Ah, the smell of Christmas is in the air. Quite literally – it’s the time when we get bombarded with fabulous commercials with the highest possible production values that assault our senses, with gold and glitter that exude impossible, inconceivable luxury. Yes, it’s fragrance time again.

It’s a funny old business, the fragrance one. And highly lucrative. The total sales value of UK fragrances for men and women in December 2017 was estimated at almost £1.8 billion. The number of women’s fragrances available is roughly double that available for men, although fragrance for ‘unspecified gender’ (what used to be called ‘unisex’) is growing quite sharply.

And, of course, the good ones are expensive. The chemistry behind the most sophisticated and extravagant fragrances isn’t widely known because if it were nobody would ever buy it again.

Ambergris is the most expensive natural raw material in perfume. It is made when a sperm whale swallows spiky cuttlefish and secretes a waxy paste around it. When this lump becomes too big, the whale coughs it up, a bit like a cat’s fur ball.

The distinctive odour is derived from the salt and the sun that it soaks up as it floats on the ocean’s surface – the longer the better. These days, it’s largely synthetic, as an industry that big can’t rely on that many whales coughing up spiky cuttlefish with day in, day out regularity.

Just as well, because while cost breakdowns tend to be a closely-guarded secret in the industry, the NPD Group, a global market research organisation, estimates that for a $100 bottle of perfume the oil used to make the scent itself is valued at around $2.

So effectively, we’re buying a dream. More specifically, we’re buying our dream on behalf of someone else. Gift purchases account for the highest proportion of sales for women’s fragrance – a staggering 50% – and the vast majority of that sold annually occurs in the run up to Christmas.

Men panic buy at Christmas, usually on Christmas Eve. Men out-panic women by 22% when buying perfume for their partner. 49% leave it until one week or less before a special occasion to buy – and that includes purchases made on the day. This compares to just 27% of women who buy in the same way. 40% of men admit to resorting to a ‘panic buy’ as a reason for purchase* and the last commercial that showed a slice of this impossible life provides an ideal emotional trigger.

Whilst I admire the glitz, glamour, production values (and budgets!) of the latest big brand fragrance commercials, aren’t we just a bit tired of the same old pouty ‘come hither’ looks and smouldering eyes, cut to walking nearly naked up a beach that appears to be made of gold leaf?

How about doing all of this in a commercial that also has an idea in it?

For me, at least, that would be a gift of pure joy.


LAW Creative is a multi-award-winning integrated marketing communications agency that can deliver memorable creative success for your business. To find out more, contact

*Source: 2018