Bond No 9 I Love NY: What Went Wrong?
When New York perfumer Bond No 9 was given the exclusive right to use the iconic “I Love NY” symbol and tagline, it seemed a huge win for a local luxury perfumer to further market the image of New York to a much broader audience. Imagine the gold-mine of opportunity to both expand market reach and hitch the brand to the marketing muscle of a legendary and instantly recognizable tourism slogan. A windfall! The familiar I Love NY logo on a product is as close to a license to print money as a company could want.
Ok, in order to do it you make some changes and perhaps sacrifices, notably expanding the retail channel and lowering the price from niche/luxury level to something slightly premium but more accessible. Suddenly shoppers in Nordstroms and elsewhere are finding out about some perfume company from New York and perhaps become more interested in trying and buying. All of this makes perfect business sense, even though it’s treading into much different territory than a niche or luxury perfumer might be accustomed. But now a year on from the release of the first fragrances in a promising concept, I’m left asking one question:
What went wrong?
All of the promise that Laurice Rahme‘s company could have captured seemed to have lost its sense of direction, or just dumped it like a mafia informant in the East River. Consider the following:
The notion of starting the I Love NY line with a men’s, women’s and unisex scent was simple enough and accessible, if a less-then-exciting affair. And of the three fragrances, only the “For All” was interesting enough to merit much of a mention, and it’s a scent that grows on you. The For Him and For Her are relatively moribund by comparison. All-in-all, an inauspicious start that was followed about six months on by something even more peculiar and not-quite-New York: Four new scents, only one having relevance to the state.
“Yo pal, what part of New York do I find ‘Fathers Day’?”
Bond released to the I Love NY line an Earth Day scent, a Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day edition, and a commemoration of the anniversary of the New York Marriage Equality Act. The first three? All quite nice, but left me shaking my head in disbelief that, of everything in New York, why pick commemorative days or ‘Hallmark Holidays’? Only the Marriage Equality scent was truly inspired and relevant.
Want more of a disappointment? Here it is: Bond simply used the Marriage Equality Act’s occasion to co-opt it for marketing purposes. Proceeds go to Bond without supporting (even in small part) any LGBT causes. Wonderful notion, fantastic scent, and a seemingly disingenuous execution. Yet again, an opportunity missed…or not entirely thought out.
So there’s an 0 for 2 start, with nothing that captures the essence of New York or what it’s like to be a New Yorker. Nothing even close to their standard ‘neighborhood’ lines, no sense of place, no sense of purpose. From a starting point of great promise has come very little true inspiration that does justice to the use of the logo, especially when you consider that New York is a state rich in history, attractions and inspiration. Clearly, Bond’s captured this — if you use your imagination or place stock in theirs — in their New York City scents, but I Love NY just hasn’t found its mark. What happened?
- The apple crop in the Hudson Valley is the best its been in the last 40 years. And for being “The Big Apple”, there isn’t much consideration given here.
- New York is one of the largest wine producing states in the US. We’re famous for the Niagara Grape — that sweet, fruity, unique and very punchy flavor that isn’t found anywhere else in any growing region. Perfect inspiration for use in a scent as Bond itself has shown in Sag Harbor. For I Love NY? No mention.
- We’re home to the Statue of Liberty (though true New Jerseyans might argue that) and Ellis Island. What inspiration couldn’t come from the history behind all those seeking freedom! There’s a great blank canvas…and another missed opportunity.
- Niagara Falls? The Finger Lakes? The Catskills? Could you just imagine what could come from any of those?
- Lake Placid or the Mohonk Mountain House — both great places to vacation where you get a feel for what life is like upstate. Both good sources to look around and see what’s offered in the fragrant notebook.
Bear in mind that I like Bond as a house. I enjoy and appreciate more than my fair share of their creations. Scents such as New York Oud and Manhattan show the house at its very best. But admittedly, I’ve also been a frequent enough critic of Bond No 9′s Marketing approach, citing ideas both inspired and tongue-in-cheek that should have been in the running for a scent or treatment of their own (the scent of raspberries and the elements of Latin American immigration that could be captured in a “So Bronx“, for instance). It seems as if Bond No 9 has squandered the chance to show the world a more fragrant perspective on both the city and state and simply ‘phoned it in’.
So if you’re listening over at Bond No 9 and considering why I feel the I Love NY collection seems completely uninspired, get out from behind the conference room table and drive up the Thruway. Hear the wind. Capture the aromas. Look at the vistas. Taste the fruits and foods in the Empire State’s garden. Feel what’s around you!
Then get I Love NY back on track!
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