Applying Digital Product Management To Perfume

Is it possible to apply digital product management to the art of creating perfumes?
Is it possible to apply digital product management to the art of creating perfumes?

Image Credit: Kevin Jaako

Think, if you will, about the world of perfumes. This market consists of tiny little bottles that contain liquids that when sprayed on (most of the time) women produce scents that the wearer believes will make them more attractive to the opposite sex. Chanel No. 5 is considered to be the most expensive perfume in the world and is priced at $121.71 per ounce. Clearly there is a market for these scents; however, can product managers bring the art of creating and selling perfume into the 21st Century?

How Perfume Works Today

Ok, so let’s say that you were a perfume product manager today. Just exactly how would you be going about doing your job? I must confess that since I am a guy, I am looking at this from the outside, but I think that I’ve been exposed to enough perfume advertising over the course of my life that I can take some educated guesses here.

New product development definition would take up a lot of your time. The “shelf life” of many perfume brands is relatively short – the world of perfume buying women is always interested in what is new, last year’s fragrances hold no magic. If you are going to be developing new fragrances, then you are going have to be doing some research: what scents do women like? Sure you can do focus groups, but what may be even more telling is what scents are selling the best. This may be one reason why perfumes all seem to smell the same over time.

The next thing that you are going to have to do is to market your product. This is where things get really interesting. When you are picking a name for your new perfume, you are going to have to decide if you want the name to describe the scent or if you just want to make it sound mysterious and desirable. If you can get a celebrity to endorse your scent (think Britney Spears) then you will have created a perfume that everyone will want. Do this right and you’ll have something to add to your product manager resume.

How Perfume Will Work Tomorrow

We are all now living in the 21st Century and so this means that even something as “old school” as marketing and selling perfume can benefit from modern marketing tools. What perfume product managers have come to realize is that there are simply too many scents out there for any one customer to have any chance of being to evaluate all of them. Clearly this is a problem that called for some help via technology.

That help has started to show up via iPad apps and specialty algorithms. The thinking here is that if some basic information can be collected from a woman regarding her likes and dislikes, the wide world of perfumes can be narrowed down to just those scents that will appeal to her.

One of the ways that these apps work is by having a woman enter the names of the perfumes that she has liked in the past. Once this information has been provided, then five different scents are provided. The customer is then asked to smell each as a part of a blind smell test so that they won’t be influenced by packaging. Customers can also choose to “search by scent type” if they know what they like. Ultimately, the arrival of this new technology may fundamentally change how perfumes are designed and sold.

What All Of This Means For You

Perfume is a very interesting product. Clearly customers don’t need it, they could get along just fine without it. However, at the same time it is very clear that customers want it – spraying on some perfume is a fundamental part of many women’s toiletry every day. What this means for perfume product managers is that part of their product manager job description is that they have to guess what scents women want to buy.

Traditionally, stores have been stocked with all sorts of perfumes that advertised how they smelled by their name or how they were packaged. Women had to try on a large number of scents in order to find the one that worked the best with their skin chemistry. However, things are starting to change in the world of perfumes. Now iPads and algorithms are being used to get answers from potential customers in order to narrow down what types of scents will most likely appeal to them. With the large number of new scents that are introduced each year, keeping these apps and algorithms up-to-date can be a real challenge.

Perfume product managers need to be very careful. They are not selling industrial equipment that can be purchased sight unseen. Rather, they are creating and selling a very personal product. This means that they need to take the time to understand what scents women want to spray on themselves and then make sure that this is what they are providing.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: How many questions about perfumes do you think that you can ask before a customer gets fed up?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Every product manager wants to be able to stay in touch with the people who have already purchased their product. There are a lot of ways to do this including having a good working relationship with your sales team. However, since we now live in the 21st Century we have an even better way to make this happen: the email newsletter.