A short history of perfume advertising

perfume advertising has evolved in recent years: discover its codes

Between advertising and perfume, a history and strong links have been forged. From superstar muses to more discreet campaigns, fragrance promotion has taken many forms and conveyed a multitude of messages. Essential to transmit an olfactory universe, perfume advertising must create a myth around a scent to captivate attention before attracting noses. Discover all the characteristics of this aspect and its evolution over the years.

Advertising and perfume: a unique passion

An olfactory universe to transmit

Unlike a moisturizer, a car or even a package of cookies, advertising a perfume cannot be based on the product’s benefits, capabilities or effectiveness. The promotion of a fragrance, regardless of the medium used, therefore has very specific characteristics. It is unique because what is being sold is a scent, an olfactory experience. And despite the progress of technology, it is unfortunately still not possible to transmit a smell through a screen, a magazine page or a poster in the street.

So, the perfume is therefore a unique product that must appeal to the creativity of advertisers. The name of the brand, the name of the perfume and the shape of the bottle contribute to immerse the consumer in a defined universe. The communication as for it, must immediately transmit these codes. It appeals to the viewer’s imagination to transport them out of their daily lives by making them dream and travel.

Creating myths around essences

To create a distinctive universe around a perfume and to draw the consumer in its wake, we use what is called in marketing a mythical advertising (Jean-Marie Floch in Sémiotique, Marketing Et Communication – Sous Les Signes, Les Stratégies). The communication will thus be based on elements that are specific to certain axes. In perfumery, there are a certain number of codes that are commonly used:

Love and the encounter

It is the most told story in perfume ads! Fragrance is associated with the feeling of love and marketers use (and sometimes abuse) common markers related to romance such as the city of Paris, pastel colors, flowers…. The general aesthetic (muses, music, etc.) is often shaped to touch the female sensibility.

Seduction and sexuality

The staging of models with light outfits and physiques that are pleasant to look at is commonplace in perfume advertising. Some go even further by playing the exacerbated sexualization card, breaking the post 80’s taboos. The body is used in an artistic way to make us want to feel (and smell) this confidence too!

Poetry, legends, dreams, literature

To transport us into an extraordinary universe, perfume brands do not hesitate to use stories that will titillate our imagination. Some use strong elements from the tales of our childhood we all know (the apple from Snow White, does that ring a bell?). Others will create a universe full of poetry that will make us forget reality for a few moments. By activating this part of dream, brands show that their fragrance has that something extraordinary.

The “rebellion”

While the previous myths are based on common beliefs and spread rather “smooth” messages, this last theme is against the grain. In this category, advertising goes beyond stereotypes. The roles are often reversed, showing a woman with a more “rock” profile and who is downright independent. The muses are more androgynous and men and women are confused. Moreover, these elements are often used to promote unisex perfumes. Here, marketing is built at the societal level: perfume unconsciously allows you to affirm certain side of your personality or to position yourself in society.

Each perfume will thus build its own identity, its own myth.

Advertising and perfume: the evolutions

The beginnings

The evolution of perfume advertising is strongly linked to the history of fragrances. For a long time, the use of essences was reserved for an elite. From the King’s court to the upper middle class, perfume expresses wealth and social position. Its promotion is therefore done in a very restricted circle and does not want to spread to the eyes of the world. Trends are set more by word of mouth and the fame of great perfumers known for generations.

It was not until the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 19th century that perfume took a new turn. At that time, the first discoveries in organic chemistry were made. It was also the beginning of the real industrialization of the sector. It was now possible to produce larger volumes. At the dawn of the 1940s, new players appeared. Couturiers and ready-to-wear brands also started to make perfume. Faced with this ever-growing offer, it became essential to make a name for oneself by advertising.

From poster to short movie

The first perfume mainstream advertisements took the form of posters. From 1900, and until about 1950, perfumers extolled the merits of their fragrances through illustrated posters. These retranscribe the universe of the perfume, the story it seeks to tell. We see a couple in front of the Eiffel Tower for Soir de Paris by Bourgeois (1947) or a long, seductive and sensual woman for L’Origan by Coty (1945).

The bottle is often drawn on the poster, next to a well thought-out slogan. From 1960 onwards, illustrated posters gave way to photographs and the first muses made their appearance. In the 70’s, advertising takes more and more place in the perfume industry. New codes were born and marketing imposed “lifestyle” perfumes that were associated with the great movements of the time. In the following decades, the women’s press and television became the major communication vectors for perfumery.

Since the end of the 80’s, the biggest perfume brands have deployed considerable efforts (and means) to promote their products. This form of advertising is now being used in the cinema, taking over all its tools. Great names in film directing put world-famous actors on stage in commercials that looked like short films. More and more sophisticated and spectacular, some of them have left an indelible mark on our memory.

The art of discretion

Advertising for niche perfumery

In this era where communication is almost as important as scent, new perfumers have been playing the game. With the emergence of niche perfumery, new and more confidential brands appeared. Their objective is not to show off at all costs, but to bet on the quality of their essences. Marketed in their own stores, on the internet or through specialized retailers, these perfumers have initiated a new form of advertising where discretion is the key. They particularly rely on the rise of online commerce and social networks to make themselves known and build loyalty. In that way, they use indirect channels that do not target the whole world, or almost.

Carrément Belle and advertising

Carrément Belle’s philosophy has remained the same for the last 30 years: to offer you accessible and high quality perfumes, which you will not smell at every corner. Our desire to remain discreet is also expressed in the choice of our distribution network: human-sized retailers near you and our website. If we tell our story and those of our products through this blog as well as on our Instagram and Facebook accounts, we do not wish to invest in massive communication. We prefer to devote more of our budget to the quality of our fragrances and the care taken in preparing your orders. As for our muse, no Oscar-winning actress or model to fall in love with: our Baigneuse is always at our side!

What are your favorite perfume ads?


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