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  • Writer's pictureTongRo Images

Visual Metaphors in Perfume Advertisements

Updated: Jul 6, 2023

Human uses the five senses to navigate the world, and perfume relies heavily on the olfactory system. However, the inevitable irony is that its prospective customers would scarcely experience the scent of it. Therefore, visual elements are used to deal with this contradiction. This week’s article will cover three well-known perfumes and their advertisements to explore commercial photography’s visual metaphor.

The first example is Diptyque’s ‘Do Son’; It is inspired by the place where one of the three founders of Diptyque, Yves Coueslant, used to spend time during his childhood. Its advertisement placed flowers of main notes: tuberose, orange blossom, and jasmine around the bottle, by sticking it with the insect pins used for taxidermy. In order to do so, it speaks its main theme of ‘perfume that captures the memory’ with visual language.

Otherwise, it would depict the social value or message. Accordingly, considering the period of time that the product was released, Chanel’s ‘N°5’, launched in 1921, can be a signature product of it. By adding a portrait of a woman looking up at the sky while wearing a flowing dress instead of a suffocating corset and its main component ‘aldehyde’, an artificial chemical compound that was barely used at that time, a diagram of modern and free woman would appear like the designer Coco Chanel wanted to create.

Seven decades later, Calvin Klein introduced ‘CK One’ into the world with the impressive copy, ‘a fragrance for a man or a woman’. The concept of unisex has already been used since the 1960s in the fashion industry, however, CK One was the first one that introduced it to the perfume industry – with the models without body curves and gender-ambiguous hairstyles – and that’s what made it sensationally innovative.

By spacewalking through the 1920s to the 2000s, we have figured out how the perfume industry creates an olfactory image with visual language. Just like the discourse about genderlessness, the visual language of advertisement captures the zeitgeist with symbols and metaphors is still valid, and will be valid.


1. Launch of Chanel N°5 Perfume

2. Fashion History Lesson: The Truth Behind Chanel No. 5

3. A Brief History of Unisex Fashion

4. It Smelled Like Gen X Spirit


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