribution is tightly controlled by the patent holder – Givaudan in this case. Then, working from the idea of the formula, you are forced to find acceptable substitutes. In short, you will be required to reformulate the formula to get what you hoped for.

In my mind it all comes down to this: if you're an investor and want to market a perfume, go to a filling house or fragrance house that can hook you up with a qualified perfumer and then let that perfumer develop a perfume for you. If you don't have money but want your own perfume, work with a ready made, off the shelf fragrance and make it uniquely yours by naming it with a unique name that then becomes a trademark – your trademark – for your perfume.

If you want to produce a fragrance from a formula, doing all the mixing and weighing yourself, you can do it... but be warned.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Color control for your perfume

The color doesn't have to be what it is

It doesn't matter whether you're making perfume by the drum or by the quart, your perfume is going to have a color. Its color will depend on the ingredients used to make it. If you want your perfume to be a particular color, you're going to have to plan for this color in developing your formula.

Perfumes I've made generally come out in shades from light golden to deep amber. I've always been fascinated by the colors produced by the ingredients that were selected to achieve the scent. I've been happy to live with the "natural" color the ingredients produce. I haven't planned colors for my own fragrances, but this can be done.

There are several ways you can color your perfume, some more professional than others. The simplest down and dirty method is to use food colorings from the supermarket. This is fine if you're just making a few bottles of your perfume for family and friends. These food colorings are harmless. In the short term they won't do anything bad but long term stability could be a problem. Your food colorings could, over time, change in color thus changing the color of your perfume. And, as they change, they could change the scent itself. So if sales are your goal, food colorings are out. This leaves two methods of coloring your perfume. I'll start with the method you are unlikely to use.

Synthetic aroma molecules tend to be colorless. If you have created your formula with these colorless molecules, certified coloring materials you can make your perfume whatever color you want it to be. Your formula could also make use of specialty essential oils that have been decolorized.

This approach to controlling the color of your perfume requires (1) a great deal of skill in perfumery and (2) access to the required materials. Lacking these resources, your best bet is to work with cosmetic grade colorants and, experimenting bit by bit, try to find an approximation of the color you want.

It's likely you will have better luck going for a darker color than trying to dress your perfume out in a light color. It's a lot like working with new paint over a dark patch of existing paint. Getting the repaint to be white or light yellow will be a struggle.

Stability will still be an issue. Will the color you have given your fragrance still be the same in a month... in three months... in a year? You will have to test.

As for myself, I'll stick with those shades from light golden to deep amber. Note that the percentage of alcohol used in your fragrance will affect the color. Alcohol, being clear, will lighten your oil. Using more alcohol will produce a lighter shade. But you're still likely to end up with a color between light golden and, perhaps, a slightly less deep amber.

When you start to mess with color for your perfumes, you'll quickly gain an appreciation for what the skilled professional can do and which you can only approximate. But, if you want to give coloring a try, here are some available resources.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Put your focus on selling the best fragrance you have

In the book I just finished a few long weeks ago -- Making Perfume By The Quart: A do-it-yourself project book -- there's as chapter on selecting the fragrance oil you're going to use for this project. What it comes down to is a choice between using an oil you've made yourself, purchasing your oil ready made from one of the many available sources, or commissioning a fragrance house to create an oil for you, to your specifications. Your choice of which path to take will depend on the purpose for which you are undertaking this project.

If you have been creating your own fragrances and want to see one of them turned into a commercial product, by all means use that oil for the 'quart'. But if your goal is to sell as much of your new fragrance as you can... if you want that quart to be just the first stepping stone toward producing thousands of bottles of your fragrance, then you should strive to find the best fragrance you can get your hands on, regardless of who made it.

For ten years or more I've been working on a small scale with fragrances I've created myself. Before that I had larger success with fragrances I purchased from others, fragrances that were created by skilled industry professionals. Of my own creations there are only two I would judge outstanding. Both are for men and I use them daily. They are not, I can point out, everyone's taste. But they are good. But, while really good in quality, they are not every man's taste. Taste and quality are different animals.

A few other of my originals I would judge "pretty good." At least the scents are interesting. My wife will use them from time to time and I think she holds back a little for fear of running out. Others of my creations are junk. You could use them. They don't smell bad. But I know perfectly well they weren't well crafted.

If you're going to put money into a marketing a fragrance, you want that fragrance to be the best you can come up with.

So whether you're making a quart of perfume or ten gallons, if you plan to put money into marketing it your first and most important step is to find a fragrance -- an oil -- a composition -- a formula -- that is the best, most likely to sell, fragrance you can find. If you make your own fragrances but know, that while you like them and are proud of them, they aren't as good as what you could buy elsewhere, buy the one you know is better, even if it bruises your pride and vanity -- if you're doing this to make money.

Let me give you a personal example. I have a fragrance called Moonfaire. I can't recall how long ago I made it but, when I arrived at our vacation home in Canada last week, I found a bottle on my desk. So I tried it to see how I liked it. I wasn't impressed. It seemed to heavy. So I thinned it down with alcohol to make it more of an eau de cologne. Perhaps this helped a little. Perhaps in time I could like it. But I couldn't take pride in it. I liked the name but the fragrance had never really come together. It was something of an embarrassment.

Before you set out to develop a fragrance to sell, you've got to get familiar with what people are buying. Haunt fragrance counters. Sample every scent you can. Find out which are the best sellers and get a few whiffs of them. How do they smell? This is the smell of success. If sales are what you are looking for, find a scent that will be acceptable in a market where money is being made.

Hold up a bit.

Not everyone wants to be a copycat. In the distant past I worked with people who make very good money by being quick to invest large amounts of money in a products that simply copied the latest hot product. These people couldn't do something original to save themselves but they were very good at spotting hot products they could copy. They were acquired by a publicly traded company.

For me, the real excitement comes when an odd-ball product, a fragrance for example, emerges as a big winner and yet is truly original. These breakthrough products are rare and investing in them is risky. But you may have one. How can you tell? When you've sampled everything else and, although your fragrance is different -- not at all like the current big winners -- and yet you are certain it is quality, you may have something worth putting your money into. How do you go about it? Try making a quart or two and shopping it around to see if anyone stands up and salutes. But remember, start with a quart. Test with pennies. Hang on to your dollars. You'll need them for production and promotion should that quart turn out to be a big winner.