The war changed everything. Women were forced to wear the trousers while their men were away. The experience challenged and toughened them. After the war, women embodied a more forceful character in every way they expressed themselves, including their fragrances. But then couturier Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel broke the rules by revolutionizing and democratizing fashion in its various forms—from clothing to accessories, including perfume.
The Chanel No. 5 Juice
“I want to give women…a scent that smells like a woman, not like a flower,” Chanel said.
In 1921, Coco commissioned Russian perfumer Ernest Beaux to create what would become the ultimate Chanel masterpiece and greatest classic perfume of all time—an abstract floral overdosed and overpowered with sparkling yet heavy synthetic chemicals called aldehydes.
Chanel No. 5 was ahead of its time as a composition. It was impactful, long lasting, unique and libertarian in its essence. The juice’s signature hasn’t changed since its creation, yet its attributes have evolved to become aspirational in a more classic and feminine way as opposed to being the edgy, abstract rule breaker it was in its early years.
For decades, Chanel No. 5 has remained a bestseller around the globe. Interestingly, the juice doesn’t test well blind, but when women experience it within the context of the Chanel brand, a certain je ne sais quoi happens just like magic, and women just embrace it.
The Chanel No. 5 Experience
Its flacon is a simple square bottle with a rectangular top. It has been altered only minimally since first designed by Coco Chanel. Black and white colors and straight lines convey simplicity and purity. The black is not just black; it is the blackest possibly attainable. The famous double-C logo created in the early 1920s embodies all elements Chanel and remains strategically unchanged. The glass feels heavy, conveying quality. The simple style of the overall package holds classic stylistic codes that have become intrinsic to the brand’s DNA over the years.
The Chanel No. 5 experience is highly regarded, and the brand pays a great deal of attention to detail, juice quality and components durability. The label, colors and coatings must be durable so the consumer can keep the flacon impeccably intact for years, even when it is empty. Branding the experience is quite important for Chanel. Repeated consumer interactions with the product are meant to result in an accumulation of pleasant multi-sensorial moments that ultimately reaffirm Chanel’s quality and render awareness, recognition and loyalty to the brand.
Consistency, Consistency, Consistency
Perhaps consistency is the main reason Chanel No. 5 remains successful, aside from being true to its heritage. From Marilyn Monroe accidentally endorsing Chanel No. 5 in the 1950s to Audrey Tautou and all her “Frenchness” as the new face of the fragrance, the brand has been consistently linking popular cinematic figures to appeal to a younger generation with every passing decade.
Catherine Deneuve, Ali MacGraw, Carole Bouquet and Nicole Kidman—to mention a few—all embodied qualities the brand wanted to portray to characterize the quintessential No. 5 woman. Aggressive advertising campaigns over the years have been critical for the brand to stay current and keep its image young and fresh.
Many attributes of Coco’s unconventional personality are incorporated into her brand, as is evidenced in an upcoming biopic film, Coco avant Chanel, featuring Audrey Tautou as Mlle Chanel.
In 2008 brand Chanel decided—for the first time, after decades of careful brand strategy—to take a bold step by launching Chanel No. 5 Eau Première—a lighter, more modern version of the original No. 5 with a quieter sillage. Chanel in-house perfumer Jacques Polge stated: “Eau Première is for all those women who came to me and said, ‘No. 5 is fantastic but it’s not for me.’ Eau Première is lighter, more transparent, but, in essence, it is still No. 5.”
According to the NPD Group, a research firm, Chanel revenues increased by 14.5 percent after Eau Première was introduced.
Chanel No. 5 stays young by embracing a classy, ladylike attitude that could go just about anywhere, day or night. Chanel’s quality is uncompromised, distinctive and has an engaging history—from its avant-garde and socially progressive beginnings, to the traditional, luxurious and classic status that it has perpetuated throughout the decades.