Marketing to men: Are men interested in unisex fragrance?

Marketing to men: Are men interested in unisex fragrance?

Doug Wallace explores the latest in unisex fragrance, and whether men care.

Unisex fragrance is nothing new by any means—and we’re not just talking about CK One. After all, stars and fashion trendsetters Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn both wore the classic Acqua di Parma cologne. But now that the new buzzword is “genderless” or “gender-free,” what does that mean for men, and more specifically, their buying habits?

We turned to marketing guru and international editor of Bello Magazine Steven Carver to explore this “new” phenomenon, and to see if men were at all interested—or didn’t give a toss.

Why are brands embracing genderless scents and marketing?

Carver thinks that while big brands dominate the market because they have the advertising budgets, the indie fragrances do well because most skew quirky. And, the kicker: “Many of their scents aren’t targeted towards either gender,” he says. “That’s why Le Labo, Frederic Malle, Byredo, and others, are doing well; with no gender labels on the packaging, they’re essentially doubling their customer base.”

Are men buying “feminine” scents?

“Whether it’s a men’s fragrance or a unisex one, men like to smell good,” says Carver. “Are they going out and buying a bottle of White Diamonds for themselves? Probably not. Are they buying fruity and floral scents? They are, unknowingly. Many fragrances use something acidic—like green apple—to add ‘bite,’ but men don’t realize it.”

With today’s “sexual fluidity,” one wonders if there’s a connection between that and marketing fragrance to a genderless face.

“Everything is cyclical, especially trends,” says Carver. “Centuries ago, there was no segregation between fragrances—you wore whatever scent you liked. Today, it’s all business and the bottom line. It has nothing to do with fluidity. If there’s a demographic with a disposable income, there will be product marketed for it.”

While we’re not likely to see men browsing the women’s perfume counter, guys can always shop online and browse wherever their whims take them. Major department stores (Nordstrom, HBC) and niche retailers (MenEssentials in Toronto, Osswald in NYC) sell many genderless scents. “There’s something for everyone,” Carver says.

Interested in breaking out of the gender-defined perfume box? Take a read on Adriana Ermter’s story on great men’s scent for women to try!

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Doug Wallace is a Toronto-based writer who began his fragrance wardrobe with a bottle of the now-iconic Geoffrey Beene Grey Flannel and hasn’t looked back. A big fan of scents by houses Lalique and Boucheron, he is currently having a fling with all-things-British, including Clive Christian, Floris and Penhaligon’s. He treasures the dusty shoulders of some of his more aged bottles just as much as he does the shiny young ones.