Distinguished packaging for perfume "duplicates" creates an air of a well-established presence for new manufacturer/marketer d'essence. Impressive results merited an award from the Paperboard Packaging Council.
By Marci Merola, Associate Editor
"We've taken the quality of our packaging to the designer level at about one-fifth of the price" says d'essence founder Herb Davis. Eighteen months ago Davis took a nine-year-old perfume manufacturer/direct sales marketer known as "Essence" and transformed it into d'essence(TM) Designer Fragrances LLC a completely new company with a decidedly new distinct presence. "What sets us apart from other companies in the same business is the quality of our product and the image we present" Davis says. Santa Ana CA-based d'essence is building a solid business in perfume "replications." That's where brand name "designer" perfume formulations are painstakingly deciphered and then duplicated to produce a similar fragrance that sells at a much lower price. They're sold through hundreds of distributors. International expansion is underway. "Our whole theory is that average-income women in middle America can now not only afford a bottle of perfume but a whole wardrobe of fragrances in beautiful bottles" Davis states. The design of the bottle and graphics were assigned to the well-known firm Ateliers Dinand (Paris France). According to Davis that company has originated many designer fragrance packages. "Everything we do has to be comparable to the perfume houses" he continues. Dinand furnished d'essence with renderings for bottles of unique shapes and colors as well as secondary cartons. Primary or secondary? Obviously the custom glass bottles that hold the "juice" as Davis puts it constitute the primary package. But mainly it's the secondary component-the carton-that makes the first impression on d'essence's consumers. This is especially true for the company's new sampler. Almost as an afterthought d'essence decided to revitalize its sampler moving from a typical glass vial clipped inside a folded paperboard card to a unique two-part eight-sided carton with extensive decorating. "It gives [customers] more product and something more representative of the quality of our line" says Davis. It may prove to be d'essence's most impressive package yet. While most of d'essence's packages revolve around graphic design the sampler began with the carton. It was developed specifically for this application by a structural designer at supplier Southern California Carton/James River (Garden Grove CA). The unusual octagonal-sided shape called a Special Reverse Tuck End (RTE) is achieved using a single piece of SBS that's die-cut scored and glued. A second component an inner platform holds the 1/15-fl-oz bottle. Drawings of this structure were sent to Dinand and graphics were fashioned around it. Dinand's work returned an equal challenge: four-color process printing could not recreate the elaborate graphic that included a separate color scheme for each of d'essence's 21 fragrances. After some trial and error Southern California Carton determined that the best means of recreating the artwork was in a process comprising six steps. "There was an additional demand for brightness appeal and vividness of colors that took an additional step in the separation of colors" says Arge Pomar account executive at Southern California Carton. The process begins with sheets of 18-pt SBS printed 16 up in combinations of two versions. First a sheet is offset-printed in four colors. It's followed by one PMS color printed over 100% of the offset printing muting the process colors and producing the single color panels that appear on top bottom and sides of the carton. In a second pass the sheet is hot-foil stamped in gold. Because each of the 21 versions has specific product information it requires its own hot-stamping die. In the initial run of one million cartons hot-stamping took four days to complete. Next the company logo is embossed before an overall UV-cured varnish is applied. Die-cutting and scoring follow. Finally in the sixth pass a single die-cut end is glued to its opposite end becoming the seam of a somewhat cylindrical octagon. Inside the outer carton is a platform that holds the perfume bottle. It's printed in a single corresponding PMS color-again one for each of the 21 carton versions-and finished with UV-cured varnish. Both pieces are shipped flat to an unidentified contract packager. The cartons are easily erected manually since the scores allow "pop-up" assembly. The inner platform is folded and inserted into the carton and finally the sampler bottle is loaded inside. They're then sent to d'essence for distribution. Introduced to the market six months ago response to the new package has been overwhelming says Davis. "People see that package and the 'Wow Factor' kicks in big time" he says. "Assuming you've got a good product-and it's in the right package-you'll get good reception. Everything is in the packaging these days." The d'essence sampler package received the first place award in the new Technical/ Innovation Achievement category at Paperboard Packaging Council's national competition. For additional coverage of the awards see page 86.