Fragrance and social media

How fragrance brands can do social media better

How fragrance brands can better exploit social media  
While social networks have helped set the color-cosmetics category on fire, in fragrance, brands are having a tough time capitalizing on the medium.

Harnessing social media for marketing fragrances is said to be more difficult than for than for other beauty categories because of the impossibility of transmitting a scent digitally. In addition, fragrances are not purchased as frequently or changed with the regularity of make-up, meaning that they are simply less often talked about on social networks by consumers, influencers or even brands.

Analysis by Tribe Dynamics shows that fragrance is the least successful beauty category in driving earned media value (EMV—the estimated value of publicity gained through earned media and their respective engagement levels) on social media. With just 2% of total beauty EMV at $109.6m in 2016, fragrance lagged well behind make-up with an 85% share and $4.4bn EMV.

To date, fragrance brands have largely concentrated on creating visuals and content around the bottle or scent stories, which indicates how difficult the category is to showcase in such a visual medium [as social media], comments Tribe Dynamics co-founder and president Conor Begley.

Influencer relationships
But Begley says the keys to unlocking social media for fragrance brands are the same as those for make-up: “Brands need to have a great product, make their story easy to tell, build relationships with the right influencers, and create experiences that incentivize organic content”.

Experts agree that influencers—especially lifestyle-oriented influencers—are crucial to engaging with consumers on fragrance. However, finding and developing relationships with brand-appropriate influencers remains a challenge. According to Tribe Dynamics, in 2016, make-up ambassadors numbered some 5,400, each of whom posted an average 12 times, as compared to 950 fragrance ambassadors who posted an average three times each. “[These figures] could reflect the niche status of [the category’s] typical influencers, who have smaller audiences and less crossover appeal than ambassadors engaged to promote cosmetics and haircare products,” Tribe Dynamics suggests in its research. “These figures are also indicative of the relative frequency with which influencers post about [the] category […] fragrance products are purchased and discussed at lower rates, largely due to the fact that influencers’ preferences in these areas tend to remain more constant.”

Analysts say fragrance brands have been too reliant on traditional marketing methods and celebrity. Research by digital think tank L2 states that fragrance has been the last beauty segment to embrace digital sales and so have completely yielded the first page of Google search results to third-party discount retailers.

L2 research analyst Rebecca Edelman laments that fragrance brands have yet to unlock the power of influencers. She points to rising vlogger Jeremy Fragrance, who routinely attracts tens of thousands of views on YouTube videos about the best notes, how to spot fake fragrances or the best scents for summer. Analysis by L2 shows that 78% of his links direct consumers to unofficial distributors like Amazon. “To better capitalize on the power of social media, brands could pursue a relationship with the influencer to redirect the purchase funnel towards official distribution channels,” suggests Edelman.

Changing strategies
Despite the gloomy metrics, Tribe Dynamics reveals that EMV for the top-10 fragrance brands on social media nonetheless reported growth of 5% from the first to second half of the year, indicating that brands are becoming more prolific in their engagement on social media. Maison Francis Kurkdjian president and co-founder Marc Chaya has said that around 50% of the brand’s communications are now done through Facebook and Instagram, on which the brand has 47,000 and 32,200 followers respectively.

L2 notes that some fragrance brands are changing their tune and beginning to engage with influencers, pointing to the launch of Marc Jacobs Divine Decadence, where influencers took priority as the event was mapped to their calendar, as opposed to magazine publishing schedules.

Fragrance brand House of Sillage marketing manager Ryan Clear says the brand is employing a combination of communications across YouTube, Instagram and influencers to reach consumers. The six-year-old brand has 10,900 followers on Instagram. Clear says that while the brand is focused on developing more video content, Instagram generates more engagement than Facebook or Twitter. “It is about staying engaged with the customer, and keeping her loyal by reposting or liking [her post] for example. Interacting with the customer translates into a huge percentage increase [of engagement on Instagram],” comments Clear, adding that when it comes to influencers, “we have to be careful about who we work with; it depends on who the review is coming from, their following and the type of products and message they send with those products.”

Matching the right content to different platforms is important in reaching and engaging consumers in fragrance, say experts. Although fragrance brands may not have the abundance of skus or colorful visuals that make-up brands possess, they do have a wealth of story-telling opportunities in the creation of fragrances, the science and brand histories, which lend themselves particularly to video. This is especially true for brands linked to fashion houses, which can leverage fashion content in support of fragrances. Brands like Dior have succeeded in adapting expensive television ads to shorter formats suitable for video platforms. “Dior has done particularly well for its Sauvage perfume by republishing the original advertisement in a series of shorter clips. The average Dior Sauvage video garnered only 38% organic views, but these videos had 22 times more organic views on average than other Dior videos,” comments L2’s Edelman.

Creator content
Given the renewed interest in fragrance creation (that has coincided with the growing interest in niche scents), brands are turning to perfumers to create content for social media. For this year’s international launch of its new women’s fragrance, Mon Guerlain, French brand Guerlain created video content using in-house perfumer Thierry Wasser describing the inspiration behind the creation of the fragrance. The video has been viewed more than 121,000 times on YouTube, and Wasser has featured in several similar videos to promote the fragrance.

Guerlain Travel Retail worldwide marketing director Elise Vanden Brande recently told BW Confidential that social-media communication to support Mon Guerlain is designed “to do more than just talk about the product; and the launch. “It must insert the expertise of the brand. We are one of the few brands to have our own in-house nose and Thierry Wasser is an extraordinary character who was trained by Jean-Louis Guerlain. So in terms of digital content, we talk about the product; but through the product we touch on the house’s expertise in perfumery”.

French fragrance brand Jean-Charles Brosseau president Benoît Brosseau says content that depicts how products are made, speaks of brand values or historic fragrances is well received by consumers. “It’s the things that we don’t see elsewhere and it’s interesting because it shows an aspect that people don’t know. People are sensitive to that, they want to know how things are made,” comments Brosseau. “[Social media] is an interesting means of communicating with those who like the brand, but it’s difficult to develop the number of followers. It takes a lot of time to create content.”

Packaging is also important. Analysis by Tribe Dynamics found that influencer Instagram content for fragrances most often featured artistic flat lays of perfume bottles or bottles combined with other beauty, fashion or home products that reflected the influencer’s lifestyle. “The packaging of fragrance items features as a critical element when included in influencer content, and is frequently as integral to an influencer’s preference as the product’s actual scent,” comments Tribe Dynamics’ Begley. “In comparison to luxury fashion brands, specialist brands tended to offer a wider range of scents and more neutral product ‘personalities’, leaving influencers greater room for creativity and personalization in content inclusion.”

All this shows that for fragrance brands, the fast-moving world of social media offers as many opportunities as it does challenges.

Case studies: Going social
Burberry & Snapchat
With 48 million followers on social-media networks globally, British fashion brand Burberry is well placed to leverage its fashion and runway content to support its fragrance business. L2 research analyst Rebecca Edelman singles out the brand for its agility in creating unique content for emerging platforms like Snapchat. To support the Mr Burberry fragrance, Burberry was the first to have a brand-sponsored Discover channel (Snapchat Discover channels contain content from editorial sources, rather than the general public, are refreshed every 24 hours, and generally contain five to 10 pieces of content). “The channel included articles that expanded on the lifestyle conveyed by the fragrance, with lifestyle articles and travel guides. Burberry recently reiterated this campaign with a Snapchat ad that let users ‘unlock’ an exclusive Mr Burberry lens for an hour,” comments Edelman.

Parfums de Versailles goes for gaming
To enter the lucrative Chinese market, French luxury fragrance brand Parfums de Versailles created digital content in Mandarin aimed at communicating the brand’s history and prestige. The idea was to tap into the Chinese consumer’s desire to feel like royalty. It created an online game to promote interaction with consumers. The game was a multi-player adventure set against the background of the Palace of Versailles in which the royal characters of each player competed to collect points and value coins. Before the game started, the brand’s story and promotional content was displayed, making the game a platform for its communication strategy. Within two weeks of the game’s launch, 50 articles were written about it, with 200 users a day playing the game. Video channel Fashion Xi reported on the event and the video was viewed 1.72 million times. “The key is to understand the most effective strategy in a very different marketplace. In the West, gaming is not typically associated with luxury, but the Chinese consumer sees it as a perfectly legitimate form of high-end content,” according to Gentlemen Marketing Agency, which produced the game for Parfums de Versailles. (Source: Gentlemen Marketing Agency)

The niche approach
Niche brands have several advantages over more traditional luxury or fashion-oriented fragrance brands when it comes to creating content for social media, according to Tribe Dynamics co-founder and ceo Conor Begley. For example, brands such as Jo Malone, Diptyque, Byredo or Le Labo use minimalistic packaging, which lends itself to the flat-lay photography favored by Instagram users, more than more ornate fragrance bottles. Begley says these four brands ranked first, second, sixth and seventh respectively in Tribe Dynamics’ analysis of fragrance brands that drove substantial EMV last year. “Fragrances from these brands were frequently included in product flat-lays or room shots as subtle but prestigious items to offset more colorful components,” he comments. As well, many niche fragrance brands often have a wider range product offer that extends to home, bath or skincare categories, giving both the brands and influencers more scope for content creation.

SNAPSHOT : What the experts say
“Influencer content continues to be a source of consumer discovery across all beauty categories. One interesting opportunity for brands is to partner with complementary, out-of-category brands that are showcased more frequently in influencer content. Brands need to have a great product, make their story easy to tell, build relationships with the right influencers and create experiences that incentivize organic content.”
Tribe Dynamics co-founder and president Conor Begley




“Video-focused platforms like YouTube help fragrance brands extend the shelf life of high budget TV advertisements. Fragrance ads are highly searched for on YouTube, which demonstrates the audience’s genuine interest in this content. Fragrance brands can take advantage of this interest by slicing and dicing longer videos into bite-sized clips that can be leveraged across video platforms like YouTube and Instagram.”
L2 research analyst Rebecca Edelman