To Whom It May Concern,
Or does it concern you?
It concerns me. You're really boring me these days, and fine, while I know I'm not at the top of your priority list, I don't think I'm all that atypical when it comes to the general perfume buying public, if there is such a thing anymore, except that I buy about ten times (okay, thirty) as much as the average consumer.
I just want to bring some things to your attention, though the idea that I might have to baffles me. I imagine you all in your boardrooms, sipping lattes, with testing strips fanned out before you. For a while you talk about Anna's baby. How cute! Grows like a weed. You talk about a little dish you picked up in Soho, a chicly dressed woman who told you to screw off when you took her cab--accidentally! You talk about the scarf Gina's wearing. Or Gene. Gene wears scarves, too. Eventually, you move on to Michael Jackson. When are they going to BURY that guy? Enough already. I mean, please. Then you feel embarrassed for entering Michael Jackson into the same elevated company as perfume--but don't, because, I can assure you, you have other things to be embarrassed about.
It does, it baffles me that in these conversations, you wouldn't take into consideration some of the things I'd like to point out to you here. I have to believe you're not discussing them. Why else would you keep making the same mistakes? Surely you lovely people aren't that stupid.
Let me just jump right in. Can you stop making bottles that look like the Avon collectibles my grandmother used to keep boxed in the attic. Those bottles were always more than half full, I should point out, because while a fragrance in the shape of a vintage red roadster might strike one as a fun idea in the catalog, it very quickly starts looking like a bad idea once you set it out on your bathroom shelf. Try holding it in your hand. Who besides my uncle Orville wants to spray him/herself with Roadster? I'm sure there are many women who like these decorative bottles. Some of them must be above the age of twelve. Many more women must find them absolutely cheap and silly, an embarrassment and an insult for the price of money they cost. I won't name names. Some of you people might actually have these bottles out on your own dresser. But as a rule, plastic gold trimming (meant to look like metal quilting, precious ornamentation, et al), rhinestones, scrolled caps which are bigger than the bottles themselves, hearts, and faeries are the kinds of things Barbie adorns her dream house with, and sometimes her pony. Barbie isn't actually a real person.
Can you please stop asking models to make love to themselves in print ads and media clips? It's kind of awkward. A little uncomfortable. I'm sure more than one woman has looked at a curiously shaped bottle and gotten some ideas, but remember what they say about printing how-to bomb instructions online: someone might get hurt. I don't know. I'm just not the kind of person who likes to see Kate Moss, or anyone really, masturbate in a limo. I'm not naive. I know Kate Moss probably does masturbate. I know I do, and I wouldn't want to deprive her of that, but when I choke the chicken, it isn't in the grocery aisle. Something to think about.
Do you realize how stupidly Biblical you guys are when it comes to cultivating the fantasy life around fragrance? You depict women pretty strictly as either virgins or whores. Why so misogynistic? It's like you can't picture a woman doing much of anything if she isn't pleasuring herself or writhing around like an animal in heat on a bed of roses. Are any of you women? Do any of you have mothers? The women in my family are pretty complex, and from talking to them, I don't get the idea that in their imaginary lives they aspire to featured actresses in badly filmed soft core porn.
This brings us to men, some of whom, yes, I like naked. But again, very awkward in a magazine. If I'm going to get hot and bothered, personally, I like my naked men in the flesh. And please, can you find interesting men to serve as spokesmodels? Justin Timberlake is funny. I like his d*!ck in a box. But I want something with a little more depth and character selling me fantasy. Here are some suggestions, and I'd be more than happy to help you look into their availability: Gael Garcia Bernal, Gael Garcia Bernal, and Gael Garcia Bernal. If it's sex you're trying to sell, choosing someone like Bernal really makes your job easier. Photograph his lips. There. That's done. Include his eyes and you add something approaching inner life. I'm not feeling that with a boy band crooner in a tux.
Stop playing watchdog and start paying attention to the bloggers and their audiences. This is where I really start empathizing with ya'll. See, you read something like "ya'll" and you think, oh goodness, how do we deal with these yokels out on the internet. Let's throw them little bones. You throw your bones while imagining there are still lines of power and control you can keep firmly delineated. Do you realize how democratic everything's become? Do you not see how influential bloggers have become? It's not a matter of getting us press releases, I can assure you. The idea that you're still able to imagine yourselves as omnipotent, the fact you haven't truly gathered how profoundly the market and the game has changed verges on heartbreaking. It's like you go home every night to watch Mad Men and believe it all still works that way. In your offices you decide and decree how it's all going to go down? You're cute as bunnies. I almost feel I should be protecting YOU.
Here's the thing. People who love perfume read the blogs almost fanatically because what they're getting is more often than not an honest opinion, expressed with enthusiasm and style, however crude the style can sometimes be. They know they'll never, ever get that from you, which puts you at a definite disadvantage. Let us help you. Admitting your relative powerlessness is the first step. I know, it's ironic: for decades you people have divested yourself of anything which becomes more specific or particular than a bottom line, believing that abiding by the lowest common denominator wins you in immediate sales what you lose in long term loyalty. Bless your hearts.
Visit these sites and pay attention to the comments. The people who buy your product are pretty sharp, generally savvy, artsy, somewhat evolved, versed in high and low culture alike. I wouldn't argue that all of us are the sharpest bulbs in the box, but as a whole we're smarter than the average Doberman. We read Nathan Branch because he's funny and says what we're all thinking at various points. We read NowSmellThis because anything that's happening will be reported there, with an opportunity for us to voice our own honest opinions about it. Pieredepierre, Scented Salamander, Perfume Smelling Things, One Thousand Scents, 1000 Fragrances, Perfume Posse, Vetivresse. You really should write these down. I'll wait.
Check out Olfactarama as a case in point. This is an intelligent, witty, no-bullshit perfume lover who happens to write very well, articulating, most recently (like today) how boring you all (i.e. ya'll) have become. She really counts the ways. I'm not sure she evaluates your success in terms of how convincingly Kate Moss masturbates. You should also check out Nathan Branch's photos, with your eyes open, for a sense of how beautiful perfume itself is (the packaging, the lines, the ideas, the inner glow) when done smartly, how little it takes to capture the allure and fantasy of fragrance, how little flesh is ultimately needed. Nathan knows that some people fall in love with perfume not because it reminds them of people dry humping in a field of tall grass but because they have complicated imaginations which can be sparked in simple (as opposed to simplistic) ways. Indie and niche perfumers recognize his value in moving their product. Sometimes he even gets free bottles. Hint, hint.
Your devoted servant