Ad Critique

A fine fragrance: blending traditional calligraphy and perfume artistry with a modern twist

24, January, 2013


The context

Perfume is one of the great delights of the Muslim world, combining together it’s history, culture and religion. The GCC for example, has one of the world’s highest per capita spend on perfume anywhere in the world.  Some estimate it to be worth USD$334 per person in the GCC on cosmetics and fragrance.

Perfume is rooted in Arabian history, with amber, musk and frankincense all stemming from the region. Other notes like rose and jasmine are also part of regional culture. In addition, oud and bukhoor are seen as particularly Arabic in their scent and methodology of application, being burnt or smoked for fragrance. Perfumed oils are also popular.

The popularity of perfume is also connect to Islam as a religion.  The Prophet Muhammad talked of perfume as something that was never extravagant, you can never get enough of it. Muslims are recommended always to smell good, especially at prayer time and definitely during Friday prayers.  Perfume from a religious and a cultural perspective is equally important for men and women.

The concept:

Aramis Calligraphy is a fragrance for both men and women that draws on the cultural heritage of Muslims of the Middle East by combining traditional and Islamic visuals with an updated and contemporary look. Although named ‘Calligraphy’ in English, it has a clear Arabic name ‘Al Khat Al Arabi’.

What we liked

In reaching out to Muslim consumers, especially in the Middle East, the look, language, voice and product acknowledge that the target Muslim consumer group combines a love of heritage and culture alongside modernity, both of which are integrated into their day to day life.

The calligraphic design combines a modern contemporary look with traditional artistic form to represent this combination. The backdrop to the bottle and box is a modern interpretation of traditional Arabic geometry and calligraphy. The colour palette used appeals to a Muslim cultural sensibility of black, gold and red. Even the top of the bottle is designed to look like natural wood, a hint at the natural ingredients which so appeal to Muslim consumers. Purity and natural ingredients are of significance to this target group.

The language used in communications expresses this heritage well, speaking of the art of perfumery and the art of calligraphy, both of which are rooted in Islamic culture and values. Calligraphy has always played a central role in Islamic expression as the depiction of human beings is in theory not permitted. Artistry has therefore focused on the written word.

The product is depicted with smoke rising above it, a clear reference to the way that perfume ingredients like oud and bukhoor are burnt and the smoke then used to scent clothes, people and even rooms.

Finally, the ingredients described appeal to the local and natural ingredients often used by Muslims in the Middle East for traditional perfumes such as amber, musk and oud.

Overall, this communication creates an emotional bond with the Muslim consumer based on history and culture as well as their self-identification as modern.