I am a student in South Africa currently doing a degree in Creative Brand Communications. I am doing a marketing assignment on the perfume brand L'Artisan Parfumeur...I am having trouble finding out insights into why people buy L'Artisan's products? I know they are a French niche perfume house and they offer scents that are unique, however, I feel that a lot of other perfume brands such as Serge Lutens, Diptyque, Lubin, By Kilian and Frédéric Malle also do this. I am finding it hard to grasp what L'Artisan's brand image is in the mind of the consumer. I live in South Africa and have never interacted with this brand before. Also South Africa's perfume market is quite different to the French market.
I would really appreciate it if you could shed some light! :) Kind regards Kirsten"
Well, I must admit that Kirsten's out of the blue inquiry rather caught me on the hop. I don't believe I have ever given any thought to L'Artisan's brand image, though I am pretty familiar with the fragrances themselves. Reading Kirsten's email back, my first thought was to agree with her statement about L'Artisan offering a range of unique scents. Some of them are quite off the wall, even. But for me, her view that other perfume houses also have distinctive ranges doesn’t preclude them from each having their own brand identity and distinct place - or "niche" indeed - in the world of niche fragrance. But if that holds true, what exactly IS L'Artisan's brand image?
Before pondering the matter further, I wrote back to Kirsten, saying that I would see what I could find out about people’s perceptions of the brand, and that the best way might well be to involve readers of my blog. I asked her to tell me more about the background to the project, together with any information she had already gleaned.
Kirsten is preparing an entry for the D & AD 2013 student awards for creative excellence. The L'Artisan brief she has chosen is as follows:
“Re-envisage the L’Artisan Parfumeur brand for the 21st Century by creating a design solution for a new unisex range of scents.
Creative challenge —
Traditional French fragrance houses are steeped in a rich history of style and imagery. L’Artisan Parfumeur wants to break with this convention. Their latest collection is uniquely based around bottled emotions. Your challenge is to showcase this range by breaking the rules of conventional perfume packaging.
There are four scents, each capturing a different human feeling:
Scent a: Passion and desire. Sex and lust. Raw and physical.
Scent b: Perfect, sublime love. An interior emotion.
Scent c: Excitement and fear. Adrenaline, exhilaration and thrill.
Scent d: Elegant and dignified. Stormy yet still.”
Of course there are many other students the world over tackling the same brief, but as Kirsten took the initiative to approach me, she’s the “horse” I am backing who gets my help!
And following her initial desk research, Kirsten’s take so far on the brand values of the company is as follows:
"So far I have discovered that L’Artisan is a French niche perfume house that produces unique fragrances by mixing contradictory scents together. They are inspired by Grasse and nature. They refer to Grasse as a place that is ‘alive with fleeting emotions’ (definitely something there!). They also believe that making fragrance requires poetry, art, humour and stylish ingenuity. The brand has a kind of outlandish feel to it and they believe that their scents evoke emotions and memories that are extremely personal."
I wouldn't quibble with any of that, especially the term "outlandish". Or maybe I would be more inclined to say "quirky". On the L'Artisan website, there is actually a category of perfumes called "Les Insolites", or the "Unusual / Strange ones". Yes, Dzing!, Fou Absinthe, Dzongkha and Timbuktu strike me as being towards the odder and abstract end of the spectrum, while the likes of Premier Figuier, Mimosa pour Moi and Fleur d'Oranger are more accessible and representational in style. And that very broad brush distinction may have a lot to do with the different artistic styles of the various perfumers, such as Bertrand Duchaufour, Anne Flipo and Olivia Giacobetti.
Coincidentally, I received a mailshot from Luckyscent only the other day, offering sample packs featuring L’Artisan’s “Ten Most Loved (and Legendary) Scents”, though in whose eyes is not clear to me – Luckyscent themselves, L’Artisan? I imagine the latter. And what is the basis of either of the terms “loved” and “legendary”? Most talked about? Biggest sellers?
Anyway, the samples include Fou d’Absinthe, which is described as an “olfactory craziness” (confirming our quirky hypothesis – again, I am assuming this is L’Artisan copy), while other scents such as Premier Figuier are (as I posited above) almost photorealistic representations of the scent: “Green crunchy notes of the leaves, milky sap of branches, sweetness of fruit and woody notes of the trunk.” Now I also associate a number of the scents with a strong sense of place – capturing a travel experience in a fragrance, and Premier Figuier is also an example of this: “Evokes a nap in the shade of a fig tree in the South of France”. Timbuktu, meanwhile, is a “wild (there we go with offbeat again) yet sophisticated fragrance inspired by a journey to Mali in West Africa…”
Turning from the scents themselves to L’Artisan’s competitors, I guess L'Artisan must compete with a ton of brands from the more exclusive lines of Guerlain and Chanel to a plethora of smaller houses. If I had to suggest which other brands share L'Artisan's "broadly modern" vibe, I'd probably go with Parfumerie Générale, The Different Company, Byredo, Diptyque and Malle, also Le Labo, Ormonde Jayne, Humiecki & Graef and Mona di Orio - with the rider that some of these feel more spare and "clinically modern" in design terms than L'Artisan. And conversely, the brands I would not think of include Creed, Piguet, Les Parfums d'Empire, Lorenzo Villoresi, Amouage, Etro, Les Parfums de Nicolai, Maître Parfumeur Gantier, Floris, or possibly even Penhaligon's.
Then as for its degree of exclusivity, or "nicheness" - I mean within the niche market itself - L'Artisan feels somewhere around mid-field. Parfumerie Générale feels a tad more upmarket to me, as does Mona di Orio or Ormonde Jayne, though not by much, and this is a very subjective impression. I guess it depends how often you encounter any given brand in your own perfume shopping orbit. Yes, it may come down to some function of perceived “retail exposure" combined with price, maybe, or even the number of fragrances in the line. At some level I haven't quite put my finger on, having too many scents may devalue the range - as with Creed (in my view), which also suffers from overly wide - and qualitatively mixed - distribution.
On this very point, here is a thought-provoking post by Perfumeshrine about L’Artisan’s place in the grand scheme of things, in which she speculates on whether the recent discontinuations suggest the house can no longer afford to focus as much on the more oddball favourites in the line, which may be slow movers. Though I guess it is a commercial business at the end of the day. Oh, and it seems that L’Artisan will be sold in Sephora shortly, which may take its niche reputation down a notch?
But enough of my thoughts about L'Artisan Parfumeur, what say you?
What attributes or values does the brand evoke for you?
To what extent are you interested in what L’Artisan stands for, or its position in the market – is it all about the scent?
How niche does the brand feel to you, and which other houses - if any - have a range with a similar feel?
And for good measure, any thoughts on the current packaging, or on any new creative directions in which it could be taken that would give it more of a wow factor / sense of drama? (The brief does say that L'Artisan wants to break the rules of conventional packaging.)
NB I have checked out the pack concepts of some of the competing entries and a couple involve integral uplighting in the actual box!
Now Kirsten may have picked the short straw by choosing me to help her gain a better understanding of people's perceptions of the L'Artisan brand, because out of all the perfume blogs she could have lit upon, Bonkers is not one that attracts very many comments as a rule. So in a bid to rally people to the cause of her project, I am holding a L'Artisan giveaway!
Anyone who leaves a comment addressing any of the questions above about the L'Artisan brand will be eligible to win a decant of Séville à L'Aube from my bottle (if you don't wish to be entered into the draw, please say so). It is open to readers everywhere, regardless of postal regulations! I fly in the face of postal regulations! The draw ends on Sunday 24th February at midnight GMT.
UPDATE: In view of the number of people commenting who already have Séville à L'Aube, I am adding the option of a Travalo atomiser as an alternative, which will hopefully appeal to everyone!
Drawing of L'Artisan bottles from the company's website, photo of green bottle from the D & AD website, L'Artisan logo from thespiceloftproject.blogspot.co.uk, photo of Grasse from thalassoleil.fr, photo of Bertrand Duchaufour from magazin.e15.cz, photo of Mali from deahanmediaworld.co.kr, photo of Séville à L'Aube my own.