9/17/17

The Real Problem With Creed's New Fragrance



I read a recent Wordpress post about Viking by Creed, and realized that in my absence one of the fragrance community's turgid crazies had taken to the internets to publish his pointless yowlings unchecked. Early in his article he posed a question that answered itself:
"Here's the key question for me, 'why would someone criticize someone else's perception, especially when a site devoted to these olfactory concoctions is by its very nature mostly going to focus on individual perceptions?'"
If a site is "by its very nature" focusing on individual perceptions, it's not hard to see why this would be the nexus of all contention therein. Isn't that obvious? If the focus were on objective general populace perceptions, with vague census numbers clouding the landscape of debate, then injecting subjective, individualized interpretions would be trickier. But given that personal opinions are all you have to go by prior to experiencing a fragrance for yourself, your thoughts and criticisms are likely to be directed into that lane of traffic.

The real craziness appears later in the article, in which the following is said:
"I do think there is one more element that may be involved in some of these kinds of situations, which might be best called the 'expensive-smelling molecule effect.' A great example is how large amounts of calone or dihydromyrcenol in a scent probably leads to a lot of people thinking it's 'cheap.' On the other hand, load up a scent with iso e super or cashmeran while slapping a niche label on it, and you've got something that 'smells expensive' to a certain demographic."
It makes my eyes hurt to read ideas as poorly conceived as this one is. Large amounts of calone and dihydromyrcenol were never, ever perceived as cheap by anyone. If they were, the industry would never have increased the amounts of these chemicals in what remain bestselling fragrances. Acqua di Gio, Cool Water, Green Irish Tweed, Drakkar Noir, Azzaro Chrome, and many other similar fragrances continue to sell to millions every year. They all contain considerable amounts of calone and dihydromyrcenol, and to my knowledge their presence in these scents is (a) unknown to the wearers, or (b) in no way a hindrance to the wearers' enjoyment.

Cheapness is usually perceived by people when a fragrance is too sweet and simplistic. A better argument could be made from a chemist's standpoint that the overuse of ethyl-maltol and coumarin account for negative value perceptions among consumers, given the number of downmarket products that exploit these materials. The entire Playboy line is a great example of how large amounts of sweet sugared cocktail "froot" notes and exaggerated fougere accords cheapen a brand.

In contrast, something like Aspen for Men is cheap to purchase at about three dollars per ounce, yet it is endlessly compared to one of the priciest fragrances on the market, Creed's Green Irish Tweed. The abundance of synthetic muguet, calone-driven green apple, and dihydromyrcenol have not in any way dampened enthusiasm for Aspen.

Iso e super and cashmeran are found in abundance in things like Abercrombie's Fierce, Encre Noire, Burberry Weekend for Women EDP, Paco Rabanne Sport, Sexy Graffiti by Escada, Womanity, Dazzling Darling by Kylie Minogue, and Burbuerry Body. Can you also find these materials in things like Terre d'Hermes and Dans Tes Bras by Malle? Sure. But you can find calone in New West for Men and dihydromyrcenol in Green Irish Tweed, two top shelf scents, so what is the Wordpress author's point? The economic usage of all materials in the industry varies, and quality is on par with the competition at all prices. If the "expensive-smelling molecule effect" is supposed to be the use of a specific material, then I would ask which chemical is used exclusively in expensive fragrances and develop my theory from there.

The Wordpress author asked these questions tangentially in his discussion of Creed's newest release, in what appears to be a verbose effort to address the worthiness of the scent itself. Is Viking even worth the time and effort? Should I or anyone else bother to try this fragrance? Is there a new masterpiece sailing to our shores with horned helmets on an orange flask? There are potentially dozens of questions one could ask about Viking. But Viking, and more specifically the Creed brand itself has a very real problem on its hands: they've priced guys like me out of their market.

It's nice to know that the rich are making so much money off of themselves nowadays that they no longer need to court the middle class buyer. While the majority of the working class and middle class flounder in debt and dire financial straits, a teeny-tiny top percentile of the population enjoys ever increasing gains. Creed wants their business. Ten years ago, when a 4 ounce (yes, 4 ounce, not 3 ounce) bottle of Creed cost $250, I thought Creed was pushing it, but at least somewhat accessible. Back then I paid that amount for a fresh bottle.

But today's prices are insane. Even if I were making $100K a year and had another $80K in investments, I wouldn't drop $500 on a bottle of Creed. You have to be a millionaire to think that's a decent value. You'd have to be a stupid millionaire. Why should I punish myself for having more money by spending more on something that everyone else in a lower tax bracket gets for a tenth of the amount?

If millions of people are happy to get a good fragrance like Acqua di Gio for $50, why should I spend ten times as much for something only a few people (my wealthy friends) think is a better value? Millesime Imperial should be the opposite of what I want to own, not the primary "fresh" frag on my radar! Ditto for Viking, although right now it isn't entirely clear what part of the designer market Creed is aping with Viking. Some are saying it is the Sauvage demographic that might like it, but this isn't certain yet.

Creed is competing with other niche brands by courting sycophantic reviewers, many of whom aren't in their buying class (like Daver on Fragrance Bros), and banking on word of mouth through YouTube and basenotes. But they used to want people to buy their fragrances as soon as possible. Now they just want most of the buying public to aspire for their fragrances, while those who can actually afford them make them their profits. By raising their prices far beyond the rate of inflation, Creed has basically taken their products away from the majority of potential buyers and now sees fit to dangle their wares in our faces.

They sent Daver a free bottle of Viking. That alone is proof that they want the hoi polloi to drool.

This is the problem with Creed's new fragrance, and I personally feel it is the reason why I no longer need to review any Creed fragrances. If they were using Guerlainesque techniques in creating traditional old world perfume extraits, I might consider that a worthy enough reason to pursue the brand. But just continuing the Creed-water Millesime trend at an exaggerated price point in no way induces me to seek out their products.

It would behoove others to quit acting like Creed is still an interesting brand. It has sold itself off to the donor class, and I no longer think it has the integrity to act as a star player in the niche realm. There has never been a better time than now to keep a Viking from our shores.


24 comments:

  1. Interesting point that I wholeheartedly agree with. To put it bluntly and rather unfortunately for many of these so called "ultra-luxury" brands, they do not cater towards the "old money" but rather to the "Nouveau riche". Presidents, actors, singers and the many wannabe "players" and "Tony Montanas" of the modern world.

    The company gents of these brands must not differ so much from the Wall Street and Goldman Sachs wolfs.

    Instead we can speak about the kind of thing we may be interested in, like this cheapie called "Chique" and used to be produced by Yardley but is now being made by Taylor Of London. It's a Chypre with citrus top, rose middle and woody musk in the base all adorned by a gorgeous moss. It's smells of much more expensive perfumes and reminds me of Clinique's Aromatics Elixir!

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    1. Nouveau richies may be the target, but I'm not entirely compelled to attack the demographic interested in Creed, my ire is directed toward Creed itself. They are overshooting their product value by about 300% in most cases, and about 600% in a few others. They would have been well advised to maintain their 2010 price levels. You don't see Chanels, Guerlains, Malle or Ford frags skyrocketing anywhere near as much as Creed has in the past five years. There's really no reason for it.

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    2. Oh, but there is a reason and the it's called marketing. Target Audience to be more precise. Target Audience (you can look it up on google) is the demographic of people most likely to be interested in one's products.

      If Creed can ask these skyrocketing prices, it's because they know their target audience is gonna shell out the cash anyway.
      Now the even funnier thing is that Creed probably sold more with the higher prices! Why? Because the higher the price the more exclusive it becomes.

      But as you mentioned, what about all the Chanels, Guerlains, Malle or Ford brands? The answer: narower target audience (another lesson from marketing: the more expensive a product the more norrower the target audience)- and that's where my somewhat derogatory term use of the nouveau riches vs old money.
      Both have the cash, so what's the difference?

      The difference is that the nouveau richies are inclined to buy just because it is expensive.

      Floris for example, is your typical old money perfumer - they are Royal warrant of appointment holder to Her Majesty The Queen and the Prince of Wales and just like Creed they started somewhere in the 1700s and have some prestigious clientelle, Winson Churchill and Monroe / Miller among many others... Their prices are expensive but still quite reasonable. Why?
      Because in those old money circles where tradition and gentry are esteemed high it is absolutely NOT done to ask exorbitant prices (and even - derogatory term ahead - considered "vulgar").

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    3. Narrowing your target audience from relatively broad (the high end designer buyer who would happily spend $90 on a bottle of Creed in the 1990s) to as narrow as humanly possible (the richest and stupidest among the 1%) doesn't really seem like a good strategy for any brand. The grey market is still poaching much of Creed's profits - I only buy from secondhand sites like Amazon and Fragrancenet - and more than every people are sampling but not buying. The decant industry is booming for Creed sellers who buy massive flacons and then sell online to people who just want a few milliliters here and there. More money Creed isn't getting.

      And to make matters worse, Creed doesn't have mass production on their side. They backlog their batches to keep up with demand before officially releasing their fragrances, and then create an internal market force that drives up their costs and thus their prices to better manage meeting demand. This in turn whittles down demand, which flattens their profit margin over time. They'll never go out of business, but they won't expand much, either.

      Creed can clearly ask the prices they're asking, and people who can afford to buy will obviously buy with no problem. The bigger issue is how much money is Creed actually cheating themselves out of by pretending to be so aristocratic and luxurious? If I could purchase a grey cap Creed ten years ago without much problem, and today I can't, I am officially labeled "A customer Creed lost." I am Creed's target demographic, a guy who appreciates their product and is willing to pay a premium to wear it! And they've priced me out of buying and wearing their fragrances (at least, buying from them). I haven't been replaced by scads of wealthier buyers, because there are more of me than there are of them. So I don't see how this business model makes much sense.

      Creed is basically the Nintendo of perfumery. Create products everyone wants, screw up distribution to the point where almost nobody buys from Creed, and then mismanage pricing and availability to the point where scalpers make the most profit.

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    4. My guess is that Creed is indeed willing to sacrifice a huge part of the market pie in exchange for that "air of exclusivity" yes.
      So that those that still can afford their products will feel even more privileged.

      vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas

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    5. Well anywho-
      All fragrance lovers are going to have to try this overpriced highly hyped stuff (just in case) but it is highly probable we will quickly discover that it is a worthless marketing stunt (like most things in our over saturated & oversold era). Right along with Fucking Fabulous (I've never been impressed with anything Tom Ford's done yet either) and whatever else is the next big thing.

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  2. "It's nice to know that the rich are making so much money off of themselves nowadays that they no longer need to court the middle class buyer. "
    Is that what's going on? Is there even a middle class left in the US? The same pricing scheme is happening in the makeup/beauty market too- like $120 eyeshadows & $90 lippies. (Seriously. How good can an eyeshadow/lippie be?)

    "It would behoove others to quit acting like Creed is still an interesting brand."
    Amen to that. I was bored with Creeed 15 yrs ago. Yes, they use 'quality' ingredients like real ambergris but their compositions are uninspired & B O R I N G.

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    1. I started losing interest in Creed when the "Royal Exclusive" line appeared and failed to inspire. At the time Spice & Wood came out it was about $500 for a flacon, and while it was quite pleasant and well crafted, it just smelled like a tepid fruity-woody medley of somber notes that at no point changed or intensified into anything more dynamic. For the money it was disappointing. Sublime Vanille was even more so.

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  3. Good read! Funny too. Creed has always been very expensive and increasingly so. I have been seeing a lot about Viking online. I will have to try it myself. It would have to be earth-shatteringly good to warrant a purchase. Thanks. R

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  4. " Yes, they use 'quality' ingredients like real ambergris but their compositions are uninspired & B O R I N G."

    You are right about the later part and wrong about "quality" ingredient part.
    They use the same shitty captives and AC as everyone else but they want you to think otherwise. Some of the clones are better at $20/100ml.
    And no one, I mean no one, uses real ambergris (except maybe few artisans like Pasha, Russian Adam, JK from Phoenix and maybe a couple more)

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    1. You're incorrect. They do use some natural materials including ambergris, but they also use synthetic ambergris and other "shitty captives." Whatever that means. The point is made best by Luca Turin, who stated that they're only "slightly" more natural than the competition. However slight it may be, that's still a good edge when you have people like Pierre Bourdon composing your star players (GIT, Green Valley, etc.).

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    2. Creed uses real ambergris, it is one of their signature notes you'll recognize throughout nearly all their fragrances.
      Ajmal is currently the biggest buyer in the world of ambergris.(Ajmals can range from expensive to cheap) Other houses that use real ambergris- Amouage, Roja Dove, Aftelier, Santa Maria Novella, Madini, Anya's Garden, Serge Lutens, Keiko Mecheri, M. Micallef, Guerlain, Chopard, Versace, Al Rehab, Xerjoff, Sonoma Scent Studio- the list goes on.

      Yes, Creed does use some synthetics too. Creed has nevr claimed to use all naturals. There are synthetics that are more expensive than naturals though so you might want to rethink your 'shitty' comment.

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    3. I wonder why Mr. Unknown thinks no one uses real ambergris? To my knowledge there are several brands that use it, and Creed has rested their laurels on blending real and synthetic ambergris materials to make their Millesime base.

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    4. Not to speak for anyone, but the reasoning behind that comment might be a remark Olivier Creed made about not just harvesting any ambergris, but being selective (perhaps this selectivity was read as a mater of synthesis or processing? I don't know.) [Take with a grain of salt, in any case, as I know that others have critiqued some aspects of this interview as a recycling of the rich rhetoric of the brand...) http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/features/sixth-scents-olivier-creed-the-worlds-most-elegant-perfumier-explains-his-art-8513595.html

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    5. Mr. Unknown read this and shitty captives = proprietary aroma chemicals that are ,well, mostly crap
      http://www.basenotes.net/features/3377-ambergris-myths-truths-and-half-truths

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    6. Thanks for the link, but you wasted 5 minutes of your life creating your profile. I've been reading Bigsly for so long (and he's commented here for just as long) that I know exactly what he sounds like, and he's always anonymous.

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    7. :)
      I saw how you guys go back and forth so wanted to make sure you know I was not him.
      But yes that Ambergris thing that you and Bibi think is not true anymore. No real thing in Creed.
      And no Olivier Creed is not a perfumer. He may be worlds most elegant hack.

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    8. As I said above, Pierre Bourdon used to be the perfumer, now I have no clue who the nose is for Creed, but it probably never was Olivier, although it's still unclear what role he plays in the company. People say all the time that Olivier doesn't compose fragrances, yet nobody can provide concrete proof that Olivier is a hack who just takes credit for other perfumers' works. It's easy to say he's not a perfumer. But it's harder to be convincing of that notion when you have nothing to offer to back that up.

      As far as the ambergris goes, Creed has been reformulating fragrances in the last few years. GIT no longer has the solid sandalwood note in its base, and now smells a bit thinner and not as smooth as it used to, so I'm given to thinking they pared back the amount of natural sandalwood. Have they done the same with the ambergris? Totally possible. I haven't smelled any Creeds from batches after 2013 so I can't attest to this, but can say with certainty that they have used significant amounts of real ambergris in all fragrances from that era and older.

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  5. Wait a minute, so the ambergris in my 5 dollar Al rehab's Shaikhah is actually real? :-D

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    1. Not 100% real ambergris but there's some in there rounded out with synthetics!
      I don't know why fragheads don't do some basic research in ambergris.
      Yes, a chunk of pure ambergris is expensive. But for perfume use you need an ambergris solution/tincture made to the industry standard of 3-4 percent. If you have three grams of ambergris, you’ll grate or grind that. and use 97 grams of alcohol, which equals a total of 100 grams of tincture at 3%. This tincture needs to age a minimum of six months for the scent to fully mature and develop into a wondrous product.
      Contrary to some of the crap I've read on Basenotes - ambergris does not degrade with age. I've sniffed ambergris tinctures over 70 yrs in age that are amazingly warm, smooth, and surprisingly human in nuance.
      http://anyasgarden.com/blog/how-to-make-ambergris-tincture-for-perfume/
      AMBERGRIS DOES NOT DEGRADE TO A FISHY ODOR!
      Poor quality ambergris is white & often streaked with black, sticky, & smells fishy & manure-like because it has not aged in the ocean long enough. (It's basically fresh whale vomit/poop)
      Good quality ambergris is dark gray or black and a bit waxy in texture, I'd describe the scent of ungrated/ground lump of ambergris as nutty, earthy & marine (like driftwood or anything that's been awash in the sea for a few years.)

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    2. Bibi you can file the complaints about ambergris under the same header as all the bitching about iso e super and Ambroxan, two synthetics that are trendy to bash that are actually pretty innocuous. It's like when bloggers say that fragrances become "irritating." If it's irritating to you after three hours, it was probably just as irritating after three minutes, and you've simply developed some kind of half-baked idea that a good fragrance should stay pleasing throughout its development. Meanwhile it's easier for readers to know that you just never liked the fragrance at all for how it smelled, not because it "irritated" you.



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  6. Thank you Bibi, that is some great information on Ambergris!

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  7. Hello Bryan, my opinion on these molecules (DHM, Calone), is that they could well become "retro" is the medium-term. It would not seem impossible to me that in 2030, Calone could smell like "old guys", like chypre and fougeres smell like "old guys" for young people now. Every generation tries to differentiate itself from the preceding.

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    1. Hi Alain, it's possible, and time may reveal that your thoughts are way more accurate than anyone might think. However, I personally am not so sure. DHM (dihyromyrcenol) and Calone have been integrated into formulas for decades, stretching back to the 1960s and 70s. Have people gotten tired of them yet? Do they smell passé? Is GIT in danger of becoming an "old man's cologne"? Is Acqua di Gio (still one of the biggest sellers in America) going to become yesterday's news in twenty years? Hard to say, but I just don't see it happening. Differentiation in perfumery seems to occur on a limited spectrum. The bitter leathery chypres and orientals of the 1920s, 30s, 40s, and 50s live on today in the niche realm. Ethyl Maltol and vanillin seemed to dominate the 90s, but did those trends ever really pass? I'm still smelling candy floss in every other feminine scent out there today. I can see the trends undulating in ebbs and flows of enthusiasm for whatever established fashions there are, but at this point postmodernism has innoculated global culture from seeing things in a sincere past tense.

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