Monday, June 2, 2008

I Smell Therefore I Blog

Today, seven panel members at the American Society of Perfumers 54th Annual Symposium were presented with a series of questions related to the future of fine fragrance. The questions and responses made one thing very clear; bloggers and Internet culture continue to perplex the fragrance industry. So does digital marketing that focuses on product experience and establishing customer relationships in the Web 2.0 world. The following editorial is inspired by what transpired at the event.

“I think therefore I am.” Hmm. René Descartes, you will have to forgive me, but times have changed. We mere humans, thinking entities that we are, can presently take our inner dialogue public in ways that illuminators and calligraphers of your day could not imagine. We are more expansive than ever, a force to be reckoned with in matters of thought, opinion and commerce. What we create is fuel for the chaos that steers the life of the senses, a collective unconscious of inspired minds that lives in digital eternity. Marketers who cling to analog life beware; knowing how to use Microsoft Office and a Blackberry doesn’t give you a digital badge of olfactive cool (and neither does your i-Pod).

We daydream in scents; those that have passed, those still with us and those that are yet to be. We know when you tinker with fragrances we remember from childhood long before many in your own organization know themselves—because we are the ones who smell it first. We know that celebrities are in the perfume business to make money and that packaging and juices are predetermined. We know the names of perfumers who make the scents we love because fragrance is an art form. And because we don’t want to see the art of perfumery destroyed, we are the ones who question ingredient safety studies as essential oil houses quiver over regulation and political correctness. Think you’ll see an in-depth investigation of RIFM in The New York Times? Think again.

You ply us with hundreds of fragrance launches, but the fantasies you offer are as predictable as a game of Three-card Monte. We know when we are being conned and all of the free product in the world will not change this. So when you ask us what we think about your fragrance or the industry, don’t expect a pat on the back unless it is well deserved. The future of fine fragrance depends on a willingness to take risks and embrace the consumer directly. The Internet has changed the game. Are you ready to play?

Video of The Machine is Us/ing Us, by Dr.Michael Wesch


The panel at today’s event included: Marian Bendeth, Chandler Burr, David Frederick (CIO, Alive Idea Media Group), Ann Gottlieb, Marlen Harrison, Michelle Krell Kydd and Jan Moran.

Dr. Michael Wesch teaches cultural anthropology at Kansas State University. His video shows what Web 2.0 is. It is remarkably insightful and works on a feeling level--just like fragrance.

The Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM) generates, evaluates and distributes scientific data on the safety assessment of fragrance raw materials found in perfumes, cosmetics, shampoos, creams, detergents, air fresheners, candles and other personal and household products.

The artwork which accompanies this post is from Mira calligraphiæ monumenta: A Sixteenth-Century Calligraphic Manuscript inscribed by Georg Bocskay and illuminated by Joris Hoefnagel.