The Erotic History of Advertising

One thing is certain: fragrance marketers play to people's fantasies. A study in 1970 conducted by marketing analyst Suzanne Grayson revealed that sex was the central positioning strategy for 49 percent of the fragrances on the market. The second highest positioning strategy was outdoor/sports at 14 percent. In Grayson's analysis, sexual themes ranged from raw sex to romance with the fragrance positioned as an aphrodisiac-an aromatic potion that evoked intimate feelings or provoked behavioral expression of those feelings. According to Richard Roth, an account executive for Prince Matchabelli, "Fragrance will always be sold with a desirability motif." Roth's prediction, made in 1980, proved accurate as desirability, attraction, and passion remained central themes in fragrance positioning through today. What did change, however, was the content and expression of the desire motif over time. For one, as the Paco Rabanne repartee demonstrates, women became equal partners in "the chase."


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