William Shakespeare’s Juliet asks, “What’s in a name?” Large perfume companies seem to disagree with the remainder of her line, “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” That’s because they keep insisting on using the same name for a new perfume which has nothing to do with a perfume which has the same name from an earlier time.
If you need an example of what that does to consumers go read the comments on my review for the new Tiffany & Co. perfume. There is one after the other about how disappointed consumers are that this new perfume smells nothing like the previous Tiffany & Co. perfume. They are correct. In the review I pointed out that it was seemingly designed for a completely different perfume lover. The impassioned comments bear that out as the previous fans share their disappointment. Granted Tiffany is not a major perfume brand but the display of annoyance I think is one that goes underreported. What I worry about is the perfume consumer who only has a couple of perfumes on their table becomes a not consumer because of this.
I mentioned this again in the recent review of Givenchy L’Interdit where the choice was to do something completely different from the original perfume. The original was designed for Hubert de Givenchy’s muse, Audrey Hepburn. I couldn’t find a shred of Ms. Hepburn in this new version. I liked it, but it isn’t the L’Interdit I have a bottle of. The cynic inside tells me that the typical perfume consumer has no knowledge of historical perfumes. Which means only a tiny percentage of fragrance wonks like me care.
The biggest evidence of this is the use of the name Joy by Dior for their new mainstream release. They were able to do it because they bought the brand which previously used the name, Jean Patou. Seemingly solely so they could do this. The sad part is this is the case which compares a masterpiece of the past to something less so. Dior of course is the brand which in 2011 did one of the most inexplicable name changes as they changed the name of Miss Dior Cherie to just Miss Dior. The perfume named Miss Dior Original was the old Miss Dior. Miss Dior Cherie disappeared completely. Follow that? I continue to receive e-mail where I straighten this out for those who have finished a bottle of Miss Dior Cherie and can’t find it. I wonder if the sales associates know this? Or does a consumer walk away disappointed?
The bottom line is the large perfume companies have decided the name and brand loyalty mean little to them. They are more interested in providing new product even when wrapped in old names. Alas fair Juliet I don’t think these impersonal companies see perfume as poetry; just product.
When it comes to my favorite dead brand, Jean Patou, I am a bit like Charlie Brown and Lucy when it comes to her holding a football for him to kick. Every time I think I will get some gratification only to find myself on my back looking at the sky. About a month ago I read that Jean Patou had been acquired by LVMH. What was odd was it had been done in such a way that people only learned of it well after the fact of the acquisition. Why was that? The press release announcing it was appropriately hopeful about giving the brand an elevated profile. Then the truth came about two weeks later when I got a press release announcing the new release from Dior; Joy by Dior. They acquired Jean Patou so they wouldn’t have to have any problems with the name of their new perfume.
Jean Patou Joy is one of the acknowledged masterpieces of perfumery. It is seen as one of the greatest perfumes ever. Because Patou has been so decimated as a brand it is not as cherished as its other contemporaries. Which is why it is puzzling why Dior would make the decision to produce a new perfume with the same name of a masterpiece. The cynic in me says because they’ve unleashed their market research staff and found out most consumers have no idea there is a previous classic perfume called Joy. Which fits with the perfume that has been produced. Joy by Dior is a good perfume put together via the perfume assembly line of focus groups and market research; as cynical as it gets in other words.
Francois Demachy the in-house perfumer at Dior is responsible for Joy by Dior. It is very simple, very fresh, and very derivative. M. Demachy chose to create a mash-up of two huge best-sellers. The citrus opening is straight out of Chanel Allure and the floral heart is Dior J’Adore. In other words, it is just a re-tread. This has become a disturbing trend that has bled over into niche perfumery (Try the new Serge Lutens for an example). If you want a crowd-pleasing top seller just combine some of the best accords from your past, or another brand’s, and toss them together into a “new” perfume. Count on the consumer to just go with the happy flow. Voila! You have Joy by Dior.
The top is citrus. Studies say everyone loves citrus. M. Demachy blends a slightly bitter orange version. Flowers, everyone loves flowers; especially rose and jasmine. Yes, but don’t make them too heavy that makes people uncomfortable. It also might remind them of that other Joy. So, make sure the rose and jasmine are composed of expansive synthetic versions. What's the safest base we can use? Oh yes, another synthetic sandalwood wrapped in linen musks to make this as soft as can be. Because above all we want you to feel comfortable with your purchase.
Joy by Dior has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Of all the big brands Dior has been the one which has been the most openly cynical about the mass-market consumer. The whole Miss Dior Cherie-Miss Dior debacle is a prime example. Joy by Dior joins that list of dubious distinction.
Bottom line, Joy by Dior is going to sell like crazy. It is a perfume for people who don’t like perfume but still want to wear perfume. It is going to find its way into Holiday presents galore. If it isn’t the best-selling new perfume this upcoming shopping season, I’ll be shocked. It is why I’ll be shaking my head every time I smell it in the mall for the rest of the year.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Dior.