Ready to get poisoned? The art of selling perfume – not just a scent, it’s a promise!

During last few decades, perfume became an essential part of our life. Famous brands like Dior, Calvin Klein, Chanel spend huge amounts into perfume advertising. We see it everyday on TV, billboards and magazines. Different fragrances help us express our identity, boost our confidence, and sometimes attract attention. Recent research has demonstrated that smell contributes to physical attraction between humans. So when it comes to fragrance, what it is that marketers really sell and how?

Beyond the scent, targeting our motivations.

When big brands like Dior or Chanel advertise their perfumes, they sell much more than just a nice smell. They sell what the perfume can do for people – their dreams and desires. The stories of their commercials match people’s essential motivations behind buying perfume. “1 Million” by Paco Rabbane sell social status, while Yves Saint Laurent’s “Opium” sell sensuality.

Once a perfume ad matches our motivations or values, we often become predisposed towards that particular fragrance. Dior’s Poison girl video clearly shows that you will become sexy and confident – if you buy their fragrance. Certainly this ad matches desires of many young women. They identify themselves with the girl in the ad. Eventually, this triggers them to try the fragrance once they have a chance, and perhaps buy it!

Appealing to motivations, is not sufficient in itself. In today’s age of information, we are exposed to hundreds of different ads and commercials. Marketers know that in order to get passed those barriers, their ads must be catchy. The director of Dior’s ad for Poison girl, used both – the audio and visual elements for this. Quick and rhythmic music, flashing pink neon lights, and fast changing of scenes… The result? Yes, our attention is fully on the ad, wondering what will happen next.

The image of the girl portrayed in the video is also essential. That image symbolises what the perfume stands for. The model plays the the boss, she gets what she wants and remains unreachable. Camille Rowe’s role in the ad, was to act “like a panther, not a kitten”. She represents a certain image – modern, powerful and seductive. This image also represents what Poison girl stands for. The perfume will appeal to those who value these attributes. Eventually, they will be prompted to consider this product over other dozens available on the shelves.

Controversial ?

Dior’s Poison girl is also somewhat controversial. It may evoke a negative perception for some, who will criticise it for projecting a sexist image of women. Throughout the ad the model wears revealing clothes, sometimes is almost topless, and often adopts provocative poses. Perhaps the focus should have been more on revealing her character, rather than body. But then again, sex sell and Dior knows it.

Food for thought

The extend of advertising on success of perfume sale is of course debatable. Many think that eventually, it all comes down to the smell, the fragrance itself. But, we have seen that  many celebrity perfume fail, while large fashion houses succeed for decades. Why is that? Surely celebrities do not lack finance to create powerful campaigns for their perfumes. Perhaps this is where the power of the brand comes in and plays a role in pushing consumers to prefer Guerlain, Chanel or Hermes. Some research has shown that aesthetic aspect and design of the bottles also affects our preferences in perfume selection. In particularly women seem to be more sensitive to aesthetic appearance of perfumes bottles. Perhaps marketing perfumes is a mix of aesthetic, name, fragrance and desires.



Reference list:

Dior 2016, ‘Poison girl’, Dior Mag, retrieved on April 2 2016, <>

Sargeant, Teresa 2014, ‘The most popular perfumes of all times’, The Richest, retrieved on 2 April 2016. <>

Iacobucci, D 2014, ‘Marketing Management’, South-Western, Cengage Learning, Mason.

Isaac, Tina 2016, ‘Dior Fetes the Fast, Fearless Poison Girl 2.0’, Vogue, retrieved 3 April 2016, <>

Sargeant, Teresa 2014, ‘The most popular perfumes of all times’, The Richest, retrieved on 2 April 2016, <>

Pezotld, K, Michaelis A 2011, ‘Gender differences in consumer decision making for perfume’, Journal of marketing trends, vol 11, no1, retrieved 2 April 2016,




One thought on “Ready to get poisoned? The art of selling perfume – not just a scent, it’s a promise!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s