Influencers are changing the niche fragrance game
The relationship between fragrance and advertising has been long.
As a category that relies on olfactory receptors first and foremost to attract and persuade, emerging brands must get creative with how they market to consumers.
From packaging to media, fragrance brands can’t rely on some of the more traditional elements of beauty marketing: before and after pictures or product benefits, just to name a couple.
Instead, brands need to entice consumers who want to experience the world created by advertisements.
We’ve all seen the advertisements as they relate to fragrance, and most of the time, the marketing has very little to do with the actual product. See exhibit A:
What does Adam Driver running after a horse on the beach have to do with Burberry?
The brand explains it’s about “a new masculine spirit exploring the house codes of duality and the power of the animal kingdom. A man in search of transformation and metamorphosis as a new modern heroism.”
Other advertisements evoke the sensations of classic luxury (think Chanel No. 5) or create a sense of ‘cool’ that consumers want to emulate in their lives, as Kate Moss did with Calvin Klein in the 90s.
Regardless of whether or not fragrance advertising makes sense, they are successful in two notable factors:
They get attention, and consumers talk about it. Plus, because celebrities are often the face of legacy perfumes, they offer consumers a point of reference when recalling a brand.
It might be daunting for niche or indie brands to go head-to-head with an established brand. But there’s good news: consumers want products that fit their needs individually.
What exactly is a niche fragrance? Contrasted with its traditional counterpart, niche fragrance is defined as a ‘subset of prestige or luxury fragrances that are being marketed differently.’
Let’s look at what fragrance brands are doing and how creators are helping get DTC, small batch, and niche perfumes on the radar of ideal customers.
Niche fragrances and the new way to market scents
Niche and indie fragrances aren’t new, but how they’re gaining popularity is. Because of platforms like Instagram and TikTok, emerging fragrance brands can leverage their online presence to compete with the icons in the industry.
Iconic packaging, ‘genderfel’ scents – what’s not to love about Boy Smells? A bit edgy and playful, this fragrance brand has consistently high ratings across various marketplaces.
One way to set themselves apart from others, Snif highlights what they’re about as soon as you hop on the website: “They sell fantasies. We sell fine fragrance. We’re setting the new standard.”
Snif is also taking a new approach to helping consumers find the perfect scent. Through the Snif Trial Kit, customers can test out sample vials (or candles), keep what they like, and send back the accompanying full-size versions of scents they don’t want to keep.
Taking a classic scent and turning it into a new, fresh offering is no easy feat, but By Rosie Jane has done it with its collection of oils and body washes.
Using layered notes to evoke memories of the past (Dulce, for example, was ‘inspired by Los Angeles in 1996. Mixtapes, first loves, and long kisses…).
While luxury fragrance has created marketing and advertising to make you want to step into someone else's shoes, niche fragrances are more about reminding you of special times, memories, or nostalgic moments.
Creators to watch in the niche fragrance space
One of the features TikTok is best known for is the ability to serve content that its users want to see. From tutorials to transformations, beauty creators in the skincare and makeup space can use visible results to attract, engage, and interact with followers.
As previously mentioned, the fragrance doesn’t sell because of its tangible benefit; creators must use different strategies to attract and engage followers.
Search #PerfumeTok or #PerfumeTikTok, and you’ll find a rapidly growing community of followers who want to see reviews, new launches, and fragrances broken down into specific categories.
With more than 305k followers on TikTok and 63k followers on Instagram, Emelia O’Toole (@ProfessorPerfume) is one of the leading creators in the fragrance space.
Emelia creates fragrance-focused posts reviewing scent notes, trending releases and celebrity scents, tips and tricks on wearing fragrances, and sharing shopping guides.
Trust, she explains, is one of the best ways to develop credibility in the space. While she might not have visual transformations to share like many of her beauty counterparts, O’Toole feels that there is an element of community between content creators and fragrance consumers.
In an interview with Glossy, she says, “If you find a content creator who has the same taste in fragrance as you do, then you never have to worry about smelling anything ever again.”
On Instagram and TikTok as @fragrance.dictionary, Petra boasts nearly half a million followers on her social accounts.
Her most popular content revolves around wearing certain scents or recommended perfumes for various occasions at different price points. For the fragrance novice, having scents recommended based on events, seasons, budgets, and notes have made Petra one of the more popular creators in the fragrance space.
Fun, colorful, and aimed more at budget fragrance consumers, Ann Nicole, aka That Perfume Girl, is all about “helping you smell, look, and feel good.”
Like her TikTok counterparts, Ann Nicole shares content that highlights celebrity scents, luxury dupes, and how to select niche perfumes as a beginner.
What’s working for niche and indie fragrances?
Scrolling through #PerfumeTok, it’s easy to see what type of content resonates most with followers: creative posts that don’t try too hard at being overly curated (isn’t that what TikTok is all about?).
And while it’s the luck of the draw to see what type of content will perform well at any given time, many of the viral posts have a couple of things in common:
- Using trending sounds or songs
- Sharing fragrances that are celebrity-sponsored or branded
- Highlighting a list of perfumes that fit a certain aesthetic (old money or Barbiecore, for example)
- Tying fragrances to certain characters on hot television shows (see: Euphoria or White Lotus)
Many factors require creators to be on top of trends and move quickly with filming and editing content.
For emerging niche or indie fragrances (indie typically refers to brands that are not connected to luxury or traditional perfumery), being able to market through social media platforms like TikTok will be a game-changer.
A simple viral post can bring hundreds or thousands of visitors to a brand’s website. For niche brands, this can be a powerful way to get noticed. Still, there’s also the possibility of blowing through the inventory and the subsequent logistics that come along with manufacturing and stocking more.
It’s all about individuality
Why is this such a moment for niche and indie fragrances? A sense of individuality comes with smaller batches or DTC fragrances.
As helpful as social media is at marketing perfume, the interest in niche fragrances now is more about marketing to the desire for uniqueness. Millennial and Gen Z customers are more apt to want fragrances crafted in smaller perfume houses or not readily available at the perfume counter in a shopping mall.
Categories throughout the beauty and fashion industry are seeing similar trends.
The more brands aim to highlight personal tastes and expressions, the better they’ll do with younger consumers.
It’s not about trying to emulate what the legacy or established brands are doing; it’s about going in the opposite direction and being innovative, transparent, and redefining what fragrance is for many.