I recently popped into the Sephora at Copley Square in Boston, MA. I often go into stores to scan for product and packaging trends. I especially enjoy talking to shoppers and employees to hear their points of view. However, this day was different. The employee was a young man, and I seized the opportunity to ask him about the product packaging he liked. His expression conveyed that he did not foresee this question; he paused to think about it and then led me about the store on an adventure.
My own unconscious bias expected I’d be led to a masculine cologne. To my surprise, he led me to the Nest Fragrance Display. The clear bottle has flowers printed on the back giving it a dimension that cannot be achieved with the front label. The images are not photo’s but modern floral illustrations. They look like modern versions of vintage botanical notebooks from the Victorian era. I asked him what he liked about it the packaging. He described it as ‘clean’ and ‘natural’. Again, these were attributes I did not expect
The second product was even more unexpected – a wall of Gucci’s Bloom perfumes and products. Each product has a floral textile pattern. The young gentleman was familiar with Gucci’s fashion and explained that the textiles and colors were Gucci’s seasonal fashion pallet. Once again, I saw modernized Victorian patterns. My curiosity was peaked as we dashed up the aisle in search of his next package.
Sensing a trend, he showed me Floral Street Perfume. The floral images on the back of these bottles were realistic, photographic and bold. It gave me a feeling of a fresh-picked flower inside. This time, I did not hear adjectives like clean but ‘crisp’, and ’environmental.’ Environmental? The man’s eyes lit up as he explained Floral Street’s ground-breaking packaging. The perfume is packaged in a visually engaging box that serves as a modern version of a takeaway box or bento box. The completely recyclable and biodegradable box is embossed, made from recyclable pulp paper. There is a brightly colored band wrapped around the box, which consumers can reuse to hold items, like tea, small crystals, love notes, or trinkets.
We moved over an aisle to Clean Reserve. Here was a package that did not have florals and was in line with what I had initially expected when we began our adventure. But I was surprised to hear how he described the packaging. I did not hear words like ‘modern’ but instead, it was ‘environmental’ and ‘sustainable.’ The packaging was minimal, as was the product’s ingredients. He explained that Clean Reserve avoids harmful and cancerous chemicals. Chemicals like Acetone and Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHA), commonly found in many foods like butter and potato chips but are also used in lipsticks and moisturizers along with rubber and petroleum products. He emphasized that the clean, minimalistic design aligned to Clean Reserve’s value and environmental beliefs.
The last product he showed me was the Tocca perfume. Tocca is an entry-luxury perfume, and its packaging tries to convey that luxe feel. The bottles are inspired by Cinderella’s carriage, the one her fairy godmother brings to life from the pumpkin patch. Tocca Perfume aspires to confidence, fearlessness, and strength. Yet it is elegant and feminine. It seems to send the message that one does not need to give up one for the other. Inspired by antique crystal from the Victorian and Art Nouveau period, each cap is hand finished, making each bottle unique. Tocca’s motto is the only way to love others is to first ‘Love Yourself.’ The inscription ‘Love Yourself” is found under the lid of all their products. I was fascinated by how the young man saw the Cinderella carriage and the Victorian era feel.
I have managed a number of voice of customer initiatives for companies and speaking with consumers to gain new perspectives is such a joy for me. It’s a way for me to learn and see products through another lens. I left Sephora captivated by what I heard. This kind gentleman did not choose packaging or products I had expected. The items he identified with were calming, natural, environmental, fashion-forward and thought-provoking. As a sales employee at Sephora, I am certain he knew these brands and their background stories. However, he shared these brand’s story through his association from the flowers, bento box, and childhood stories.
My trip gave me a new perspective and a view on how men may perceive their choices as they pick out gifts for their wives, girlfriends, or partners. What we see is only our view, and now I had the privilege to see through another.