A crucial time for the subconscious emotion business: Several classics of the fragance industry are being given a presentational spring clean. Roger Tredre follows the scent of the perfect marketing ploy

The mistress of H G Wells reportedly found him irresistible because he smelt of honey. Before beginning to write, Guy de Maupassant would set before himself a bowl of ether and strawberries because the scent inspired him. Yehudi Menuhin once claimed that scent was more elusive than music, conjuring up all sorts of subconscious emotions.

This is a crucial time of year for the subconscious emotion business, otherwise known as the fragrance industry. In the two months up to Christmas, the perfume counters of the department stores traditionally make up to 50 per cent of their annual sales, as they market fantasies by the thousand.

New perfumes are launched every month, but the most recent phenomenon is the repackaging and relaunching of classic old names. The theory is that the long-established names have proved their worth over the years. All they need is a brisk presentational spring clean for the modern generation.

Polly Sellar, beauty editor of Vogue, says: 'It's a way of keeping the classic scents alive. Fragrance companies need to remind people that the old names are still as good as ever.'

It also saves them the heavy costs of researching, developing, and marketing a new product, which can run into tens of millions of pounds.

And so this Christmas sees the rebirth of Miss Dior, a fragrance first launched in 1947 when Christian Dior's New Look was the talk of the fashion world. Forty-five years on, the scent remains the same, but the black-and-white houndstooth box has been redesigned in white with houndstooth texture and pearl-grey trim, and the glass flacon is now embossed in houndstooth. Meanwhile, Parfums Christian Dior is spending a hefty 45m French francs ( pounds 5.6m) on advertising its revamped product in Europe alone.

Also relaunched recently is the ultra-expensive Joy de Jean Patou, first marketed in 1930. The new magazine advertising campaign depicts a young woman jumping for . . . well, joy. It is pitched directly at a younger customer, trying to rejuvenate the image of a fragrance traditionally bought by middle-aged women.

An even older perfume enjoying a new life is Soir de Paris. Launched in 1929, it was translated into English (Evening in Paris) for the British market - until this autumn, when the French name was restored, presumably in the belief that British women will find it that little bit more sophisticated.

Relaunches are not a guaranteed way of boosting sales. Within the trade, it is accepted that the recent revival of Vent Vert, a Balmain scent dating from 1947, was a mixed success. More encouraging was the relaunch of Y, Yves Saint Laurent's fragrance from 1964, repackaged in a white vellum box that is thought to impart a new sophistication to the product. The biggest relaunch planned for next year is expected to be Lanvin's 1927 Arpege.

If this sounds like an unsophisticated con trick, it is a remarkably effective one. Recent research has revealed the extent to which women (and men, for that matter) are seduced into buying a fragrance by the packaging and image. The smell itself often comes low on the list of priorities.

The research confirms what marketing executives in the pounds 240m-a-year industry have been saying for years: what consumers buy is not the scent but what it stands for. The woman who buys Joy believes that she is acquiring not simply a classic fragrance, but also a stake in a legend, an entry into a fantasy world of sophistication and elegance.

A survey team working in Munich and Gottingen, Germany, asked women to give their opinions about unidentified fragrances, then tested responses to exactly the same perfumes once the packaging and name had been identified. One unidentified scent was dubbed 'strong', 'overpowering' and 'sweet'. But when it was revealed as White Linen, a perfume that is sold in distinctive white-and-blue packaging, radically different reactions were recorded. Now this strong, overpowering scent was judged 'light' and 'unobtrusive'.

Likewise, the scent of Opium was considered to be far less 'sensual' when tested by itself than when accompanied by the deep red and purple packaging. And the researchers noted that approval ratings for Chanel No 5, Loulou and Ysatis shot up when the brand names were identified.

Why don't perfume companies ensure that scent and image marry more closely? This is precisely the direction in which the industry is heading. Ivor Shalofsky, director of market research at Firmenich, a Swiss firm, points out that the industry has been rather like the fashion business: 'Neither is characterised by a very systematic marketing approach. New fashions are created not as a response to the needs of the consumer, but rather from the ideas of designers.'

Altering the smell of a long-established scent is risky, but many perfume houses are doing precisely that. The strong lemon of Monsieur Balmain, a scent for men, was recently softened by adding a woody element. In 1990, Rochas revamped its celebrated Femme scent. The company called in Edmond Roudnitska, the 'nose' who devised the original fragrance in 1944, to update his creation for a modern woman. 'Nothing was subtracted,' said an insider at Rochas, 'but he tweaked the peach and plum top notes.' Femme doubled sales worldwide within a year.

Now, perfume researchers are trying to come to a closer understanding of the requirements of their customers. Groups of 'average' women are being invited to free-associate about their desires and fantasies. From these encounters, the fragrances of the future will evolve.

(Photographs and graphic omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Give me the money: but not all providers are ready for transfers to Junior Isas

Parents will be able to switch dormant child trust funds to more competitive Junior Isa

Millions of dormant junior savings accounts were yesterday given the go-ahead to swap to better deals as the Government agreed to allow switching. Samantha Downes reports
Hard labour: a woman bears the load in a factory. But equal treatment is causing pension problems

Women to lose benefits from contracted-out pension scheme

Workers were promised that the state would pay inflation increases on parts of their pensions. But now the DWP disagrees
The Budget, says one critic, should have done more to encourage construction of affordable homes

Help for buyers but where are the homes?

A vote-winning Budget promised less tax, greater savings flexibility, and government handouts for first-time housebuyers
'It will be no wonder if people lack the enthusiasm to save taxfree,' says one expert. But there are ways to beat low rates on cash Isas

How to make the most of Isas: You can save more money now, the returns are tax-free and the rules are flexible

Rob Griffin sees how you can surmount the one big obstacle

Growing number of women under the age of 35 are turning to online gambling

Online gaming is changing the profile of victims, who see it as an answer to difficult relationships but sink deeper into trouble

Ethical investments: Lack of awareness means investors are supporting industries they oppose

Many of us have good intentions now but either we don't switch accounts or we back 'nasty' activities without realising
Payday lenders fail to recognise customers in financial difficulty, the FCA said

Payday lenders accused of unfair practices by watchdog

The Financial Conduct Authority found non-compliance in all reviewed firms

Hooray, you're going to live longer! But what should you do to celebrate?

Pension expert John Lawson talks on why improved longevity is something to plan for carefully

Pension freedom: Steve Webb answers your questions on the big shake-up

The new freedoms arrive in April but many of you have told us that you see problems as well as opportunities. The pensions minister Steve Webb responds
Pension Minister Steve Webb

There are 'dark corners' of the investment and pensions industry, says Pensions Minister

The DWP and the FCA have joined forces to investigate transaction charges in occupational pension schemes

Scottish Power was found to have unacceptably long call waiting times

Scottish Power hit with sales ban by regulator

The company was found to have unacceptably long call waiting times

This phoenix rose from the stage at the London Olympics. The insurer grew out of zombie life insurance funds

Phoenix Life: Chance of a refund for overcharged policyholders has risen

A retired adviser got his money back from the insurer after claiming he had been overcharged. Thousands of others may have a strong case
Expect a new wave of fishing expeditions by fraudsters now we can invest our life savings

Cold callers and your pension: watch out for dangerous boiler room scams

Sean O'Grady received a cold call last week that was much more sinister than normal. Yes, someone wants to get their hands on his pension...

Fuel poverty could claim 100,000 lives over next 15 years, warns energy charity

The NHS is currently bearing a yearly burden of approximately £1.5bn treating cold-related illnesses every winter

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Neil Pavier: Commercial Analyst

    £50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...

    Loren Hughes: Financial Accountant

    £45,000 - £55,000: Loren Hughes: Are you looking for a new opportunity that wi...

    Sheridan Maine: Finance Analyst

    Circa £45,000-£50,000 + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ac...

    Sheridan Maine: Financial Accountant

    £150 - £190 Daily Rate: Sheridan Maine: One of London's leading water supplier...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor