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BBC Perfume Series (2011), Episode 3:
The Smell of the Future

Never Mind USA and EU - Axe Body Spray Is Now Made for Teenage Boys from Brazil

What we like in a smell is determined by our culture and environment. Making scent for western tastes used to be easy, but things are changing...

The Russians want rich and heavy. The Chinese crave light and airy, and the Brazilians go bananas for fruits... What we want in a perfume depends on where we are, but also when we are. In Arabia, they lust for musky oriental scents that were all the rage in Victorian England...

The tastes of London, Paris and New York will soon count for little. What we smell like in the future is more likely to be dictated by the customers of Shanghai, Mumbai and São Paulo.
∼ Ian Denyer, author of BBC Perfume Series



The Smell of the Future, is the third and the last episode of the BBC Perfume Series.

As announced in the previous episode, the Episode 3 tells tales from a liquid gold rush in the new economies.

It also takes a look into the crystal ball of global fragrance industry which says:
  1. Never mind USA and Europe

  2. DO MIND Brazil, China, India, Middle East and Russia!
The exploding new fragrance markets of Brazil, China, India, Middle East and Russia dictate the tempo now; the fragrance industry giants diligently listen to their opinions and cater for their perfume tastes.

An interesting fact from this episode though (if you didn't know yet); the real money is not in fine fragrances, but in the toilet cleaners! Well, at least in Brazil with around 50 million households!

Brazil's opinion matters. It's the fastest growing fragrance market on Earth. The people love anything perfumed. The latest craze is for tutti-frutti scented footwear. Everyone who can spend something on scented products, from perfume to air fresheners. To cap it all, when the temperature soars and the humidity gets too much, they shower it off and start all over again. For the fragrance industry, Brazil is the perfect storm. Even car dealers are fragrance-obsessed. ∼ Ian Denyer, author of BBC Perfume Series

As mentioned a few times, the secret for success in fragrance industry is in deciphering local tastes and then pandering to them.

Watch BBC Perfume Series, Episode 3: Part 1/4

Ann Gottlieb's nose is small, but influential. She's a predictor of global scent tastes.
∼ Ian Denyer, author of BBC Perfume Series


Almost the whole first part of the Episode 3 of the BBC Perfume Series, The Smell of the Future, we follow the living perfume legend1 Ann Gottlieb. In the documentary we get to know her as a decoder and predictor of global scent tastes, meaning her job is to make the fragrance or fragrance product in development as much-region appropriate as possible in terms of tastes.

First we see her as an advisor to an anonymous major US perfume house (most probably Calvin Klein) in the process of developing a new women's fragrance for Chinese market.

Ann Gottlieb is also a 'mother' to the Axe body spray (Lynx in United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and China), targeted at teenage boys and that gets a new 'flanker' every year. The next Axe baby is for Brazil ;). Says Ann Gottlieb:

There is one country, one country, that matters more to Lynx and to Axe than any other and that's Brazil. They're fragrance-literate and they love fragrance, so the potential is huge there, probably bigger than any other region in the world.

Axe brand manager Russell Taylor on the other hand thinks that the growth on the brand in many of their Latin markets comes from the fact that the consumers in hotter climates tend to prefer fresher fragrances and that they shower more often, so the usage occasions are very, very different from the colder climates, he says.



Part 1/4 of The Smell of the Future (Episode 3 of BBC Perfume Series)


The documentary then shows Axe mother Ann Gottlieb in action; she meets up with the perfume companies that develop the next Axe body spray à la Brazil. Ann wants from them something: young, fruity & floral, tasty and yummy and yet decidedly masculine. The perfumers promise to do their homework, whereas Ann Gottlieb flies to São Paulo to personally hear the opinions of focus group of teenage boys about the Axe body spray prototype.

The first part of the Episode 3 of the Perfume Series ends with Flavia Motta (Givaudan) showing us around their Brazilian Givaudan lab where they test washing detergent fragrances.

The real money isn't in eau de toilette. It's in toilet cleaner. The big chemical companies are climbing over each other to make Latin bathrooms and kitchens rainforest-fresh.∼ Ian Denyer, author of BBC Perfume Series

Watch BBC Perfume Series, Episode 3: Part 2/4

Second part of the Episode 3 of the BBC Perfume Series, The Smell of the Future, is mostly dedicated to the Grossmith perfume house, owned by the Brits Amanda and Simon Brooke. While researching his ancestry, Simon discovered one of his predecessors was a perfumer by royal appointment; creating perfumes in the Victorian times. These perfumes were in today's terms quite heavy and rich. Brookes had then the idea to revive this ancient perfume house and they succeeded in doing this with the help of the renowned perfume nose, Roja Dove, who's recreated 3 of the original Grossmith perfumes from the Victorian times.

Extremely high costs of production (lots of very expensive natural raw materials are used) resulting in excellent quality and luxurious packaging make Grossmith perfumes appealing for the more affluent customers. Combine that with the fact that the customers of the Middle East crave for heavy, rich, expensive fragrances, and you know which markets Brookes invest the most of their marketing efforts.

It's just coming up to twenty to ten and the doors of Harrods will open at ten o'clock. In the summer, we have a very large Middle Eastern clientele. They love scent. The number one doesn't translate into English from Arabic because most of our Middle Eastern clients will buy three, six, ten, twelve bottles of fragrance. We have just received in these fantastic presentations which are in Baccarat crystal; the bottles are made totally by hand. And I just heard this morning that a client came yesterday who wanted to buy three pieces of each of these fragrances. The Grossmith Baccarat presentations retail for around £6,000 apiece... They wanted nine of them... And that's one order.
∼ Roja Dove, perfumer for the Grossmith perfume house




Part 2/4 of The Smell of the Future (Episode 3 of BBC Perfume Series)


The Perfume documentary then follows Ann Gotlieb in São Paulo, Brazil, where she wants to personally hear the opinions of teenage boys on the new Axe body spray prototype. She explains the #1 secret for success in fragrance business: decode local tastes and then pander to them:

I am so happy to be in this city. I love Brazil. Brazil is the biggest fragrance market in the world and fragrance is selling like crazy. And it is an opportunity for brands to come here and sell their wares. And you don't get what they like unless you can talk to them and see what they keep in their bathrooms. And that's the way to really create products that they love.

Watch BBC Perfume Series, Episode 3: Part 3/4

In the third part of The Smell of the Future, the Episode 3 of the BBC Perfume Series we are still in Brazil, talking to Avon marketing executives. Brazil accounts for 20% of Avon's worldwide revenue, so every new fragrance developer for Avon must take Brazilian tastes into account. But the secret of Avon's success in Brazil also lies in the army of 1.5 million direct sales representatives.

Avon's fragrance products are produced by Givaudan; the company's perfumer Thierry Bessard moved to Brazil and totally immersed into the local fragrance tastes; he tells about interesting differences between Brazilian and European scent tastes:

Fruity notes, you know, they're not the same as in Europe, partly because you don't have the same fruits. We think in Europe, vanilla is very sweet and it's a heavy fragrance and so on. Here it's very often considered as a fresh fragrance... I was certainly confused with the lavender. When you come from Europe, you know, you think lavender is for the old lady or is a masculine fragrance. Here it's very much loved by women, actually. Actually, you wouldn't find that many fragrances with chocolate or coffee here. I think partly because... You know, they don't like to find on their skin something that they drink all the time. Especially the coffee is very strong here and coffee for them is cheap as well, OK? It's the same with orange, for instance. Brazil produces a lot of oranges, so if you have orange in a fragrance, this is something that is cheap.

Perfumer Thierry Bessard and his assistant Flavia Motta, Avon marketing exec, then personally visit an 'ordinary' mass market fragrance customer at home. They're interested in every fragrance she owns/likes using at different occasions. And they even X-ray her bathroom!



Part 3/4 of The Smell of the Future (Episode 3 of BBC Perfume Series)


Then we return to London, to Brookes, who prepare the nine bottles of their expensive juices for a Middle Eastern client. Simon Brooke will deliver it personally.

The documentary then shows Simon in different Middle Eastern countries, meeting up with different (affluent) clients or their representatives. It's interesting to learn how obsessed the Middle Eastern customers are really with (heavy, rich, expensive) fragrances. Check it out for yourself!

Watch BBC Perfume Series, Episode 3: Part 4/4

The last 15 minutes of the Episode 3 of the BBC Perfume Series continue with Simon Brooke introducing his Grossmith perfumes to the representatives of the Bahrain royal family, the royal ear and credit card holder for luxury items. They all agree the Victorian perfumes smell lovely and at the end of their meeting the royal representative gets a gift of three perfume 2 ml vials, can you believe that ;)!

Later in the episode, Brookes will be very happy with the media coverage and commercial success of their perfumes in the Middle East, yet in the future they plan to develop modern fragrances in order to avoid becoming museum pieces by merely recreating Victorian fumes.

In São Paulo, Brazil, Ann Gottlieb attends the interview round with the second Axe focus group (the results from the first group were unreliable). She's happy with the opinions of this group's teenage members. They feel the body spray's character, like it and suggest some refinements to work on. Ann meets the group personally and discusses the test Axe body spray with them:

I heard that you thought that it smelled a little bit feminine. And men's fragrances are going in that direction. But who said that there was cocoanut? There is. And you like chocolate, right? It's like, it's sort of like the chocolate fragrance, where it's very yummy. And the truth is that things that appeal to your mouth are sexy and they appeal to your nose, too. That's what makes you think it's sexy.

Ann Gottlieb concludes about the whole Axe project:

What may have been businesses driven by the States or by Europe are going to be driven by China, by Brazil, by India. And marketers are gearing up for that. And we're looking at a cultural shift right now. So it may well be that tastes will shift and in ten years we will be impacted by what the Chinese like.



Part 4/4 of The Smell of the Future (Episode 3 of BBC Perfume Series)


The beautiful, the intriguing BBC Perfume Series closes up with these pythonic words by Ian Denyer, the author and director:

The Western fragrance industry is trying to get to grips with the tastes of China, Brazil and India, but how long before these new markets are doing it for themselves - replacing the smell of perspiration with the sweet scent of aspiration?


1Read more in Ann Gottlieb's biography.


Jump from Episode 3 to Episode 1 of BBC Perfume Series (2011)

Jump from Episode 3 to Episode 2 of BBC Perfume Series (2011)

Jump from Episode 3 to BBC Perfume Series (2011)

Jump from BBC Perfume Series, Episode 2 (2011) to Women's Perfume Reviews




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