In the past years, Chinese preferences for fragrances have moved away from leading international prestige brands like Dior and Chanel and towards niche fragrance labels like Byredo and Diptyque.
While the demand for such brands has reached a fever pitch in the booming Chinese market, Givaudan believes local consumers are now looking for perfume brands that offer more than cult status.
“The demand for quality fine fragrance that is localised for Chinese tastes is now at the very peak. There is a perceivable stronger need for a Chinese interpretation [of perfume] and we have a need as a fragrance house to better understand the local consumer psyche,” said Yaling Li, Givaudan's head of fragrances, China and Korea
The Swiss fragrance house recently announced that it had inked a deal with Alibaba’s Tmall to launch the T-Lab source innovation laboratory and capture digital opportunities for fragrance creation in China.
The partnership gave Givaudan access to Tmall’s consumer data and allow it to stay on top of trends and potentially create consumer-relevant products in tandem with the times.
Back to classics
For its first collaboration, Givaudan and Tmall produced a series of fragrances inspired by the classic Chinese tale, Journey to the West.
The range of products, consisting of two eaux de parfums, a reed diffuser, as well as hand and body creams, was developed through a nine-step process, starting with data analysis of consumer behaviour and ultimately with input from the consumer themselves.
“From our dialogue with the consumers, we got some inspiring insights. One of them was the interpretation of the new Chinese female role model as a tender power,” Li recollected.
She elaborated that this notion was inspired by the Queen of the Women’s Kingdom, a character in the novel that can be described as a counterpart of the Homeric character, Helen of Troy.
“Tender power is the new representation of female power. On one hand, she is independent, individualistic, self-confident… At the same time, the character is sensual, soft and feminine. These are the kinds of valuable insights the perfumer gets from being in constant dialogue with the consumer in the creation of the perfumes.”
Li emphasised that taking inspiration from Journey to the West was crucial to understanding what Chinese consumers want from their perfumes today.
"They don’t just want to follow Western values and ideals; they want to define their own Chinese identity. In this case, young Chinese consumers are engaging in a kind of cultural archaeology by digging into this Chinese classic novel and reinterpret the hidden meanings of the sutras, sexuality, and are using this story to define their own personal identity.”
Speedy collaborations key
Givaudan believes co-creation is the future of product development in beauty and fragrance and will continue to emphasise collaborative efforts between itself and its clients.
Li added that collaborative projects will be even more important given the rapid pace that consumer trends are moving.
“Especially with China’s e-commerce environment, the market is demanding a much faster and shorter development cycle. What we are trying to do with the Tmall Innovation Centre is bring all the people to the same table. This is a great, innovative way of working to accelerate the development process from traditionally around 40 weeks to four weeks.”