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Taking over: how indie and niche beauty businesses are transforming the fragrance market

3rd December 2019 | Daniel Appleton

Taking over: how indie and niche beauty businesses are transforming the fragrance market

In years gone by a “signature scent” was the order of the day, and giant brands such as Chanel, Dior and Yves Saint Laurent were go-to’s for a perfume that would leave people asking “Who are you wearing?” 

However, this is not so anymore. Choice, and lots of it, is the modern consumers’ demand, and is exactly what that the mass of smaller brands offer. 

Indie and niche beauty brands are making their mark on the fragrance market, making up around 10% of total sales – a percentage that is steadily growing. Niche perfume and beauty brands such as Le Labo and Anya Hindmarche have become household names, releasing beloved products that have gained cult status in the fragrance world.

But how exactly have niche and indie beauty brands taken on the “big boys”, and broken into the world of fragrance?

Transparency and minimalist branding

Indie beauty brands took the usual marketing-meld of celebrity endorsement and garishly designed bottles… and threw it in the bin. Indie fragrances tend to have simplistic and stylish packaging, with minimalist marketing that relies heavily on hearsay and “buzz” over expensive marketing strategies. 

For example, Byredo’s instantly recognisable fragrance, Gypsy Water, has a simplistic, clean design with a black cap and plain label. Founder, Ben Gorham, wanted to clear “the clutter of fragrance” and avoid the over-the-top packaging and marketing of the beauty giants. 

This is, in part, due to niche and indie brands possessing less monetary clout than the bigger brands, but also partly an attempt to “strip back” the circus of advertising that historically follows a fragrance launch. 

Instead, indie beauty brands promote themselves through the quality of their product, the mysterious attraction of the “cult fragrance”, and – of course – memorable and unique names such as “Juliette Has a Gun” and “Cowboy Grass” that create a certain mystique. 

This is attractive to a more thoughtful, modern consumer who doesn’t want to make purchases based purely upon the fantasy, but for the quality of the product itself. 

Indie and niche beauty brands also tend to be transparent with consumers about the cost of their products – by removing celebrity endorsements, and expensive marketing campaigns niche brands can offer consumers an honest insight into what exactly goes into the cost of their products. 

For example, indie beauty brand Beauty Pie claims to offer consumers luxury brand quality, at a high street price because they rule out the costs of retailer markup, celebrity endorsement, middlemen and shop fits. Honesty such as this from smaller brands is refreshing and something that modern customers admire.

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Unique fragrances influenced by science and personalisation

As Rachel Duffy-Packer, general manager of beauty at David Jones, comments “Super-premium and niche brands are a major driving force in fragrance – customers are looking for a unique scent that stands out in the crowd.”

Niche beauty brands place a focus on unique scents that are distinguishable and special. For instance, Le Labo’s cult unisex fragrance, Santal 33, was described by the New York Times as “that perfume you smell everywhere.” 

There are now more ways than ever to extract ingredients, and discover new, delightfully scented, molecules, meaning “niche brands are able to create more combinations… to break traditional perfumery formats and create hyper-real imaginative scents.” according to scent designer and consultant Ainslie Walker. 

In a world where the consumer is no longer satisfied with purchasing a product that lacks originality, indie beauty brands have tapped into the modern consumer psyche of not wanting to have “what everyone else has”, but rather being “the first”, “the few” and “the select.” 

Indie brands also place emphasis on quality, ensuring that fragrances not only smell better, but last longer and give consumers a far better experience that keeps them coming back for more. 

The phenomenon of the “personalised fragrance” is another way that indie brands have differentiated their offering from the wider marketplace. As Global Cosmetic News comments “…this new generation of shoppers wants creative input, personalization, individuality… while the designer and celebrity camps remain dictatorial.”

Indie brands, however, recognised the need for personalised fragrances and reacted with fragrances that you can layer, create in-store or that are for your star sign, mood, or even favourite gemstone of the week. 

The possibilities for personalisation are truly endless, an example of this can be seen with the fragrance Molecule One, created by niche brand Escentric Molecules. The perfume consists of a molecule called Iso E Super that reacts with the wearer to create a unique and unidentifiable scent. The final word in personalisation. 

In summary 

Indie beauty brands have met big brands head-on in a battle for a slice of the fragrance market – and a big slice at that. 

Through a mixture of stripped-back branding, unique and complex fragrances and catering to the modern consumers need for originality, they have succeeded in making a huge mark on this sector – and their influence is still growing. 

Consumers have been craving fragrances that make them feel special, ones that they could personalise and feel a connection to. Indie brands saw the gap and jumped into it, whilst the big brands are still lagged behind, resisting the changes that came hard and fast with the advent of the Millenial and Gen-Z consumer.

So whilst indie and niche beauty brands seem to have won the battle, who will win the war?

Watch this space! For professional advice on how your indie beauty businesses can take advantage of emerging opportunities in fragrance through strategic talent management, contact Goodall Brazier today.