The New York Times
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May 10, 2008

Light Touch in Inventing Chinese Scents


Western perfume makers have been selling their scents in China for roughly a decade. But in a few months, Parfums Benetton will introduce two of the first perfumes that have been created especially for Chinese tastes.

United Colors of Benetton and its perfume licensee, Selective Beauty — the company that conceives and produces perfumes under Benetton’s name — signed with a Chinese perfume importer and distributor called Eternal. It was Eternal that suggested that Benetton create scents for the Chinese consumer.

The creative team at Selective Beauty decided on the names Energy Games Man and Woman to play off the strengths of the existing brands — Energy Man and Energy Woman, created last year — and to refer to this year’s Olympic Games in Beijing.

On the bottle, Selective Beauty used the yellow and red colors of the Chinese flag. For the perfumes, it chose two veteran perfumers from a scent maker called Quest (purchased a year ago by Quest’s competitor Givaudan): Christophe Raynaud for the feminine perfume, Olivier Pescheux for the masculine. To guide them, Quest’s marketing team began a major study of scent and the Chinese consumer.

Quest found that Chinese women above all want harmonious perfumes — those avoiding a single strong, identifiable raw material but rather using smooth blends of elements. They liked youthful fruit scents and, even more, flower-petal scents. Brand influenced them hugely. Quest marketers concluded they liked Chanel No. 5 and Paris by Yves Saint Laurent less for their smells than for their brands. And the women decisively rejected powerful, strong-signatured perfumes.

Chinese men liked fresh, airy, fruity scents (above all, apple). Like the women, they rejected scents with one big, strong note.

And so the Benetton team created as its feminine scent a fruity floral perfume with mandarin, lychee, cranberry, peach and — for its pure clean scent — osmanthus. They added synthetic musks, since those molecules are often used in laundry detergent and read as clean notes.

Benetton’s masculine scent was based on a mixture the creative team called frosted lavender, which combines a traditional male classic scent with the big freshness of yuzu (a Japanese citrus), mandarin and a little bit of pineapple. This was reinforced with fresh ginger and, in the base, soft amber and cedar and sandalwood.

Benetton will introduce Energy Games Man and Energy Games Woman two months before the Games begin. CHANDLER BURR