Ways to take action

To developp your brand successfully, you need a good feel for your market

Marie-Catherine Mars , Associate Professor, Deputy Head of faculty - Marketing Nice

Marie-Catherine Mars, Professeur de Marketing à l'EDHEC, et Victor Mejía, Professeur à l'Université Côte d’Azur, traitent des codes du marché aussi traditionnel que celui du parfum.

Reading time :
25 Aug 2020

How do you shake up the rules of a market as traditional as the perfume market when you are a start-up? How can you go further than « simple » innovations of form (nomad format, diffusers, perfume jewellery)?

Such are the questions answered in the educational case study "Foamous®, parfum en mousse : développer une marque de parfums disruptifs sur le marché français" (“Foamous®, mousse perfume: developing a breakthrough perfume brand  on the French market”), by Marie-Catherine Mars (EDHEC) and Victor Mejía (IUT, University of the Côte d’Azur), conducted with second and third-year students doing the EDHEC INTERNATIONAL BBA. This case won the afm-CCMP 2020 best pedagogical case study..

The foamous problem 

Like many brand histories, the story of Foamous was first that of a good idea, a revolutionary concept. The Foamous start-up offered a perfume in the form of a hydrating and long-lasting mousse, targeted at adolescents and pre-adolescents aged 8 to 18 years old, with a reassuring "1960s" feel. Exit the spray bottle and the alcohol (4% instead of the 80% in classic perfumes). The brand rapidly found a market overseas, especially in South Korea, Japan and Brazil, but struggled to convince in France.

Disrupting an educated market

Going beyond the work that EDHEC put in to support the brand (with audits, development strategies and the like), let’s look at some marketing lessons that the study highlights.

The French consumer is not like the others 

We should always think about the cultural specificities associated with certain products.

The French market is highly educated about perfume, especially about consumption patterns and in the association of the value of the product with individual identity and personality. In France, perfume is considered a part of an individual’s identity.

At the same time, there is room for innovation in the sector, for products that combine new profits with targets with lower purchasing power or who seek a new perfume experience. In the case of Foamous, the choice to target the young (adolescents and millenials) was judicious because the younger generations are in search of new perfume modes and do not hesitate to apply perfume in nomad or mousse forms, unlike adults. They are also more inclined to buy less expensive perfumes that allow them an olfactory “wardrobe” at a low cost, to express different facets of their identity at different moments. Men are also looking for hybrid products that combine perfume and moisturisers, which is a strong trend.

A general and coherent marketing proposal

Start-ups differentiate themselves from classic firms through their desire to start a high-growth business with few resources. When they launch a new product, they tend to focus first on the development of the product and then address questions of communication as they arise.

To succeed in launching a new product on the market, they must be careful to ensure the consistency of their overall product offering.

The founders of Foamous spent nearly two years with CNRS researchers, developing the famous mousse perfume and its protective packaging which form the basis of the brand’s success. They also thought early about the brand universe, which had to be reassuring in terms of the disruption that the product represents, leading to the “happy days” universe of the 1960s. For want of time, the encounter with future consumers and reflections about how to commercialise the product were somewhat neglected: the brand was launched as market opportunities presented themselves, according to marketing agreements, notably with Sephora and some international distributers, that are not always sustainable.

Packaging of the Foamous mousses 

Market survey: it may be traditional, but it is indispensable

Without sufficient means, a start-up will sometimes meet an impasse at the crucial step: the market survey. 

It is essential to learn about the target audience as soon as possible through interviews and qualitative enquiries with potential customers in order to get the best understanding of how the product is seen, and the motivations and disincentives for buying the innovative product.

Make proposals to your target group

Once the target group has been defined, the brand must be accessible. There are many issues involved, among the most important of which are:

1. Reassure the target audience so that they understand the brand and the product despite its disruptive or revolutionary aspect, which can be off-putting. 

For Foamous, the brand had to adopt a highly pedagogical discourse so that the target audience would understand that it is a perfume in mousse form, rather than a perfumed moisturising foam: it was decided that in-store explanatory demonstrations would be the best way to get the message across.

2. Use a common language with the target in order to highlight the characteristics and benefits of the product. 

Thus, following a qualitative study, the brand modified its packaging to provide a better guide for customers, by listing on the packaging the different olfactory families of each Foamous perfume, with specific colours and symbols, more easily understood by younger people new to perfume. 

3.Take a different approach. It is better to go around cultural barriers rather than to
confront them head-on. 

Foamous perfume could not position itself as a classic perfume brand. So, following a study, it was decided to propose the product as a complement to the customer’s usual perfume, as a fun gift, or as an innovative product, wherein the customer would be an “early adopter” of a practical, nomadic, moisturising perfume of excellent quality, that represents very good value for money. 

In a saturated market, there is always room for start-ups to innovate. But if the firm really wants to succeed in penetrating the market, it must be rigorous in its market strategy, without forgetting all the other steps, and be sure to match roles with skills. 

Understanding of the end consumer and consistency in the brand’s offer are among other essential conditions for success in a new market.