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Business Plan Footnotes
Developing A Hook
Guaranteed To Sell Your Perfume
Part I

"Successful sales of your perfume will depend neither on the scent nor the packaging. To succeed you must have a very strong hook."

Before reading this article you will benefit from reading the first article in this series and my blog article on the subject.

If you want to sell your own perfume successfully, developing a very strong 'hook' is essential. Regardless of what I write, few perfume developers will take seriously how important this is. Even fewer will spend serious time working to develop their own hook. Most will settle for a hook that is too weak to do the job.

If you can develop the right hook, your perfume business has the potential to be very profitable.

I can't tell you how to find your hook. There is no magic template. But I can give you examples of hooks that have worked for others. And I can suggest strategies you can use to seek out your own powerful hook.

As you contemplate your business plan for perfume and the hook you might find to sell it, keep in mind that the Christmas season is the big sales time for perfume. And something like 40 percent of all perfumes sales are for gifts.

From time to time I come across strategies that could be developed into useful hooks for marketing perfume. I share these with members of our Perfume Makers & Marketers Club through my monthly Club Newsletter. To get some idea of how often I write about strategy, use the Bio-Byte Search with the keyword "strategy." --

Bio-Byte Search

The pages labeled "PMC" are from the Club's Newsletter Archive, available free to Club Members. The pages labeled "mPMC" are the corresponding articles on our mobile site.

Here now are examples of strong hooks -- hooks that have worked for others.

Strong Hooks -- Examples

Justin Bieber, "Someday"

Before developing Someday, the Justin Bieber team had sold several other Justin-branded products quite successfully.

For Someday they put together a project team of some of the most successful and experienced people in the fragrance marketing business.

Rather than release Someday through Elizabeth Arden (which is where most of the team had come from) they formed an entity called Give Back Brands and announced that profits that would typically go to stockholders would go to charities.

Pricing was set for the younger market instead of the typical prestige fragrance price points.

Then, when the scent was ready for release, Justin announced that the scent of Someday was the scent he wanted a girl to smell like.

Sales went through the roof.

Calvin Klein, "Obsession"

Calvin Klein launched his clothing business with a $10,000 loan from childhood friend Barry Schwartz who became Klein's business partner. The enterprise flourished.

In 1978 Klein and Schwartz launched a fragrance and cosmetics line. It lost money and, by 1980, was about to close when it was purchased by Robert Taylor's Minnetonka company for $1 million.

Taylor, a former Johnson & Johnson salesman, had started Minnetonka in his garage, making and selling soap balls. It proved to be a good business.

Graduating from Syracuse, Robin Burns secured a job at Bloomingdale's and spent five years in housewares before she was given the role of men's fragrance buyer.

In 1983 Taylor hired Burns to became president of Calvin Klein Cosmetics. At the time it had "two handfuls of employees" and was losing $2 million annually.

Unlikely as it might seem, Taylor and Burns put together one of the hottest advertising campaigns of the decade launching Calvin Klein's Obsession in 1985. Business website Funding Universe notes "one [Bruce] Weber print ad featured two nude men entwined around one female; another a naked couple with their groins pressed together." Sales of Obsession and Obsession for Men broke the $100 million mark in just two years. For Calvin Klein Cosmetics, this was the beginning of a long, successful series of profitable new fragrances.

W.J. Bush & Co., "Bint El Sudan"

Eric Burgess

Eric Burgess

Bint El Sudan

Bint El Sudan

In 1919 Eric Burgess, a commission salesman for W.J. Bush & Co., was stationed in Khartoum, Sudan. One day, so the story goes, a band of men "looking like brigands from Omdurman" crowded into his office, squatted on the floor and made tea, then presented him with vials of various aromatic materials with the request that they be made into a perfume.

The vials were sent to England where it was discovered the perfume they might make would be too expensive to sell profitably. Adjustments were made and costs were brought down. Introduced to the world in 1920, Bint El Sudan became a phenomenon. Packaging and distribution strategy played a large role in its success.

Distribution of luxury products in rural Africa was, at that time, largely through established traders. But Bint El Sudan was packaged in vials about the diameter of a lipstick and just slightly longer. This reduced their cost, as the contents of each bottle was small, and it reduced their volume and weight thus allowing them to be carried and sold by market ladies who could go with their goods daily among the people and sell Bint El Sudan in a very personal way, giving it promotion that this small product would not have received from the large traders.

During the 1970s the claim was made that Bint El Sudan had sold more units than any perfume, ever. It was frequently counterfeited and, in some parts of the world, is still in great demand.


Someday was a huge success thanks to the tight relationship between the celebrity and the perfume marketers. They were his own team and had his fullest cooperation. This is rare, even among successful celebrity fragrance launches. More typically celebrity and perfume marketer are separate entities, each with their own agenda and thus the celebrity is somewhat less than fully committed to "their" perfume.

Another example of a tight connection between celebrity and fragrance was the Elizabeth Taylor line in which Elizabeth Taylor took a strong personal interest. It is said that collectively her fragrances did over $1 billion in sales and that she earned more from her perfume than she ever earned from Hollywood.

Obsession was success in spite of a celebrity and the marketer very much at odds with each other. Shortly after purchasing the Calvin Klein perfume business, Taylor sued Calvin Klein, not a good way to win your celebrity's cooperation.

But then Taylor hired a professional to put the promotion together, let her do it her way, in spite of what must have seemed to him a shockingly high cost. Burns ultimately won the support of Calvin Klein whose creative input then helped make the promotion a huge success.

But a good deal more than professionalism was responsible for Obsession's success. The image that was created for the fragrance (see the description above!) was in tune with the cutting edge of the times. Many found the ads highly offensive but the people who already were in tune with Calvin Klein's philosophies found the ads amazing and, through a harmless bottle of perfume, were eager to participate in the fantasy.

Bint El Sudan was a success because (1) the fragrance matched the market, indeed it had been inspired by local tastes, (2) the bottle was small and affordable and could be packed easily and carried easily allowing widespread distribution, and (3) distribution of Bint El Sudan through market ladies rather than trading posts got it down to the people, much the way Avon once sold so successfully to rural women and Natura, in Brazil, does today.

In short, each of these fragrances had a strong hook that resulted in strong sales.

Strong hooks with unknown conclusions

The stories cited above can be told with confidence because they are well documented. More often when I come across what appears to be me to be a great hook, I have no way of confirming that the promotion was successful. However, here are a few strategies with strong hooks that are worth studying. Please read more on the next page.

Other articles in this series:
#1 How To Write Your Most Important Business Plan Ever
#2 Funding Your New Perfume
#4 Developing A Hook Guaranteed To Sell Your Perfume, Part II

You might also like these titles available at Amazon:

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Philip Goutell
Lightyears, Inc.