That’s the view of Karim Lisi, sales director of fine fragrances APAC at Symrise, who said that status was no longer the prime purchase motivator in the region.
“Asia used to be a market completely dominated by western brands. People were buying into brands more than perfumes. To be frank, there was really no connection with perfumes; consumers were buying brands for the status,” said Karim Lisi, sales director of fine fragrances APAC, Symrise.
In the last few years, Symrise has observed the rise of more niche brands that are overtaking the big names, said Lisi.
“Niched perfumes are booming in Asia with brands like Byredo, Diptyque, Jo Malone and Tom Ford.”
He added that he strongly believed that companies can learn a lot from the rise of niche brands.
“The success of the niched brands can teach us a lot of things that the Asian consumer wants. That’s something we are trying to understand to build the next successful brand in Asia.”
Lisi observed that one of the driving factors behind niched fragrances is the rising generation Z consumer, which is more focused on substance over branding.
“The young Gen-Z consumers value quality, not just the brand. If you give them a quality product, they will buy it. That’s why niched brands are doing very well,” he explained.
He added that niched brands were mostly ingredient-driven, which made them easier to understand olfactively. “This is very important storytelling for the consumers.”
Additionally, niched brands have proven to be adept at educating consumers about fragrances.
“Fragrance education is very important. We have to remember this is not a daily routine in many countries in North Asia, for example. Niched brands have education services in the store, they have very experiential shops. This is a good way to connect the consumer with the brand – we need to learn from that,” said Lisi.
Symrise is playing its role in this by working with fragrance brands to inform and instruct consumers about perfumes.
“We are helping brands to educate consumers. It is one of our key missions in Asia. Education is important if you really want to see the next boom [in Asia’s perfume market] and create a very big market.”
Within the niche category, Lisi expects to see the rise of more local perfume brands.
“Today we have the development of new, local brands with stronger brand identity with local heritage. These local brands are very smart, and they really design products that pass the local test,” said Lisi.
He pointed to the success of fashion brands like Uniqlo, which has launched a successful clothing collection targeted at Muslim consumers.
“I really believe local brands will grow very quickly and rise above international brands because there is a really strong interest in buying local. For example, there’s a lot of local pride in China and other countries as well,” said Lisi.
To tap into these local opportunities, Symrise has invested heavily in understanding individual countries and cultures in relation to perfumes.
For instance, the firm has taken field trips to India and China with its full creative and marketing teams to create new concepts.
“With scent expeditions, we go to the countries and we try to see how to invent new olfactive signatures, codes and concepts. Being on the field is our secret. Our main mission is to be the local expert of fine fragrances,” said Lisi.