Saturday, 28 February 2015

Déjà Vu from Signature Fragrances, and thoughts on tenacity and 'lasting impacts'

As readers may deduce from my recent reaction to Bogue Profumo's MAAI, I have come a long way from the days when only perfumes described as 'wispy', 'delicate' and 'subtle' called my name. I can take the odd heavy hitting diva scent these days - even one with animalic notes of all unlikely things! - and am more open generally to trying scents that would once have been firmly outside my comfort zone. So when I was approached last summer by Signature Fragrances, with an offer to try a couple of their 'extremely pungent' pure parfum strength fragrance oils, I was more intrigued and amused than alarmed, also by the company's tongue in cheek aim of allowing its customers 'to become EXTROVERTED' in the process. I wrote back with my address and in due course received a sample of Déjà Vu and Lola.

I'll be honest, because of the sub-title underneath of 'Fragrance Oils' (italics my own), I initially thought that Lola was 'a house within a house', ie that Signature Fragrances acted as the overarching stable for a number of individual fragrance oil brands. So for a while there I thought that Déjà Vu was actually called 'OVERBEARING DESIRE' and Lola 'MODERN TOUCH'. I have since read reviews by The Chemist in the Bottle and The Smelly Vagabond and put myself straight on this point - the wording doubtless refers to the fact that instead of being a perfume suspended in alcohol, each scent is a blend of multiple fragrance oils.

Now I didn't really care for either I am afraid - Déjà Vu was a big peachy amber number with an oddly plasticky vibe to it - the intense fusion of coconut and a boozy note, maybe? - so it was never going to appeal, sadly. Plus I am not really one for the texture of oils, to be honest, though in fairness it only felt sticky in the moments after application. Lola was quieter, though not especially memorable - I was going to retest it for this post, but I have been ill this week, and in my enfeebled state I am blowed if I can get the top off the vial now! So, sorry about that.

But the perfumes are not the focus of this post - I have encountered some fans on the Net, and they are undoubtedly of a very high quality / concentration, and in attractive, luxe-style packaging. It was just bad luck that I didn't like the ones I was sent. No, it is Signature Fragrances' marketing campaign that is on my mind at the moment...

To go back to the story, I wrote back, thanking Signature Fragrances for the two samples, and explaining that unfortunately they were not my thing. Undeterred by my reaction to these two, the company wrote back: 'If those were not to your fancy, then I'm sure we'll have some that will fascinate you.' I thanked them again, said: 'Very possibly', and we left it at that.

Then in November, the marketing emails - just the generic kind, this time - started coming thick and fast, triggered by the upcoming launch of a new clutch of scents on 25th of that month. 'You are special', read the first. There was talk of their fragrances being brought to the customer 'through tenacious pure oils'. As it turns out the tenacity of the oils was just the start of it.

By 5th December, I was deemed special enough to be addressed as 'Dear Signateer'. Which sounded oddly cultist - certainly not something I was aware of having signed up to.;) On 6th, I received a mailshot about a prize draw. On 18th the whimsical communications stepped up a gear in upper case urgency: 'Hurry! Indulge, Dab and Fascinate.' I was asked whether I had purchased a fragrance yet from their 'array of luscious perfumes crafted to leave you fascinated.' Ha! They were still hell-bent on fascinating me, I could tell, by now in on this running joke. ;)

There followed a bit of a Christmas lull, then on 16th January the marketing wheels cranked into life again. This time the focus turned to the company's sampling programme, on the basis of buy two, get one free, with free shipping worldwide - which was actually a very good deal in itself. Each vial was said to deliver a 'sensational experience that will last for the whole month'. That struck me as not beyond the bounds of possibility, given its pure parfum strength. Prospective purchasers were encouraged to 'select the drop down box to reveal your treasure'. Once again, there seemed to be an assumption on the part of the company that their perfumes would definitely get the thumbs up from the public, whereas people's success rate with any fragrance house is often a lot more patchy than that.

Then I learnt a little more about the owners, Solomon and Yinka, in this piece from the Croydon Guardian: it seems the duo are keen to bring the overt, rather than covert perfume-wearing MO of the Saudis over to Britain.

'The Saudis are very mature in their wearing of perfumes, the fragrances they wear are not in the range of Eau de Toilette. It's all about oils and robust fragrances crafted to leave lasting and iconic impacts.'

Okay, I think there may be a bit of a backlash in the market at the moment away from wimpy perfumes - hey, I am that soldier! - so the owners could well have their finger on the pulse in that regard. That said, I don't buy into the slight implication?? that the more pungent and robust the fragrance, the more 'grown up' / 'proper' the wearer. That's like saying that people who get up early in the morning are morally superior. ;) It's a little off-topic, but there was a great article on this very theme in the New Yorker.

Source: marketing email from SF!

But back to our chronology...Also on 16th January I had another email, this time featuring a quote from Armani; 'Elegance is not about being noticed, it's about being remembered.' On 20th, I had the same one again. On 23rd, 26th and 29th I had the one about the sampling service for £4.95 a pop. On 1st February I had an email offering 40% off the range, addressing me as 'Dear Signateer' again, and entitled 'I'll buy if the price is right.' Oooh no, I won't buy if I don't like or don't know something! The email had the strapline: 'Explore the diversity and united of scent', with a little 'TM' trademark sign over it, which was puzzling. Then on 5th February I received the 'elegance' email again, and on the same day, the one about the 40% discount. On 12th - and staying with our theme of exploration (a pre-Valentine's pitch no doubt) - an email landed entitled 'Explore, then treat her.' Forgive me, but that sounded slightly rude to my ear... ;) It went on: 'There is still time, fascinate someone!' It's the fascinating imperative again! They are wags, I thought. ;)

On 13th, I was urged to 'make someone happy' with a 10% discount. Ah, but the 40% one from earlier this month would make them happier? Also on 13th, I got the 'Explore, then treat her' email, which raised another guilty chuckle. On 16th I noticed that the sampling programme had been given a fillip by the renaming of the vials as 'little teasers'. Then the email of the 17th was a repeat of the one from the 13th - this time blending the 'Explore, then treat her' with the 10% discount. Also on 17th, I received another 'ENJOY OUR LITTLE TEASERS' email about the sampling service, along with the rather endearing slogan: 'When you're feeling sad, dab some perfume.' On 19th, I was invited to 'celebrate Great Britain in scent from the defining point of modern Britain'. On 24th I got the teaser email again, with the sad dabbing advice, which I judged sweet and poignant enough to bear a little bit of repetition! On 26th I got an oddly entitled email, which reminded me of that staccato style of some of the Library of Fragrance labels, which Jim famously dubbed 'a bit shouty'.

'Leave. an Iconic. impact on your. Friends.'

And that's it so far, but it is only 28th of February. To all of this I would say -  not 'Elegance is not about being noticed, it's about being remembered' exactly - but rather that it is about being remembered in a good way. I don't have a problem with pungent perfumes - there may be some really lovely scents in the range (I'm curious about the powdery floral Endure, for example), and the company's sense of humour has raised a few smiles along the way. However, thanks to this avalanche of marketing messages, I fear I just can't summon up the inclination to investigate further. It's the frequency of the emails that bothers me and also the assumption that I will like these perfumes and I will buy them. Yet 26 emails in, a purchase is still not forthcoming, and the messages simply leave a leaden feeling of 'déjà vu'....

I could liken it to the blizzard of pizza leaflets which are put through my door with relentless regularity. I have yet to take up the offers on a single one of them. As takeaway foods go, this Italian staple has now become 'pizza non gratis' as far as I am concerned, and that's even without any of them claiming that their BBQ Meat Feast with Double Pepperoni is 'The Most Pungent Pizza in the World'. ;)

Have you ever felt inundated by marketing communications from a particular perfume house? (I have a feeling Jo Malone might also be quite prolific, for example.)

If so, can you easily shrug it off, or does it affect your perception of / interest in the brand in question?

Props for beautiful, chunky bottles ~ Source: fragrantica


Another email has come in since I wrote this post - possibly not the last... Here is the title:


Hmm, that has something of the ominous quality of 'Read.My.Lips'?

Then the email itself:


Perfume has the power to make you feel unique.  Royalty have always used perfume to adorn themselves and express superiority."

'Superiority'? Another spin on 'maturity' perhaps?

Later we are back on familiar (fascinating ;) ) ground:

"The focus is on the perfume, so one dab will leave you fascinated and yearning for more."


  1. Now that I have stopped laughing I have to say no, I have not been bombarded with anything close to that. Actually I have never been bombarded with anything. However, the people who get up early in the morning bit? Smirk. Bussi.

    1. Hi Val,

      Haha...I think I probably do feel that people who get up really early in the morning - you, Birgit, Condaleezza Rice, postmen - are superior by dint of being superhuman - but am mostly in denial. ;)

  2. Oh dear...
    The double glazing approach doesn't really go with elegance. I'm looking forward to their response.

    1. Hi Sabine,

      Good point! Speaking generally, as there are other culprits out there - though a cursory glance through my inbox suggests none as flagrant / frequent as SF - I feel sure that these marketing mailshots are set up to run automatically, and people in the companies don't try to imagine what the cumulative impact might be like on the recipient. And maybe my tolerance threshold is particularly low. But I would love to hear if Joshua or Lucas got anything like this number of emails, and if so, what they thought of them.

  3. Hmm... peachy amber - that doesn't sound like my thing at all. (I won a bottle of Deja Vu - though I've yet to receive it). Well I could choose anything, but I got wooed by the bottle, haha. We'll see how it fares I guess. That marketing though - wow - thats pretty intense! Maybe you should write them an email for every email you get :)

    1. Hi Sun Mi,

      Oh wow, what a coincidence about your win of Deja Vu! I do hope you like it - it is a very nice bottle. I can vouch for the far drydown of the perfume, but the opening to middle was a bit full-on for me, even though I have a much greater tolerance of full-on these days.

      Yes, I think that would put the cat among the pigeons all right if I replied to each email!

  4. There are some brands or perfumers that "wronged" me one way or the other (in most cases without ever communicating with me directly) so I feel almost morally obligated to mention their sins every time I comment about them in one of the blogs I read. With SF I feel almost bad: they haven't done anything wrong by me (well, if not to count NOT offering me any of their scents to try - but I won't count that since almost nobody does :) ); I haven't tried any of their perfumes so I don't know if they are good or bad, but it looks like I'm going from blog to blog leaving negative comments. Why? Because inexplicably this brand annoys me. Well, it's not completely without a reason. Who names their brand "Signature Fragrances"?! In our web age! Really? Guys, how can I trust you to create perfumes that will allow me to "Be Unique" if you couldn't come up with a more unique name? Have you tried googling "signature fragrance"? Also I can't believe somebody actually allowed to register a trademark "Signature Fragrances London"?!
    I'm not a native speaker but a couple of passages on their About page sound strange to me. But then, maybe, it's a British thing? "This improves the length of the perfume" or " Each collection has been hand selected to produce a divine collection of fragrances that..." [emphasis added] So with all that I'm not surprised with their marketing campaign - it feels very fitting.
    (fingers crossed, there are not that many blogs left where I'll feel tempted to comment if they review the brand ;) ).

    1. Hi Undina,

      Thanks for your long and detailed comment - appreciated all the more as I know you are so busy at the moment. I do feel better for hearing that you found this brand annoying, as I thought I was the only one. And you haven't even had the barrage of emails - your beef is more about the marketing copy itself. I hadn't thought about the odd choice of a generic name for the company, but it is a good point. And is it the best thing to promote the concept of having a single signature fragrance? They would surely sell more perfume if they went for the wardrobe approach? Also, SF say on their website that this is a 'unique range of perfumes that everybody would enjoy'. Here again is the assumption that people WILL all like them - or some of them at least - which may not be the case. Not everyone likes 'pungent' perfumes - the Japanese are said to prefer lighter scents, I believe. And nor will people *individually* smell so unique if they did all wear the SF range...! ;)

      I was making allowances for the native speaker thing - though I note that the owners taught English in Saudi - I think their choice of words is very much their own 'house style'. I could best describe it perhaps as 'comically overbearing', like Deja Vu with its 'overbearing desire'. ;) It did amuse me here and there - you couldn't not smile at the injunction to 'Indulge, Dab and Fascinate!' - but ultimately the sheer frequency of the mails, coupled with what I read as a slightly hectoring tone, killed my interest in the brand. Which is a shame, as they may have some really nice scents in there.

      And I hesitated about even posting at all, given the culture in the blogosphere of tending to only say something nice or nothing at all - especially where the smaller houses are concerned. But how you engage with the public is really important, and that intensity of communication is surely only going to backfire. And I don't recall anyone else tackling this subject specifically. Plus something just snapped inside me, basically!

  5. From Hazel, reposted from Facebook:

    If you want Bombarded, buy clothing online. Not only is your inbox one cascade of 20% Off Must End Midnight Spring Clearance Birthday Gift Free Postage Today Only St Valentine's Day Offer Two for One Complimentary Favoured Customer Discount, but the doormat is ankle-deep in catalogues and mail shots.

    1. Hi Hazel,

      Hahaha. I do, and it is! The Cashmere Centre is right up there after pizza. I do not buy cashmere cardis weekly any more than I eat pizza twice a week.

  6. They would go straight onto my "shut up I hate you" list with that level of email noise. You may be encouraging them by *opening* the emails and, worse, clicking any links in them and therefore moving yourself into the "interested possible purchaser" stream (says the person who has designed automated marketing campaigns. For which I will spend many, many eons in purgatory).

    VistaPrint were one of the worse I ever encountered, with at least four mails a week.

    Hush are currently at the top of my "please quieten down, or I will punish you by never giving you money again" list (even though I adore they pyjamas). Escentual jumped into my unsubscribe box after their daily NO REALLY, we have a SALE, and it's ENDING TOMORROW! TODAY! IN THREE HOURS!

    My greater plague, however, is the crop of muppets who share my name and sign up for mailing lists across North America whenever they buy anything...and use my email address. This happens at least fortnightly.

    1. Hi crikey,

      I deliberately didn't look to see if I could unsubscribe from SF out of a sort of morbid curiosity - you know, to see what level of email activity they thought appropriate when completely unimpeded by the recipient, type of thing. And I have now clicked on all of them for the purposes of this post, however they got very little encouragement from me after November. Which suggests to me that an "uninterested possible purchaser" is no deterrent to their e-campaign. I will try to overlook your past role in direct marketing. I was in marketing myself actually, but happily before the days of computers, never mind the Internet.

      I hope your cold is better. Hot on the heels of the coincidence about your liking The Monochrome Set, which we discovered over on the vaping post, I promptly caught your cold and am just shaking it off, a week on. Luckily you have moved on careerwise, or I might very well imagine I inadvertently clicked on it.

      This week's coincidence is that I have just spent a couple of hours with an artist friend, who was sketching some ideas for a business card. 'Have you considered Moo or Vistaprint?' he inquired, to which I replied: 'I had some postcards done by Vistaprint once and I couldn't shake them off - they were emailing constantly - it absolutely did my head in. I will try Moo this time.' So yeah, I was talking about Vistaprint at pretty much the exact time of your post. I wonder if we can keep this Twilight Zone-y stuff up every week. ;)

      LOL at Hush being too noisy! I am on the mailing list of some very vocal 'lifestyle' sofa companies, who don't seem to realise that a sofa is an even less frequent purchase than a pizza or a cashmere cardi.

      Oh bad luck about your name sharing woes - I can see how that might occur. I am lucky enough only to share mine with a woman who works at a Taco Bell in Michigan and a convicted felon in Florida - the latter pips me in Google images, but I invariably win out in the web searches.

  7. Oh, ick, I am *so* sorry about that cold. Perhaps computer viruses are all too real these days. (Though I'm going to blame the uncovered sneezers, sniffers, and splutterers on the train for mine.)

    I'm ashamed to admit that my day job is still largely based on persuading people to buy things they don't need or want, but I do make it a point to make any mailing campaign polite, un-shouty, and non-repetitive. I'm not entirely sure how I ended up in marketing strategy--it was a sideways drift from more general digital malarky, and user experience things.

    The coincidences are a little spooky! I wonder how long we can keep that up?

    I hope you get good results from Moo--I bought some cards from them back when they were just starting, and the service was excellent. While Vistaprint were just pests. Worse then the ads that follow you around the internet.

    1. LOL at computer viruses!! And I will now overlook your current day job - I think if I had to receive direct marketing from anyone, my 'user experience' would be as good as it gets, as I feel sure you would avoid all those cliche's and pitfalls of so many campaigns.

      The coincidences are spooky. Even spookier is the fact that I initially wrote 'spooky', then edited it to 'Twilight Zone-y'. Spookier and spookier...

      Vistaprints were pests indeed. Like dirt on your shoe that you can't quite fetch off even with a toothbrush and vigorous scrubbing action.

    2. PS I tell you what would be funny - if you turned out to live round the corner from my brother. It's probably raising the bar a bit much, mind, given the size of the city.

    3. well, they say Edinburgh is a village pretending to be a city. So...we very recently moved to Leith (previously over near the Botanics for a few years.)

    4. Ah, lives in Grange, but got married in Leith Observatory and straight after that we took impromptu wedding photos in the tropical house of the Botanical Gdns. One point? ;)

    5. Grange, eh? And, the observatory up on Calton Hill? Verra nice!

      Hey, I think we get to claim the point for the Edinburgh connection at all :)

    6. I was completely wrong about the register office in Leith, which used to be various other things, but not an observatory, though my brother lives near the one on Blackford Hill. We are definitely on for one point. Shoe sizes and star signs up next...? ;)

  8. When you go to an event or a function, and there are hundreds of people in the room, you want to stand out and be an individual. You don't want to be the same as all the other hundreds of people in at that event.

    1. Hi Jean Patou Perfumes,

      I know what you mean, but Undina's point above was that a single perfume house cannot annexe to itself the whole concept of 'signature fragrances', as this is a generic term that would apply equally to your own perfume range. And my thoughts are that it is in the interest of a perfume house to promote the concept of a whole wardrobe of scents, not just one per woman, as the repeat purchases of that one would be less than the multiple purchases of a whole collection of scents - also that if everyone did end up liking SF's range of perfumes, there would be a risk of people bumping into one another at an event wearing the same thing. So ubiquity is the enemy of uniqueness, and as I read it, in their marketing SF seem to be trying to harness both these somewhat conflicting aspects.

  9. This SF marketing campaign sounds sort of like Austin Powers waking from his cryogenic sleep and having a little trouble controlling"THE VOLUME OF MY VOICE!"
    I guess it happens, but engaging with the public is not shouting at them :-)

    1. Hi Blacknall,

      It's good to get reassurance from others that it is not just me being intolerant / behind the times and that you also would find such a sustained campaign a bit badgering. I wonder if the odd use of full stops is some kind of IT glitch at their end and they really should be spaces. But they do rather up the shouty quotient as they stand!

  10. Yeah it can be quite irritating when you get a bulk load of marketing emails regarding the same thing again and again when you are not even interested. At least you can avoid these emails. Imagine getting a phone call every now and then (i have experienced that) and you will consider yourself lucky.

    1. Hi Lush Twist,

      I do agree that phone calls are much more intrusive. Am getting one every couple of days at the moment from various banks on debt management and PPI mis-selling, and also from those terrible injury claims companies. All automated, some on my mobile as well. That sort of thing is getting worse.

  11. I have only a couple of newsletters related to perfume (StC, SL and de Nicolaï), so I have no bad experiences with perfume marketing, really. Clothing companies and monthly publications of various kinds are the worst. In Norway it is possible to register one's phone in a national register in order not to get marketing via phone. However, if one is already a customer of a company, said company can call as part of following up their customers. So like Lush Twist I have had occational (very insisting) phone calls. Sometimes it has taken not only a short e-mail, but a real letter, to be erased from some lists. I guess I do not like loud marketing of any kind.

    1. Hi Ingeborg,

      Am glad you don't get bothered by too many marketing emails or post - from perfume companies at least. And I do agree that those phone calls can be annoying. We have a similar set up here where it is quite legit to call existing customers about this and that. However, offshore call centres can ring anyone on any matter as they are outside UK jurisdiction.

  12. Vanessa, I'm pleased to tell you that, even though you didn't do much indulging and dabbing, you did fascinate! So funny! ... they are lucky you have a sense of humor because I don't think most bloggers, or potential customers, would have been as kind. The fragrance company that sends the most email promotions to me is Bond No. 9. I delete and don't think about them too much, but it is kind of funny to think how often they advertise "a refill on us" (with "one small catch": you have to purchase at least two Bond No. 9 items). :)

    1. Hi Suzanne,

      Haha - happy to have fascinated with minimal dabbing - and NO purchases to date!

      I guess I was amused and annoyed in equal measure, or maybe 65% annoyed some days when I got two emails in the one day! 'Comically overbearing' sums it up really.

      Oh boy, that Bond No 9 deal doesn't sound too enticing. If you kept buying more bottles at the required rate, you would have no need for refills of anything else!