If you are involved in the fragrance business, you already know that The Fragrance Foundation was established in 1949 by six industry leaders affiliated with Elizabeth Arden, Coty, Guerlain, Helena Rubenstein, Chanel and Parfums Weil, to develop educational programs about the importance and pleasures of fragrance for the American public. The Foundation’s International Membership includes: manufacturers, suppliers, media, advertising and public relations agencies as well as designers, packagers and retailers. The organization maintains one of the most extensive print and video fragrance libraries in the world and among other things, holds seminars and symposia for its members as well as for the international fragrance industry.
I recently attended my first event at the Fragrance Foundation’s headquarters on Thursday, September 20th, a Fragrance Foundation “Think Thank II” Sniffapaloozas: Fragrance Enthusiasts Extraordinaire. Just in case you’re wondering if you’ve entered the right offices, you can’t miss the big clue: a very colorful, large perfume bottle that sits right in the hallway. There is no doubt that you have come to the right place to learn and appreciate, fragrance. I was warmly greeted as I entered by Executive Director Mary Ellen Lapsansky. I also discovered that people I’ve only worked with online, were there in person. Putting a face to a name, is always wonderful.
Karen Adams (left) and Karen Dubin (right) of Sniffapalooza were the presenters. The President of the Fragrance Foundation, Rochelle Bloom, is in the middle. After a brief introduction, an enthusiastic Karen Dubin explained that Sniffapalooza started informally, as a way for her to enjoy her hobby/passion for perfume with like-minded others. Karen Adams was at the first Sniffapalooza, and bonded with Dubin to create a more formal set of events that now includes a Sniffapalooza Web site with a magazine and forums, as well as in-person activities. Some members participate every single day, forging virtual friendships.
The group is not part of the fragrance business per se, but an ever-growing tribe of informed, passionate consumers who typically collect dozens to hundreds of fragrances, and want to know as much as they can about them. This consumer will purchase hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars worth of fragrance in a year. The industry, according to Dubin, just didn’t know that such a consumer existed. In addition, many of the Sniffapalooza patrons simply want to shop and share with others. Of significance to retailers and the fragrance industry, these “hidden” consumers tend to be 75% women, 25% men ranging from a youthful 16 years old, to 78 years old. All are bonded by their love of fragrance, just as wine, chocolate, or coffee/tea enthusiasts are.
With more than 800 new fragrances launched last year, the members of Sniffapalooza feel that being able to sample the fragrances, and work with knowledgeable counter salespeople, is essential. Naturally, Sniffapalooza events generally revolve around “sniffing and shopping” for fragrance, with some events being more like seminars, featuring a representative from a specific brand, offering information and testing. There have been lunches and breakfasts with industry professionals, and even a trip to France, where each day featured multiple visits to famous (and new/indie) perfume houses.
Dubin and Adams understand the business side of the fragrance industry, and but they also appreciate what goes into creating scent, be it luxurious, or for the drugstore consumer. As Karen Dubin said: “This is somebody’s art.”