Nice Day 1: Parfumerie Fragonard & ASK SA

Rain, rain, go away! It is a real shame that our first full day on the Riviera will be spent dodging cold raindrops. Normally, Nice is more akin to a tropical oasis than northern Seattle. Our spirits are high, though, after a hearty morning breakfast.

We begin by traveling to Parfumerie Fragonard, a small yet well-known Provencal fragrance manufacturer. We learned about the origins of perfume – linked to religion and warding off evil spirits or disease. From there we learned of the different essential smells that elicit certain responses from the glands in our noses. Our guide explained how our glands can emit different smells based on the foods we eat. She explained that a person from India eating spicy foods will prefer a heavier more robust perfume, whereas someone living in Asia whose diet consists of a larger amount of fish, will probably enjoy lighter and more subtle notes. This basic understanding of human physiology is essential to matching natural scents to a person and personality. Fragrance design is both an art and chemical science. Although there is no magic ingredient that everyone enjoys, the most commonly used and admired is jasmine.

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Students learned that Fragonard sells their products through direct, mail, and export channels. The company does not advertise much, stating the expense of marketing by advertisement would increase the input costs of the product and they would have to raise the selling price. The fragrance market is one of luxury and brand quality. Fragonard prides themselves on building an exclusive brand and maintaining repeat customers through the longevity of their product lines. They commented that the company would rather produce one quality product line that lasts forever, and has repeat customers, than attempting to create many that live short life-spans. They were able to snag a few first-time customers from our group, so we’ll see if that model works. ; )

Next, we travelled to ASK, a company that manufactures RFID microchips for use in documents or cards such as passports or subway passes. Many Americans can remember that back in 2004, the U.S. government began issuing passports with RFID chips implanted in them. Around this time, subways and gas stations issued speed passes aimed at decreasing repetitive tasks such as payment. Although ASK was not the company used to manufacture the American products, they are a parallel company in the global market. They are most notable for printing the tickets for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China and credited with keeping the smooth transition of people in/out of events.

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The biggest challenge for ASK in the beginning was establishing a brand. This was done through extensive marketing campaigns to inform potential customers of the technology and how it could add value in certain applications. It is hard to sell a product that no one knows about. ASK focussed on “convenience” and “security” as their selling points. They see the future growth of their company in the embedding of their technology in cell phones, possibly leading to linkages between identification and commercial transactions..

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