Chanel No. 5 by broma

Bruce Willis, The shape of Bottles, Growing jasmine in France, The appeal of Consistency, Baz Luhrmann's best work, Chanel No. 5 in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Being called "Le Monstre"

Over 250 new perfumes have already hit the market this year but the odds that one of these will go on to be a best-seller are slim. Most new fragrances will stay on store shelves less than a year (ahem, Bruce Willis cologne—we’re looking at you).

In the over-saturated fragrance market, Chanel No. 5 is the gold standard. It has sold consistently since its launch in 1921 and is recognized as a household name. But what is it that makes No. 5 such a mainstay in the market?

  • Sales: According to Chanel, a bottle of the famous fragrance is sold every 55 seconds. It is known by competitors as “Le Monstre.”
  • Uniqueness: When Coco Chanel launched Chanel No. 5 in 1921, perfumes consisted of a single floral note. No. 5 was the first perfume to make use of synthetic aldehydes, combining 31 ingredients to create a unique, modern scent. Chanel’s aim was to create a complex fragrance that was reminiscent of a woman, not a flower.
  • Exclusivity: At the time it was created, Chanel’s perfumer didn’t want the fragrance to be copied by anyone and chose to use the most expensive fragrance oil available at the time as a key ingredient—jasmine. Today, the jasmine for No. 5 is grown exclusively by a single producer in Brasse, France.
  • Design: The square bottle is simple and bold. When No. 5 was launched the bottle’s shape resembled men's cologne, making it stand out from other perfumes on the market. Today the design is considered classic and sits in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  • Consistency: The standard in the perfume industry is to piggyback off of successful fragrances by introducing “Flankers,” brand extensions of the original fragrance. Instead of creating endless variations on the No. 5 scent, Chanel reinvents itself through advertising, selecting big-name spokeswomen that evoke the timelessly modern image of the brand.
  • Advertising: When Nicole Kidman was chosen as the face of Chanel in 2004, sales of No. 5 were down. The brand hired director Baz Luhrmann to create a short film and annual sales of No. 5 rose by 26%. The campaign was considered a huge success and other perfumeries have followed suit (Sofia Coppola for Dior and David Lynch for Gucci).

Upon its launch, Chanel No. 5 was successful because of its boldness. Everything about the fragrance, from its ingredients to its packaging, was vastly different from other perfumes on the market. The industry standard of combining complex notes to evoke a unique image can be credited to Chanel. The bottle shape was vastly different from the frilly choices available at the time and now a perfume’s packaging is just as (if not more so) important than the fragrance itself.

Chanel No. 5 redefined the perfume industry nearly a century ago and continues to to dominate the marketplace. Product magic? Yes, indeed.

Photo by broma.