Friday, December 20, 2013

Smells like school spirit

CEO Katie Masik
The other day, I received this email:

Hi Clark,

I was wondering if you’d be interested in covering Masik Collegiate Fragrances.

Masik recently collaborated with University of Florida and Florida State to create an official men's cologne and women's perfume for the schools. The science behind these signature scents is inspired by elements like school colors, campus style, flowers and trees, traditions and location. The hope is that these original scents will remind people of the past - long after days on campus come to an end, alumni and fans can smell that special scent and be reminded of that unique time – the campus, the sporting events, the traditions and most of all, the memories.

The way it works is Masik pitches their perfumers a ‘fragrance brief’ that outlines the school’s specific elements along with pictures of the university campus, sporting events, students and alumni. Once Masik formulates scent options for the school, the universities conduct smell sessions to determine which fragrances they like best – these scents then become the official men’s and women's fragrance for each school.

Would you be interested in a sample for consideration or speaking with the CEO Katie Masik? I’ve included links below to view the fragrance line along with a video to learn more about Masik.

Well, of course the answer to all of those questions is yes, because what is this blog about if not style and fashion and smelling nice and higher education but mostly free stuff for me? I also really wanted to use that headline up there. So I interviewed Ms. Masik last week and that went like this:

ME: Can you tell me a little bit about your company and what you do?
KATIE MASIK: We started this company to create collegiate fragrances a couple of years ago and started out with Penn State and North Carolina. Now we've expanded the line to 17 schools, to include the two in Florida, the University of Florida and Florida State. We worked with the individual schools to create their scents and we kind of go through the same process with each school. We look and we research things like school colors and the campus as far as the trees, the landmarks, the architecture and the overall style of the school. And then we create the signature scent of the school. The schools are actually involved in selecting the fragrances they like the best.
ME: How do you turn colors into a fragrance?
KM: We can use Florida and Florida State University for example. If you look at the University of Florida, obviously the orange and blue, we pulled a lot from the orange color for Florida. So we used scents like mandarin, mimosa flower, citrus, things that are orange scents. For a school like Florida State you have the garnet and gold so that garnet color inspired apple and pomegranate scents. And then for the gold, with the women's we added a golden amber. And in the men's, a very subtle pineapple and those colors translated to those scents that way.
ME: I didn't go to either school but my understanding is that those people are, um, not fond of each other.
KM: They do! They hate each other. Just like Auburn and Alabama, and we do fragrances for both of those schools too.
ME: So wouldn't the true mark of success be if a Florida State person smelled the Florida fragrance, they would just go nuts with rage?
KM: That would be ideal, but I don't know that that always happens. Hopefully, it does, just by seeing the logo, it angers them.
ME: That's very cool! When does this product hit the market?
KM: It's on the market now. All of our retailers are listed on our web site and we have a department store exclusive with Belk.
ME: Now, I never got into college because those institutions discriminate against dumb people but I think a fragrance aimed at somebody like me would consist of desperation and fear, not wanting to disappoint my parents along with questionable hook-ups plus beer. How much of these collegiate fragrances rely on things like that?
KM: Um, I'm sure you could use your imagination but none of those things actually made it into any of our fragrances. Those not-so-positive and exciting experiences would definitely bring back memories but it's not something you want to smell like all day, that's for sure.
ME: For lack of a better term, are these "experiential fragrances", are these representative of a new trend? Is that something anybody has done outside of the college experience?
KM: When we launched the line, we sort of looked at the market place and I'd always wanted to do a fragrance different from what you already find out there. And at that time, it was a lot of celebrities and fashion designers. You know, scent is linked to memory. So there is definitely science behind smelling things and being part of a memory or an experience and bringing that back and that was the concept we built on.
ME: Like, could you do a Tampa fragrance or a Pittsburgh experience?
KM: Oh sure! I've seen some of that out in the marketplace in recent years. I know there's a line here in New York that I love called Bond No. 9. They do fragrances for different New York City neighborhoods. They do one for Bryant Park and Chinatown and various areas in New York. Pretty cool concept.
ME: Isn't the fragrance world really super competitive.
KM: It's extremely competitive! Which is why as an entrepreneur looking at corporate America, I thought, "wow, I really need to do something totally different". Because I'm not a celebrity, I'm not a fashion designer. There are so many different fragrances that launch each year, it's really hard to come out with a winner that is something different that people embrace. The market is quite saturated with fragrances.
ME: Are you looking for celebrities to endorse these fragrances or is it not necessary because the alumni appeal is so strong that you don't need to go that route?
KM: We're certainly open to it. We've had a few sports agents reach out to us looking for endorsements and things like that. We tried to send bottles from time to time to certain alumni as gifts but we haven't really actively approached it. Of course, if there's some high-profile alumni out there, like an actor or an athlete, who'd like to wear our fragrances and say nice things about it, we'd certainly be open to it!
ME: And without getting into specific sales figures, how are things going? Are you pleased?
KM: Yeah, we are. We had a great fall. We launched for the first time in a major department store with Belk. You never know what to expect going up against brands with huge advertising budgets and celebrity endorsements and things like that. But we've really been able to hold our own and its going very well with Belk, so we're really happy. I feel very fortunate actually.
ME: Any other schools launching fragrances soon?
KM: I can tell you, some brand spanking new ones we've rolled out are Kentucky, Ole Miss, NC State, Texas A&M, Princeton and South Carolina. And we're in talks with some schools in California right now.
ME: Do you ever worry about people from rival schools infiltrating your focus groups and giving intentionally bad input? 
KM: We do the test sessions on campus, so if we we're on the Auburn campus and an Alabama fan were somehow able to get in there and try to steer things in the wrong direction, I guess that could happen. But we try to take steps to make sure the people we're talking to have the school's best interests at heart.
ME: You wouldn't want some Michigan fan as part of the Ohio State test group saying things like, "needs more poop".
KM: No, so far we haven't had anything like that happen. Although, a lot of people on the North Carolina campus suggested we launch a Duke Puke fragrance.

For information about Masik Collegiate Fragrances, and participating retailers, or to buy direct, click here.

No comments: