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Culture in Fragrance part 1: Making perfumery a habit

By Natasha Spencer

- Last updated on GMT

Culture in Fragrance part 1: Making perfumery a habit
While APAC remains behind the US and Europe in terms of habitual fragrance use, we asked Philip Hwang, Brand Strategy Director at Brandimage, how the region is developing the sector.

Forming habits

Philip Hwang, Brand Strategy Director, Brandimage, noted how one of the most interesting and important aspects within the fragrance context in Asia-Pacific (APAC) is that in terms of habits, the region is slow to embrace fragrance.

This recurring theme crops up repeatedly as the areadoes not have the history of using fragrance, of appreciating it, and therefore, APAC consumers perceive it differently”,​ to its US and European counterparts.

As APAC is a substantial marketplace, different countries, economies and markets are at contrasting in terms of where they sit along the learning curve. With this said, generally, “APAC is still at the stage of learning habits and is relatively new in terms of innovations”,​ Philip Hwang, Brand Strategy Director Brandimage, expressed.

Fragrance high in personal care

The prestige market is global. It is within this segment that the market sees more launches and innovations by mass, and it is this end of the spectrum that encompasses personal care favourites including fabric softeners, shampoos, and bath and body washes. In APAC, a significant amount of fragrance action and innovation occurs in this personal care sphere instead of perfumes.

There are two sizeable drivers behind this growth. Firstly, Asian consumers “like trying new things as consumers want and demand new innovations, or ‘new news’”​. Also, as Asian consumers are still learning fragrance habits, brands are looking for ways around the fact that the region does not have this fragrance habit, and so brands are utilising alternative ways to inject sense and fragrance into various aspects of consumers’ lives.

Doesn’t smell so good

“In Japan, for example, culturally speaking, traditionally and historically, the fragrance sector is not very good,”​ Hwang revealed. Japanese consumers do not want to stand out, and so to smell a fragrance on someone else is an impingement or an intrusion.

As a result, the market develops its fragrance presence in body care, fabric softeners, and detergents rather than perfumes. Consumers show a preference towards this as they require fragrances to be unobtrusive and even lighter.

“Japanese consumers do not want fragrance sprayed on parts of their clothing,”​ Hwang went on to say. This cultural backdrop provides a clear and unique cultural market route and the reason behind the type of fragrance innovations coming from Japanese manufacturers and marketers, and why these are centred around fragrance in the personal care sphere.

By exploring fragrance in the context of India, it is apparent that this same type of innovative category, in terms of scented deodorant and personal care, is strong for different reasons. In India, fragrances are simply more affordable and perfumes are still considered luxury items. The fragrance segment is, therefore, considered an affordable, functional product and category that also helps to mask body odour in the hot and humid climate.

“Far from only being prevalent now, these drivers stem from the need to form this habit, which has always been there in Asia, along with the region’s local cultural differences,”​ Hwang enthused.

Exploring the focus of innovations within fragrance: “From a hardline basis or necessity angle, fragrance innovations are therefore forced to demonstrate these variations. Also, from a broader angle, Asia moves very very fast and in a lot of its categories — especially in the beauty and personal care segment  — a lot of its boundaries are blurred”.

The second part of this interview with Philip Hwang, Brand Strategy Director, Brandimage, will be published on Wednesday 4th October 2017.

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