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Opinion: Value of scent in celebrity branding

Opinion: Value of scent in celebrity branding

By Simon Harrop (pictured), CEO, BRAND sense agency

Ever bought a celebrity perfume? If you haven’t, or avoided doing so, you’re about to get a shock when you visit your nearest perfumery this summer.

A staggering nine celebrity perfumes are due to be released from the likes of Kylie Minogue, Kate Moss, Gwen Stefani, Mariah Carey, Coleen McLoughlin, Christina Aguilera, Sean John and David and Victoria Beckham.

Why are these celebrities doing this? Is it just for the money or is there a deeper reason?

Celebrity scents have always existed – think Elizabeth Taylor’s first fragrance. But over the last ten years, as celebrity culture has become more ingrained in our society, they have become increasingly popular.

Obviously there are monetary benefits to the celebrity but I would argue it’s not just about the money. Celebrities have realised that they need to start appealing to their fans in new ways – and scent is one of those methods.

The fact is that 45 per cent of consumers (according to Millward Brown) say smell is the most important sense they use when judging a brand – whether that be David Beckham or a retail product.

Most celebrities already have a relationship with the public through ‘sight’ and ‘sound’, either through TV, radio or the print media. In other words we know what a celebrity looks like and probably sounds like. Some celebrities have even extended that relationship to ‘taste’ by launching or endorsing food products.

And when 83 per cent of current marketing expenditure is focussed on the eyes alone you can see why celebrities would want to appeal to the sense of smell. Not only do 45 per cent of consumers rate it highly, but scent has the most direct and personal relationship with an individual.

This is because your sense of smell bypasses the rational part of the brain in the cortex and goes direct to the limbic system creating an immediate and direct emotional reaction.

So the emotional high of the smell is likely to be associated with a particular celebrity. This is an extremely cost effective way of reaching consumers especially when compared to, say, the cost of a TV advert.

Scent allows celebrities to express their brand personality – that is the attitudinal and cultural values of that individual – in a totally emotional and non-rational way that has a direct affect on consumers.

No wonder so many are bringing out perfumes. Indeed, big corporate brands are already using smell in a commercially successful way. For example, Singapore Airlines provides no more legroom than any other carrier.

Yet in survey after survey flyers consistently vote Singapore Airlines the best carrier. Could this be in part due to the branded fragrance that has been subtly infused in all its planes hand towels and cabins?

Scent is not the panacea to celebrities branding woes. But it does provide a highly effective means with which celebrities can bypass their rivals and emotionally connect with their fans.

And, of course, fans can feel that they ‘own’ a piece of their celebrity. You can’t get much better branding than that!

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