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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Halitosis or Heavenly? What To Do When Critics Pan Your Perfume & Why Gin & Tonic is Not The Answer

As the Mystery of Musk project draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on things I've learned from my participation.  I never expected the experience to be so educational.  One of the biggest lessons I've learned is on accepting criticism.

Let me be clear, I've heard my share of negative comments.  Of late, I've been hearing quite a bit.  I've been out in the field, meeting and greeting.  Talking up boutique owners, attending fashion events, networking, selling my perfumes.  People have told me they don't care for a particular scent, or that my fragrances are too expensive.  While I accept this, I do try my best to educate these people.  I try and explain the differences between synthetic and natural perfumes, the difference in cost of materials, the art of creating natural perfumes, my philosophy as a natural perfumer.  But when it comes down to it, my perfumes may not be what he or she is looking for.  My mantra has become: You can't please all of the people all of the time.  Sometimes I become entrenched in my natural perfumery world; speaking exclusively with people who make perfumes, write about perfume, or have an interest in botanicals.  It's when I step outside this world, and interact with people who have no idea what I do or why I do it that I discover I have an uphill battle ahead of me.

I'm learning to toughen up.  Rejection is tough.  Being the sensitive type, my feelings can be easily hurt when people don't respond the way I want them to.  (Which is gushing enthusiastically by the way.)  My perfumes are an extension of myself, and when people don't like them it's hard not to take it to heart.  Working in sales for years, it was a bummer to hear customers criticizing a product.  When this happened it meant I most likely wouldn't be hitting my sales target, or receiving a bonus.  Now when a customer criticizes a product, it's all mine!  A baby I slaved over for months, trying to perfect!  I realize one cannot run a successful business with this level of attachment, and I'm working on distancing myself.

Speaking of distancing myself . . . all hail the powers of a stiff gin and tonic!  The first critique posted of my new perfume Musk Nouveau described it as (having the scent of) "halitosis."  The review ended with, "After a number of hours, that note-from-hell dissipates, but the damage is already done." WHAT?  After reading this, I promptly poured myself a drink and called my Mom.  And yes, I am 35 years old.  Needless to say, my Mom was less than thrilled by my garbled (tipsy) complaints and gave me a tough love response I was not seeking, which was: "Charna--get over it.  Are you drinking gin . . . again?  It makes you maudlin, and really the review could have been worse." Really???  Worse than your perfume being described as smelling like bad breath in a blog that's read by thousands of perfumistas?  Thankfully future reviews were much more positive, and I glowed from head to toe when reading comparisons between my Musk Nouveau, and Tom Ford and even Caron perfumes.

Lesson learned.


Anonymous said...

As i sit here with my vodka and tonic ( diet of course), I can't help but wonder how everyone who participated in the Musk Project felt about being so critized publicly? I think it took guts to submit samples to our fellow guild members, bloggers and reviewers; on that note we should be praised.
Both of our perfumes received great reviews and one or two not so great. Remeber my Tallulah was compared to a singing group from the 1930s that no one heard of, the Brox sisters, which, I felt was the reviewer stating that my perfume was going to be obsolete! Anyhow, I reall enjoyed the experience, it was truly a lesson learned and I still love your perfume, Musk Nouveau. Kuddos for blogging about the "experience".

indieperfumes said...

I am sure it is really difficult to deal with less than enthusiasm, having been in a similar position myself in the past I totally identify, but one thing that might make you feel better is to recall that all perfumers put themselves on the line this way, and the mega giant cosmetic cos have to deal with this too. Many have been lambasted thoroughly by blogs for perfumes they have spent huge amounts of money and people/time and marketing to produce.
One of the good things about the blogs is that they are honest if only individual opinions, as opposed to editorials by magazine editors who praise everything by those who have paid for expensive ads. One of the bad things is you might not be to the taste of a particular blogger, but I think the readers know that certain bloggers have certain tastes that others may not share.
The saving grace of it all is that perfumers who are not big industry players get reviewed, and so more people can find out about your lovely things. I was glad to have such exposure to so many different perfumes based on a theme, it was an enlightening and amazing. I think this musk project was very good for this reason and it should be repeated maybe seasonally based on other themes, who knows, florals, woods, citrus, etc. I think it's a brilliant way to get your name up higher in Google too, from all the reviews and links.

indieperfumes said...

BTW, I hope you don't mind, I linked to this post on Facebook (perfumista friends of friends) because I think it is of such great interest

Monica Skye Miller said...

The Mystery of Musk project was very interesting and i hope the start of many such events. I do think the perfumers should be given longer to work on their perfumes. i was most concerned with this because at least one perfumer was not ready and others perhaps could have used more ageing time for their perfumes, and/or more tweaking. I was lucky to receive samples that I liked a lot and would never be snarky (what's the point? To show that you are clever?)But what to do when you really do not care for a perfume? When it makes you feel sick, or smells like something you would rather forget, even something repulsive (to you)? For me I would decline to review such a perfume. I will stick to the ones I truly like and love and be honest about them. i would not lie either for I feel that would betray our readers. Natural perfumes, the ingredients and the process is completely different from synthetic scents. the finished products are rarely as sweet- candyish- or clean as synthetics because natural ingredients are complex and herbal. Reviewers should be educated to the naturals before reviewing, or at least keep this in mind.

The Morbid The Merrier said...

Oh, you poor dear. I can so relate, believe me. When you figure out how to get a thicker skin without the aid of gin and tonic (or Jack and Coke in my world), please let me know!!! The first bad review I got sent me into a tail spin for a week. And I too called my mom. :-)