Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Chandler Burr Launches Untitled Series On OpenSky

Many of us tend to get cranky with perfume marketing. You know the drill: a new perfume is launched, be it a mainstream designer fragrance or a semi-obscure niche one, and the marketing team behind the brand spends way too much time, money, and energy, weaving a story or adding an air or exotic mystery around it. That is, when they don't just slap an overly sexy (borderline soft porn) image to try and convince us that this is the way to make ourselves irresistible. Do they really think we're that dumb?

 (yes, they probably do)

Chandler Burr, he former scent critic for The New York Times and the curator of The Department of Olfactory Art at New York's Museum of Arts and Design, wants to strip the hype away from the perfume and see what happens. Burr partnered with OpenSky, a new online store. OpenSky offers collection of various items, hand-picked by experts, celebrities, and reality TV personalities. While some of the items on OpenSky are not very new or interesting, Chandler Burr's Untitled series is probably the most fascinating experiment in perfume anti-marketing I've come across. Once a month, he will choose and offer a fragrance in a 50ml lab bottle. There will be no label, title or any identifying details, and no purple prose describing it. The perfumes themselves are not new launches: they're already on the market, some more famous than others. Burr will choose scents he thinks are worth our time and effort because they are good and make an artistic point, no matter if they're mainstream or niche, old (late 19th century) or new; the styles of the perfumes will vary. From the press release:
There will be only 100 bottles available in the series, 100 bottles available in June, followed by a limited number to follow, depending on the scent. The first fragrance called S01E01 (Season One Episode One) and will launch this Friday, June 1st on OpenSky. The identity of the scent as well as more about the artist who created it will be revealed to shoppers on the last day of June. The series will continue with a new launch on the first of every month and a subsequent reveal on the last day of each month.

I think this is an important exercise that has the potential to make a serious point about perfumes and the people who buy them. I'm curious to see how it goes and what will be the chosen perfumes. I hope it will have some positive impact on the industry, but maybe that’s being too optimistic. At least we can have fun trying to guess and figure out the juice in the Untitled bottles. What do you think? Will you give it a try?

Photo of Chandler Burr courtesy of


  1. Nice idea. However, it's deeply flawed: they are merely replacing the original "story" with this one (it's now a "curated by Chandler Burr" -story). For this experiment to be a scientific rather than commercial one, they would have to conduct an actual study. So I don't know how to feel about it, really, surely they will have realised it and are now just exploiting Burr's fame for a new commercial venture.

  2. This is going to be really interesting.
    Actually, as a marketer, I do know how much all of our senses influence the perception we have of a product. It means that our brain will REALLY appreciate a perfume differently if it only gets to smell it without getting any other information (like, a nice bottle, a promo picture, a music on an and etc...)
    I don't think it means that a perfume is bad when we don't like it without the marketing around it, nor that the marketing itself is a manipulation. It means the opinion we form consider all of our perceptions as a whole and if we cut out a huge part of that perception, the result is going to be different in lots of cases.

    (or maybe I'm totally wrong, lol , who knows)


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