Amouage is a niche perfumery house that does not need a lot of introduction. Their amazing creations have won them a strong reputation and perfume lovers appreciate the quality and uniqueness of their fragrances all over the world.
I had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Renaud Salmon, Chief Experience Officer of the brand. The result was a fascinating journey into the philosophy, the values, and the accomplishments of this powerhouse. Mr. Renaud Salmon has graciously offered me an in-depth look into the most important characteristics of this iconic house with so many masterpieces under its belt. I always admired the diversity and the creativity of Amouage and now, I love it even more. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to understand a little part of the magic that continuously goes on behind the closed doors at Amouage. And I am even happier that I can share all of it with you...
In order to create a successful brand, which do you think is more important: strategy or creativity?
It must be a combination of both. They’re not mutually exclusive. You might be able to get away with one success without strategic input – a well-timed spark of creativity and most likely, a one-hit-wonder. But to build a successful brand, strategy is vital. It means that you are able to reinforce and expand on what you are good at and what your skill is, to identify what it is that people like and extrapolate it. Likewise, the best strategy is never going to resonate with people if there is not something creative and indeed, relevant, behind it.
You are now at a point in your career where you can pick and choose your talents. Can you work with people that... let's say... you do not resonate with? How flexible are you when your ideas do not fit into the client's vision?
Amouage has always been known for its creative freedom, its authenticity, and its deep respect for the craft, and anyone who works with us has to understand that. We are extremely selective about who we work with and that is one of the things that differentiates us. Whether it’s a perfumer or an artist, we seek someone with classic sensibilities and an acute eye for detail, but who is able to bring a touch of modernity and freshness. We do not go for the expected. For example, we worked with Louise Mertens on two of our recent projects. As an artist and photographer, she is completely meticulous, but her work is extremely contemporary. Likewise, Cécile Zarokian, best known as the ‘Amber Queen’ for her ability to create magnetic nuances that transcend time, classic yet modern in their own right. On the other hand, choosing a music producer like Copal was really uncharacteristic, but he just perfectly embodied how we wanted to translate fragrances into musical notes and merge the two worlds. Together our selected ‘Creative Collective’ contribute their divergent tastes and ideas for a united vision.
In the multifaceted business environment of today, what is the secret "red thread" that connects fragrance, fashion, and luxury?
The luxury industry is all about appreciating and expressing true artistry, and this is what bridges the individual genres, whether fragrance or fashion. Especially in this day in age, where storytelling and individualism are of utmost importance, luxury fragrance and fashion are able to evoke emotions and connect with people’s sense of personal identity. And this is really what it comes down to – the projection of the self. It is not limited to luxury, it’s just about identity - who you are and how you want to be perceived. Quite simply, in our personal quest for identity, what we wear and how we smell always go hand-in-hand.
We have seen recently that some brands thrived in the last year and others have almost gone bankrupt. In what way did the pandemic affect the luxury consumers and their taste for luxury goods?
While a slowdown of tourism and related luxury spending has affected the industry, demand remains strong. However, this demand has certainly shifted in fundamental ways. Firstly, it’s no longer luxury for luxury’s sake. The pandemic highlighted the need for substance and depth in what people are buying. Consumers are becoming more environmentally and socially aware, and as a result are becoming more critical of their brand choices and associations. They are looking for brands that resonate with their principles, brands that are authentic, that have a story. What’s more, they are much more informed! People aren’t just interested in the end product anymore, they’re paying attention to ingredients, the supply chain, the company’s reputation amongst workers.
The other fundamental shift is digital. No brand could have survived the last year without being digital and it was certainly a litmus test for Amouage. We had already set plans to upgrade our e-commerce and digital platforms in order to access more markets and offer a more appealing online experience, and the pandemic surely expedited those plans. But we were ready and even took it up a notch, identifying more ways to connect with our clients that ensured their comfort, confidence and safety at all times.
How can we improve the consumer experience in an environment marked by restrictions? Can you refer especially to the niche perfumery market?
In the niche perfume market, we have to work extra hard to build our connections with consumers and to get our story out there. I mean, you can’t smell a fragrance over the internet, at least not yet, but there are ways that we can get creative with translating them. With the consumer shifts that we discussed in the previous question, brands need to communicate more genuinely with a commitment to qualitative content creation, not just putting information out there for the sake of it. People are keen to learn and this has been one of the most exciting ways we have enhanced people’s experience with Amouage and the wider industry.
In the last year we pioneered a few ideas that helped bring our creations to life – virtually while using our position as an authority in the industry to propagate knowledge. For example, we shared the top-performing lines publicly in Amouage Top 10, as well as showcased how our ‘Creative Collective’ works with music composers, artists, and architects in the fragrance creation process. We also worked really hard expanding the ‘personality’ of our perfumes beyond their notes. That’s why, for example, Interlude Black Iris has its own soundtrack, and the Renaissance Collection has been interpreted in paintings. So, while we have adapted our boutiques considerably so that they can be enjoyed safely, it is in the digital world that we’ve really spread our wings, and brought fragrance knowledge to the masses, so to speak.
Can you elaborate on the concept of INFLUENCERS and what is going to be their role in the future?
Although ‘influencer’ is a bit of a buzzword, they have really always been a big part of luxury and beauty. People have always been motivated and influenced by opinion leaders. What we can see today, is that, because of social media, the opportunity to become an ‘opinion leader’ has been democratized. And this is extremely empowering – it means that talent has a higher potential to be recognized. Our role as a brand is to identify these people. There are some amazing influencers out there who really understand their craft, appreciate the importance of collaboration and have perfected ‘reviewing’ down to art form, giving consumers such a great feel of the product. Amouage has always been about storytelling and, if thoughtfully chosen, modern influencers can help us tell our story and do it in fresh new ways.
In the world of the digital market and e-commerce do you think there is still a place for the classic way of shopping and marketing? How important is it for you the real-life interactions with the customers?
In the luxury world, and likely elsewhere, everything is cyclical. So, though we have indeed expanded our e-commerce capabilities and found new ways to engage with our clients online, we would be remiss if we forgot about the traditional experience. It is simply about adjusting to a different balance and being adaptive in the face of change. If anything, recent events have shown us that the two worlds are complementary, allowing us to offer a holistic experience with the House. People can join an interactive discussion on Instagram with our perfume creators, and they can also visit our creation and manufacturing facilities in Muscat, where they can meet our craftspeople and observe the various stages of perfume manufacturing first-hand. Meanwhile, we are continuing to open physical stores around the world and are in fact in the process of revamping the look and feel of our flagship store. So, the in-person experience remains an essential part of our brand.
Speaking about AMOUAGE, what is your most important endeavor for a successful and efficient market strategy, and does that include working with influencers?
Our primary purpose has never been economic, so we never pursue marketing for marketing’s sake and we don’t pay people to promote our fragrance House or push our products into their hands. It simply doesn’t fit our values. When we choose to work with an influencer, it has to be someone with a strong affinity to the Amouage; someone who is going to convey our values over selling products fast. Our vision is to be a powerhouse of luxury fragrances and this cannot be achieved by looking at weekly sales. Amouage is about so much more than just fragrance, it’s about true creative mastery, and this is something we are keen to share with the world.