Today I got to entertain two people from Procter and Gamble, the famous and highly successful personal care company headquartered here in Cincinnati. They were on a mini tour of local companies which appear to be doing things that P&G values and which they want their young employees to study “in the wild”. The lady was from Belgium (one of my favorite countries) and the gentleman was from Cincinnati, graduate of the University of Cincinnati College of Design, Art, Architecture, and Planning (DAAP) in. They were variously interested in how I wrote the descriptions for my perfumes and presentation of the product.
One thing about being interviewed by exceptional people, it makes you articulate things which you just tuck away in the back of your head and classify,”Yes…I do that”. My answers said why I do some things, and I am convinced that taking a fresh look at my regular way of doing things was an invaluable exercise for me as well. I found that at the foundation of what I do is just good old yeoman’s English…the same idea as you find in The Elements of Style and A Manual For Writers. Make the verb do the work and don’t use the same old thing/tired cliche.
When you write, make it yours. I was asked about writing descriptions for particular fragrances, and I responded that you have to smell it for yourself and decide what YOU find in it. Someone might present it to you as “soft” or “redolent with creamy jasmine notes” and that’s nice BUT if all you smell is a strong aggressive musk with a grape-like background note then write it up as it truly smells. To do otherwise just invites disappointment. Describing what you actually smell is difficult, you must be achingly honest with yourself, and you need experience in sorting out parts of fragrances and being able to assign a sensible name to them. (Of course this is all muddled because we don’t have a full and uniform vocabulary for fragrance in the “normal” world).
Of course, there is the personality of the company to consider. The fragrance presentation has to reflect the persona of the entity presenting it. If your corporation is “family friendly” as one of its main characteristics, then stay away from the raw and raunchy. On the other hand, if your company is the wild child of the industry, not to shock would be not to succeed. So, sometimes the allure of a product has to be amped mightily, and other times it has to be hinted at to play in keeping with your commercial environment.
They asked me how do I come up with a name for a perfume? There are various ways. I remember creating a fabulous gingerbread smelling perfume and not being able to get away from thinking of it as “Gingerbread House”. That would have been quite a dull name and I doubt it would have inspired anything other than the notion of its being “twee”. I was standing in front of a display of gingerbread houses at a holiday trunk show, and “Gingerbread Whorehouse” popped into my mind. It stuck, it was naughty but not lewd and became a best seller partially due to the name. On the other hand, I created a perfume, Fabienne, after deciding to create an eponymous blend.
Finally, the “ride” you offer the customer. I try to get 5 collections out a year. Each one has a theme. In my world it is exceptionally important to go on a fantasy and explore something different several times in a year, something which is appropriate to the season and flows from the previous collection or makes a complete break from it. I started 2013 with the Valentines as traditional fragrances for the most part, spring (Sacred Geometry) was something beautiful and esoteric (but capable of being presented sensibly to the casual viewer). Poetry was the theme for summer around which I could play off such diverse work as: Beowulf, haiku, and Allen Ginsberg’s Howl. Autumn celebrates the beautiful dark poetry of Dante which was just right for Halloween. Moreover, the fragrances which suited the seasons could match nicely with each theme; Hell being a perfect vehicle for dark resins, strong spices, and incense/smokey scents; Sacred Geometry was cool and in love with sandalwood and grapefruit for emerging spring.
The time passed quickly, talking about Possets is one of my favorite occupations. There has been a lot of time and effort put into this company and I was very proud to have it recognized by the amazing hometown industry leader.