Fragrance bottles from Selena Gomez, Jennifer Lopez are designed to be noticed

A perfume bottle has to work hard to get noticed these days.



On a fragrance counter crowded with hundreds of scents launched last year, a simple glass bottle doesn't cut it any more. Packaging is getting more elaborate: The cap of Marc Jacobs's Dot is a large Lucite butterfly. It took six months of testing to get the crocodile to stick properly on the new Lacoste men's fragrance bottle. Glowing by Jennifer Lopez lights up for 15 seconds when sprayed.

"There are endless rows of counters of fragrance and you have a millisecond to catch your customer's eye," says James Fine, vice president of marketing and product development for retail chain Perfumania and Five Star Fragrances, a fragrance developer.


The increasingly crowded perfume counter is leading fragrance makers to attempt new ways to market their wares, including more extravagant bottles.

The brand-loyal customer who shops for a signature scent to wear every day "is a dying breed," says Catherine Walsh, senior vice president of American fragrances at the Coty Prestige division of Coty Inc.

Now, shoppers view fragrance as a fashion purchase, influenced by trends, seasons and celebrities. The average woman has about five fragrances and chooses which to wear based on mood or occasion, Ms. Walsh says.


"When I'm picking out my clothes, I pick out my perfume," says Lauren Wilkey, a 25-year-old style blogger from Old Bridge, N.J., who keeps four perfume bottles on her dresser.

One of the scents she wears regularly is Daisy by Marc Jacobs. It was an impulse purchase. She spotted the bottle while shopping at Sephora and was drawn to the oversize rubber daisies on the cap. "I bought Daisy because I liked the bottle. Is that bad?" she wrote on her blog.

Men's fragrance bottles also are changing, but with more subtle design elements and masculine colors. Montblanc Legend Eau de Toilette comes in a black-and-silver bottle shaped like a flask.

There were roughly 1,200 fragrances for women and men launched world-wide last year, more than three times the number of launches a decade ago and more than 15 times the number two decades ago, according to Fragrances of the World, an industry databank. More than a third of last year's launches were limited-edition scents and "flankers" related to a previous launch.

Series of scents are also hitting the market, with brands launching not one but many at a time. Ralph Lauren's Big Pony collection for women is a group of four scents—described as "sporty," "sensual," "free-spirited" and "stylish"—meant to give shoppers options. Next month, DKNY is releasing a collection of four fragrances based on its Be Delicious scent and cities of the world, in limited-edition apple-shaped bottles.

"It's a constant barrage of launches," says Robin Coe Hutshing, co-founder of Gold Grenade, a product-development firm specializing in fragrance. New releases are a bit like new movies, she says. "Only a certain number will be successful and resonate properly with the audience, and the rest of them fall by the wayside."

The life span of most scents is much shorter now, says Kevin Marshall, vice president and group creative director at Marc Rosen Associates, a boutique branding and package-design firm. "A couple of years would be a good run." Meanwhile, the time put into developing a new scent, including packaging, has been cut in half, "We maybe had a year, a year-plus to do it before," he says. Now, "we're lucky if we have six months sometimes."

The faster cycle is driving U.S. sales of fragrances, which neared $5.8 billion last year, up 7.6% from 2010, according to Euromonitor International. Sales of so-called premium fragrances (defined by price, retail outlet and other factors) topped $4.8 billion, up 11%. Celebrity fragrances get a lot of buzz, especially among younger shoppers, but they make up less than 5% of sales, says Karen Grant, global beauty industry analyst at NPD Group.

Marc Jacobs Daisy captured attention with its bottle design. It was the fashion designer's first launch with licensing partner Coty, and Ms. Walsh, who led the effort, wanted something much different than the classic look of most designer fragrances. (Mr. Jacobs had released two scents before the launch with Coty, one for men and one for women, both in more traditional bottles.)

The company opted for flowers made of a flexible rubber and affixed to a gold cap as if blooming from the bottle. The effect at the fragrance counter was "immediate," Ms. Walsh says. "You could see it from across the room." Daisy tripled Coty's Marc Jacobs fragrance business. Many flower-embellished caps have followed, including the Marc Jacobs scents, Lola and Oh, Lola!

ID Perfumes, a licensing company that worked with Selena Gomez on her fragrance release last month, wanted to steer clear of flowers on the cap, says Isaac Lekach, president. Instead, the pop star opted for a bouquet of miniature purple and gold lip-shaped balloons, which reflect her "fun spirit," tacky, imo Mr. Lekach says. The bottle is shaped like the skirt of a lavender gown, representing her "sophisticated side," he says.

"Maybe before, when not every celebrity wanted a fragrance, when not every designer wanted a fragrance, you could focus maybe a little less" on the bottle design, Mr. Lekach said. "It's become incredibly important—certainly as important as the actual fragrance."

For Burberry Body, the fashion house's latest fragrance for women, designer Christopher Bailey wanted an entirely new shape. Burberry's previous scents, for both men and women, came in "masculine" rectangular bottles covered with the brand's iconic check, says Hugues de la Chevasnerie, director of Burberry Fragrances, part of Inter Parfums IPAR +2.23% SA.

Burberry Body needed a feminine and "sensual" design, Mr. de la Chevasnerie said. The company opted for an eight-sided rose gold-toned column, whose most notable feature is its height—more than 8 inches tall for the large size of Burberry Body Eau de Parfum. The height "gave a kind of status," said Mr. de la Chevasnerie. "It's something that you want to keep."

The new bottles are meant to be displayed, not hidden in a medicine cabinet. "You want the bottle to be so beautiful and unique that somebody wants to keep it out in the open. Then they are more likely to use it," says Kecia Coby, founder of KCR Consulting who worked with the Kardashians on their fragrances.

The tester bottles that brands provide to stores are often mauled by users and sometimes broken or stolen. Ms. Coby makes sure all her bottles can look attractive without the caps, which are often lost in store displays.

Clarins Fragrance Group USA continues to launch new bottles for its two-decades-old Angel collection from Thierry Mugler. There are several designs, all variations on a star. The Angel Shooting Star bottle can't stand on its own so the brand sells a $25 holder to set it on. The bottles cost a lot to make, says Lionel Uzan, vice president of marketing. But the brand has made many of them refillable, lowering the price to attract repeat purchases.

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