River+Wolf reviews

Review: Five Star Fragrance Names

Despite its obvious appeal, “juice”—industry slang for perfume—still needs marketing muscle to move it off the shelves or out of the vitrine, especially given today’s crowded and increasingly fragmented industry. Beyond an appealing composition of chemicals and seductive packaging, a great name can help with this task. Perfumers are the magicians, no doubt, but the names of these bottled liquids can work a special magic too, capturing the fancy of customers through evocative imagery, captivating wit, and pleasing word music.

We believe the 12 names below are superb examples of largely niche fragrance names and also, when taken as a whole, provide a peek into the range of name styles and constructions in the fragrance industry. Read on to discover why we think they deserve a space on the digital walls of Names of Distinction (NOD) gallery, River + Wolf’s monthly celebration of outstanding brand names.

Beautiful Mind Series

Geza Schoen of Escentric Molecules created the subtle fragrances of the Beautiful Mind Series, a pair of captivating scents created in reaction to the glut of celebrity fragrances. In these “volumes”, he celebrates two gifted women. In Volume 1: Intelligence & Fantasy, he pays tribute to Christiane Stenger, Germany’s most famous “memory” athlete who, at the age of eleven won the title of the World Memory Grandmaster.

In Volume 2: Precision & Grace, he honors Polina Semionova, one of the most gifted classical ballet dancers of her generation. His tribute to the intelligence and creativity of these two women is further underscored by the fragrance’s packaging—an imaginative rendering of the brain’s neural pathways. Tip: When developing a brand name think of how to expand the name into a whole story. And experiment with extended metaphors. Schoen’s use of “volume” cues books to which in turn evokes the intellect. This idea is further supported through the neural pathway design inspiration.

Fresh Laundry

Additive free and natural cosmetics and fragrances are all the rage—as well they should be. Given this, it’s not surprising that unfussy fragrance names are now sharing shelf space with their exotic French cousins. Fresh Laundry, by Clean Perfume, is one of these. The name of this company and its individual fragrance names reflect the brand’s interest in creating scents and names that are “reminiscent of something warm and “fuzzy”. Fresh laundry is certainly that as is their other fabric inspired name, Warm Cotton. Tip: think beyond fruits, flowers, and other conventional materials commonly associated with fragrance names. Suggesting less traditional smells can be fun too—as Clean Perfume’s Fresh Laundry and Warm Cotton amply demonstrate.

Gypsy Water

The word eau—French for water—is commonly used in relationship to fragrance concentrations. The Swedish niche brand Byredo, however, uses the word in a wholly different way. In partnering a well-known industry term with the romantically-charged word “gypsy”, founder Ben Gorham transforms the base metal of a functional word into a solid gold name. Tip: To create intriguing names, try partnering plainer or more functional words with exotic, emotionally-charged ones. Gypsy Water, for example, is more intriguing than Wild Gypsy because it blends two very different tonalities. It evokes a unique image too. Is Gypsy Water a hidden spring in a dark forest or is it an intoxicating drink in a burnished flask?

Commodity

There is something refreshing about an indie fragrance brand labelling itself as a “commodity”, a word associated with product or service that sells not on style or quality but on price as it is otherwise indistinguishable from similar offerings. The other meaning of the word—something useful that can be turned to commercial advantage—is also ironical as, in part, the charm and joy of fragrance partially lies in its uselessness. To further play to the “commodity” theme, the brand dubs some of its individual fragrances with commodity or commodity-like monikers such as Gin, Whiskey, Wool, Gold, Book, and so on. Tip: When done well, an ironical brand name—as long as it is not overly self-conscious—can be wonderfully jarring.

Imaginary Authors

Just as a story can transport us into whole new worlds, so can scent. As a company name, Imaginary Authors suggests that each fragrance is like an author, though not one we will ever know or meet. The brand extends the notion of fragrance as story with its product names. A Cobra and a Canary, Whispered Myths, and Falling into the Sea could easily double as the titles of books or poetry collections. Moreover, the brand’s retro-inspired packaging looks like books. Tip: When naming a fragrance company, create names that lend themselves to a broader brand story. As a company name, Imaginary Authors, in addition to its existing links between fragrance and books—story creation, scented journals, and packaging that resembles books—the name could easily lend itself to promotional events involving author readings and even perfume signings.

The Architect’s Club

Carlos Huber, the founder of Arquiste Parfumeur discovered naming inspiration in the renovation of London’s grand Claridge Hotel. Given his architectural passions, this is not surprising. In his interview with The Perfume Magazine, he says, “to put it simply, architecture is experiential. My fascination with historic architecture has always been connected to its experience, and if you are sensitive to scent, then what you smell and feel is just as important as what you see. Also, architecture and perfumery are both fields that involve long and complex processes. The research to create a perfume and actually base it on a real story is as thorough as the research behind the restoration of an old building. You need find clues to justify the structure that you are building.” Tip: When developing a fragrance or other brand name, seek connections between seemingly unrelated fields as Huber does between architecture and fragrance. Analogies can clarify complex ideas and make us experience a name in a whole different way.

Phlur

Alternative spellings seem can be a lazy way to name. And in many cases, they are nothing more than an attempt at finding an exact match dotcom URL. But in some cases, like Phlur, such spellings make for fine wordplay. The phonetic spelling of fleur does double duty: it is the French word for flower, but it also plays to the idea of everyone’s skin having a different PH balance. This subtle nod to the link between fragrance and skin PH would have been lost had they spelt the name Flur. Tip: Alternative or phonetic spellings can lead to arresting names, but there must be a reason—beyond a desperate attempt to find a matching dot com URL—to justify such a departure from natural spelling. Flicker, for example, as an alternative spelling for Flicker worked because the dropped “r” made the word “flicker”. But randomly dropping vowels (an old naming trend) or other tricks are just tricks unless the tampering contributes to meaning.

Flashback

Founded by French perfume creator Céline Verleure, Olfactive Studio is where perfumers and artistic photographers find common ground. Like photography, perfume freezes a moment and, like a photographic image, a scent can involuntarily transport us back to a particular moment in time. This idea is brought to life in the famous madeleine scene in Proust’s A la Rechearche du Temps Perdu (Remembrance of Things past) in which the taste/smell of a small, spongey cake transports him into the world of memory.

The name Flashback perfectly captures the idea of scent’s ability to take us back in time as well as theming to the idea of “flash” in photography. Tip: When creating names, look for words or phrases with double meanings. A word with multiple meanings can add depth to a brand name.

Dirty Flower Factory

In the past, a name like Dirty Flower Factory would have been anathema. Ditto for Kerosene, the name of the company behind this scent. Back then fragrance names were much tamer, mostly interested in conveying ideas of grace, beauty, charm, seduction, sexuality, or mystery. This is no longer the case. Today’s fragrance namers have been liberated from such tight restraints. And while the use of “dirt” might be pushing the envelope, it’s a bold and unusual choice. Tip: When naming a fragrance, don’t feel like you need to stick to familiar pathways. And if you do go into unusual territories for fragrance, do it in a novel way. Partnering an expected word like “flowerwith the totally out-of-the-ordinary (at least for fragrance) image “dirty factory” creates appealing linguistic tension.

Jo Loves Orange Butterflies

This delightful name proves that names don’t have to be short to be good. The name is also unusual because despite being owned by Estée Lauder, it doesn’t feel like a corporate moniker. Instead, it appears to reflect a quirky passion of the brand’s original founder, British perfumer Joanne Lesley Malone. The use of “orange butterflies” also evokes two of the notes—orange blossom and mandarin—found in this refreshing blend. Tip: A big fragrance brand doesn’t have to sound “neutral” to be successful. Names that are too broad or general are often less interesting than those that paint a compelling picture through the use of a finely imagined detail.

Paper Passion

The smell of freshly printed books—with their delicious aroma of paper and ink—has caused many a nose to plunge into new pages and deeply inhale. Through the vehicle of artful packaging, rich fragrance, and compelling storytelling, boutique perfumer Geza Schoen, in close collaboration with the paper and print loving Gerhard Steidl of Steidl publishers and Tony Chambers, the Editor-in-Chief of Wallpaper magazine, created the perfect blend—a perfume packaged in an actual book.

The perfume, inset into a package that is actually a book, is brought to further life with meditations on the sensual power of paper and books written by Karl Lagerfeld and Günter Grass. Wisely, the creators applied this beautifully alliterative name to the fragrance itself rather than giving it a new name like “Pages” or something pedestrian like “Chapter”. Tip: don’t create too many names unless there is a reason. If not forced, creating a strong tie between a company (or project) name and an initial offering can create consistency, and consistency is key to building a recognizable brand.

Secret Genius

Genius is usually on display—we marvel at its incarnation in the arts and sciences, in sports and industry. And as genius is most often associated with very public personas (think Picasso or Steven Jobs), the notion of hidden genius—an extreme talent tucked deep within the self—captures the imagination. Pinrose, the company behind this inviting fragrance and name, goes beyond the obvious and, as a result, ends up with an evocative moniker. Genius at Work, for example, would be far less intriguing. Some of the company’s other fragrance names—Tambourine Dreamer, Pillowtalk Poet, Sun Saint, and Garden Gangster—combine words in new and unexpected ways as well. Tip: Don’t create confusing names for the sake of creating confusing names, but don’t be afraid to create names that are a little bit elusive—names that step a bit to the right or left of logical thinking. As Roja Dove, a renowned perfumer and fragrance historian points out, “the name should make one think a little. It should spark the imagination.”

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