Why perfume packaging is important

Packaging is important in today’s perfume market because it is an industry that has thousands of new launches a year. How can a fragrance stand out among all that insanity, especially if competing with brands that have huge budgets and insane campaigns? Although I like to rant about how much it’s all about the juice and not the bottle that houses it, it would be arrogant to claim one were not swayed by appearances. First impressions of products and brands are very powerful.

People differ in their susceptibility to impulsive buying. The appeal of product packaging has the potential to trigger impulsive buying even for consumers with no intention to make a purchase. 

– Hubert et al.

When it comes to fragrance and beauty products, those first impressions are visual, and so it can indeed be all about the packaging. It could work the other way, too: Say you are at the perfume counter and the sales person sprays a smelling strip (out of your view) and gives it to you to take a sniff. You smell a fragrance and fall in love with it, knowing nothing about the brand or bottle it comes in. The sales assistant says it’s $200 and pulls out the full bottle which looks cheap with a seemingly hastily applied label. The appearance doesn’t appear to match the price. I think it’d be odd if you didn’t feel at least some degree of disappointment. Or how about if another scent is presented to you in the same manner, you again fall in love with it, and then the sales assistant says it’s $20 and pulls out a really tacky bottle that you’d be embarrassed to have on your dresser?

Well, in my case I have no dresser and I am likely to decant scent from both exquisite-looking bottles as well as shoddy-looking ones (to save on space and weight and to make my collection more portable), but I am not most people. But the fact is that if I were that person at the imagined beauty counter scenario above, I’d likely feel let down in both cases.

Especially when it comes to buying luxury products, consumers have come to expect certain criteria. With perfume, the weight of the bottle and the quality of the box are important in making customers feel that they have gotten value from their purchase. In truth, for the mass market of fragrance consumers (not scent connoisseurs), knowing whether the quality of a scent is good or not or if they even like it is not easily determined. They rely on their impressions of packaging and branding to feel confident in their purchase decisions.

Of course this has been used to great effect by many brands to sell products that are more style over substance, so savvy consumers try to train themselves to look past showy packaging, especially when it comes to niche fragrances. But even with plain packaging, bottles still need to have weight and communicate quality if the price is to be justified.

If niche lines are forgoing flash packaging, does that mean the cost is instead going into the quality of the fragrance?

Unfortunately, not necessarily. Packaging is expensive for smaller brands – even if it doesn’t look it. A small perfume producer typically has limited choice in what is actually available in a small quantity. If a company wants something custom-made then there’s also so-called tooling costs and warehousing of the pallets of bottles needed to produce a minimum run. There are a few companies that sell bottles and screen prints in small runs, but ultimately cost really depends on how many are being produced.

Once again, the perfumers with the best access to a fat wallet would seem to have upper hand. Not surprising. Do you think you swayed by packaging?

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