[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. VII. Playing Hard to Get – Le Labo’s Aldehyde 44
An animal figurine collectible manufacturer confesses in their collector’s handbook that when they first started their company, they were a little clueless. At a gift show, a businessman told them that they had some great products, but they weren’t exactly in the collectible business yet. He gave them invaluable advice on how a proper collectible company operates: some pieces should be limited editions while others should be retired, and a collector’s club should be formed.
As I was reading it, I felt that I was a little tool, being manipulated by their collectible business strategy. But, I’ll be damned, I felt happy collecting them. Without scarcity, there’s no appreciation of value, no thrill from competing to own before others, no fun and no need to collect. If you think about it, all products except Cream of Chicken discontinue some day. By telling you it’s limited edition, you suddenly feel that you need to get it now.
But how do you create scarcity without discontinuing a product? Limiting its distribution channel and marking up the price, maybe? Guerlain, Roja, Robert Piguet and many perfume companies have one or two perfumes created just for the luxury London department store Harrods. You go there to get slaughtered and come home smiling with a bottle that you think only a few people on this planet have. The price of “exclusive” perfumes are often double the street price of their regular line, for two reasons I can think of. The shop carrying them will be happily perceived as selling only to the rich and powerful; and because the exclusive products are not conveniently available, for a perfume house to recoup the cost of developing the perfume and make as much money as their regular line, they mark up the price even higher.
At the beginning I thought I could make some decent sales of my perfumes through my online shop exclusively, but they weren’t as rosy as I originally had imagined. (I even fantasized that I could quit my day job as soon as I had started my shop.) I had always thought my products were unique, but in the world of perfumes, they were only as unique as the pink balls in an IKEA kiddie ball pool. Reality is brutal, and since then I have been thinking of asking other online and retail shops to carry my products. I had walked into a niche perfume shop in Toronto and had a good conversation with the owner. During the conversation I suddenly had an urge to suggest, “How about I develop a perfume just for your shop? Please carry my products?”
And that was why I thought Le Labo was so ballsy. Their Aldehyde 44 was a Texas department store exclusive, but unfortunately that department went out of business, and Le Labo discontinued Aldehyde 44 altogether, instead of selling it online or getting another store to carry them as an exclusive. I have spent a considerable amount money developing my own perfumes, and discontinuing a perfume like that was like throwing money down the drain. But Le Labo is rich, and they have probably recouped all their development cost from just selling 50 bottles. (Best example is their Geranium 30 perfume. It’s limited edition, and they made only 100 bottles at $250 each. Assuming that they’ve made a profit, now you know how crazy their markups are.)
There are many books on luxury marketing, and I vividly remember some of the key points from those: Never reduce but always increase your price, never go on sale, the more difficult to get the better. And people buy that.