[I want to write about some of the perfumes that have influenced and led me to the creation of my perfume brand, Zoologist Perfumes. They have sparked ideas and given me new understanding about niche fragrances and the marketing of them.]
Pt. VI. Perfume Names and Expectation – L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Mechant Loup
I don’t know French, but I would be in big trouble if I do – I could read all the French perfume names, and easily get sucked into the little fantasy world that they create and possibly buy a bottle just because of the name itself. Recently Luckyscent.com announced that their top-selling perfumes in 2014 included “The Sexiest Scent on the Planet. Ever. IMHO” by 4160 Tuesdays, and I think one of the major contributing factors is its cute name.
Film critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel mentioned that the movie Dirty Dancing was a smash hit in the 80s’ probably because it had one of the best movie titles in history. In the perfume world, Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium perfume was a huge hit in the 80s’ not just because the scent was good, but the name was controversial and it sounded dangerous and decadent. However, Opium has been banned in China because China paid a heavy price in the Opium Wars in the 19th century; an opportunity gained here, and an opportunity lost there. (There’s an Opium flanker called Opium Eau D’orient Poesie de Chine, but on the box, the Chinese title that dominates the packaging reads “My Fair Lady”, not Opium).
One the other hand, I also find it interesting that simple, literal names such as Guerlain’s “Vetiver” and Tom Ford’s “Tobacco Vanille” also work. Maybe certain people prefer simple straight-forward names to fancy names like “What We Do in Paris Is Secret” (by A Lab of Fire), but I suspect in order for such names to work, the brand itself is already well-known for its style or other qualities, such as Tom Ford is perceived as luxurious and stylish, there’s no need to pretty up the perfumes with some obscure names.
(Speaking of Vetiver, did you notice there are a lot of perfumes with the same name Vetiver? I wonder is it because you can’t register a product name with a single word that you can find in a dictionary?)
At one point I got very interested in L’Artisan Parfumeur’s perfumes, and I had watched quite a few of their promotional videos on Youtube. In one of the videos, the “ambassador” of L’Artisan Parfumeur mentioned the perfume “Mechant Loup”. He enthusiastically proclaimed, “Mechant Loup means big bad wolf in French!” Hmm, interesting! I immediately checked Luca Turin’s book on perfumes for a quick review (it has become a reflex action, unfortunately). In his one-star, one-sentence review, he wrote: “Bad wolf? More like a wet dog.” Actually this made me more interested in smelling Mechant Loup – why did L’Artisan Parfumeur give it that name and how did it fail?
To me, Mechant Loup doesn’t conjure up an image of a bad wolf or a wet dog. It smells too tame and too quiet to be bad or animalic, but I think it smells very nice and herbal. In fact, it reminds me of a traditional Chinese herbal drink called Five-Flower Tea (Plumeria, Chrysanthemum, Pagoda Tree Flower, Japanese Honeysuckle, Cotton Tree Flower). It smells dry, herbal, with a hint of pumped-up roasty chamomile and honey sweetness. I actually prefer Mechant Loup to the famous Timbuktu. So I guess Merchant Loup “fails” because of mismatched expectation; if L’Artisan Parfumeur named it differently, would Luca Turin give it a better score? I suspect he would.
Near the end of the development cycle of my perfumes, I handed out samples to my co-workers for final feedbacks. My boss told me that his wife thought that Panda was “perfect” and she also liked “Beaver”, but she disliked the name. I told him I could name it “Sensual Musks”. He immediately said, “Never mind what I have just said. You will have no fighting chance if you name it Sensual Musks.”