Scents of Sell

There’s a lot besides fragrance that goes into marketing perfume. At Nordstrom La Jolla’s Scent Event, marketers from a variety of perfumeries attached redolent pink ribbon strips to visitors’ wrists, showed off eye-catching bottle designs, provided detailed olfactory descriptions that conjured up delightful atmospheres and rattled off inspiring names. Apparently a name can make or break a perfume. When someone asks you what you are wearing, the answer should be something that’s memorable and intriguing.

With all that’s going on in the world today, however, I don’t think I would use the word “bomb” to label my perfume, like the Flowerbomb perfume I was introduced to at the event. Designers Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren chose the name because they thought it was the best way to describe what they were looking for — “an explosion of flowers.” They even put the profusion of floral scents in a grenade-shaped bottle.

Although that bottle design may have pushed the boundaries of creativity, Marc Jacobs’ bottles stood out from the crowd too. Given his notoriety as a clothing and accessory designer, it’s fitting that his Decadence bottle should be shaped like a shoulder purse. A black tassel hangs from the chain on the looks-like-trendy-snakeskin green cap, so you can wear your 1.7 or 3.4 ounces of fragrance like a bag (albeit a bag that’s sized for a pygmy marmoset). His Daisy Eau So Fresh perfume bottle cap has — what else? — daisies that are so perky and mod they look ’60s retro.

Cute, right? But not as cute as marketing descriptions. Daisy Eau So Fresh will “transport you to a place that’s happy and fun.” Wildfox is “for lovers, for skinny-dippers, for barefoot explorers and late-night chocolate eaters.” Burberry Eau de Parfum “is a London garden after the rain.” And Flowerbomb has “magical notes that will immediately awaken your deepest senses, giving you the impression of living in your own secret garden.” Hmmm. I don’t want to be left out in the rain, so I think I prefer a secret garden to a London garden.

During the smell sell, I discovered that perfumes have a trio of layers called top note, middle note and base note. Perhaps the tiers are designed to move you through the day. In the morning, you’re the fragrance of innocence. By midday, you’re becoming a little more captivating. And by nightfall, watch out — seduction hits.

Here are the layered notes from Daisy Eau So Fresh: a top of natural raspberry, grapefruit and pear; a middle that’s violet, wild rose and apple blossom; and a base that’s musk, cedar wood and plum. The descriptors seem much like those used at wine tastings. Instead of wine tastings, though, I imagine perfume-sniffing events: “I detect a fruity trail, with a crispness of apple and a hint of oak.”

Another fun fact I learned: Chanel No. 5’s two main ingredients, Rose centifolia and jasmine, are harvested from an exclusive-to-Chanel flower farm in Grasse, France. I wonder if marketers would call that from farm to bottle?