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1970s Retro Fragrances

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Popular Women's Fragrances From the 1970s

  • Revlon Charlie1970woodstock.jpg
  • Yves Saint Laurent Opium
  • Nina Ricci L'Air du Temps
  • Cacharel Anais Anais
  • Avon Sweet Honesty
  • Love's Baby Soft
  • Faberge Babe
  • Goya Aqua Manda
  • Prince Matchabelli Aviance Night Musk
  • Revlon Ciara

Popular Men’s Fragrances From the 1970s

  • Faberge Brut1970bb.jpg
  • Leeming Hai Karate
  • MEM English Leather
  • Shulton Old Spice
  • Paco Rabanne Pour Homme
  • Shulton Pierre Cardin
  • Ralph Lauren Polo
  • Jovan Musk for Men

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Fragrances in the 1970s

The 1970s were full of musky and woodsy fragrances. Since the late 1960s, single-note musk fragrances had been very popular and they reached their peak in the 70s. Starting in the 1970s fragrance became a part of daily life. 197 fragrances (128 women, 69 men) launched during the 1970s as compared to 77 (46 women, 31 men) in the 1960s and only 36 (30 women, 6 men) in the 1950s.

It is the decade that saw an increase in unisex fragrances and the creation of the first natural and organic perfumes which were made by Aveda. Men's new launches were in the chypre category and floral aldehydes and the use of oak moss in women's fragrances really exploded in the 1970s.

Avon was big in the 1970s as well as Jovan and lifestyle scents became very popular after the launch of Revlon's Charlie.

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What's Going on in the World in the 1970s

The 1970s were called the "Me Decade". It was a trend-laden, fad-happy decade and people did as they pleased. It was the decade of disco, mood rings, pet rocks, bellbottoms, hip huggers, the leisure suit, platform shoes, designer jeans and the string bikini. While the 1960s were full of political and cultural movements, the 1970s shifted away from the social issues and more towards self-examination. 

There were also many medical and technological advancements. This was the decade that gave us the first in-vitro fertilization, the MRI scanner, genetic engineering, the barcode, the personal computer, floppy disks, printers, microprocessors and email.

There was more variety in music during the 1970s than ever before. The 70s saw the rise of disco. Funk, jazz, pop and soul remained popular throughout the decade. Rock music played an important part in the 1970s and some of the best rock-n-roll music of all time was recorded during the era. Punk rock, hard rock, prog rock and heavy metal all achieved various amounts of success. Progressive or prog rock created a new generation of bands including Genesis, Yes, Jethro Tull, ELP, King Crimson and Pink Floyd and peaked during 1971 to 1976. Many bands had by the mid-1970s reached the limit of how far they could experiment in a rock context. A number of symphonic pop bands, such as Supertramp, The Alan Parsons Project and ELO, brought their orchestral-style arrangements into a context that emphasized pop singles while allowing for occasional instances of exploration and Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd opted for a harder sound in the style of arena rock. Other bands such as The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, AC/DC, Queen and Black Sabbath started or strengthened their fan base. Reggae and electronic music also saw a rise in popularity.

The 1970s was the era for vinyl records. It was the decade of American Pie, Me and Bobby McGee, You've Got a Friend, A Horse With No Name, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, Lean on Me, Ben, Tie a Yellow Ribbon, Delta Dawn, Time in a Bottle, The Way We Were, Billy Don't be a Hero, Annie's Song, The Streak, Cat's in the Cradle, Mandy, Lovin' You, Rhinestone Cowboy, One of These Nights, Disco Duck, Dancing Queen, Hotel California, Stayin' Alive, Le Freak and I Will Survive. Throughout the 1970s the top of the Billboard Charts were held by: The Jackson 5 and Michael Jackson (solo), Simon & Garfunkel, Stevie Wonder, Three Dog Night, The Carpenters, Tony Orlando and Dawn, Rod Stewart, Bee Gees, Cher, Eagles and John Denver. This was my era. I just had a blast looking through all of the songs that were popular during the 1970s!!

Television in the 1970s pushed what was considered acceptable to new limits. The family sitcoms declined and "young, hip and urban" sitcoms were debuting. Many of the shows that came out challenged bigotry by making fun of it especially All in the Family which ran for just about the entire decade. The mid to late 1970s saw the beginning of "jiggle television" with shows like Charlie's Angels and Three's Company. Soap operas rose in popularity and variety shows boomed again later in the decade after the cancellation of The Red Skelton Show and The Ed Sullivan shows in the early 1970s.

One of the biggest shows of the 1970s was The Brady Bunch. Although never highly rated during its original run, it has been broadcast in syndication continuously since 1974 and many generations of children have grown up with it and the Bradys have become the quintessential family in all of television. Also during the 1970s, cigarette ads were banned on television. 

1970 

  • Beatles Break Up
  • Computer Floppy Disks Introduced
  • Palestinian Group Hijacks Five Planes
  • Kent State Shootings 

1971

  • London Bridge Brought to the U.S.
  • United Kingdom Changes to Decimal System for Currency
  • VCRs Introduced 

1972

  • M*A*S*H TV Show Premiers
  • Mark Spitz Wins Seven Gold Medals
  • Pocket Calculators Introduced
  • Terrorists Attack at the Olympic Games in Munich
  • Watergate Scandal Begins1970s29.jpg

1973

  • Roe vs Wade Legalizes Abortion in the U.S.
  • Paul Getty Kidnapped
  • Sears Tower Built
  • Skylab, America's First Space Station, is Launched
  • U.S. Pulls Out of Vietnam
  • U.S. Vice President Resigns 

1974

  • Mikhail Baryshnikov Defects
  • Patty Hearst Kidnapped
  • Serial Killer Ted Bundy Begins His Killing Spree
  • Terracotta Army Discovered in China
  • U.S. President Nixon Resigns

1975 

  • Arthur Ashe First Black Man to Win Wimbledon
  • Pol Pot Becomes the Communist Dictator of Cambodia and Genocide Begins
  • Civil War in Lebanon
  • Former Teamsters Union leader Jimmy Hoffa Goes Missing
  • Microsoft Founded
  • Saturday Night Live Premiers
  • Two Assassination Attempts Against U.S. President Gerald Ford 

1976

  • Apple Computer Founded
  • First Ebola Virus Outbreaks in Sudan and Zaire
  • Nadia Comaneci Given Seven Perfect Tens
  • North and South Vietnam Join to Form the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
  • Serial Killer David Berkowitz (Son of Sam) Begins Killing Spree
  • Tangshan, China Earthquake Kills Over 240,000

1977

  • Elvis Presley Found Dead
  • Miniseries Roots Airs
  • Star Wars Movie Released
  • Trans-Alaska Pipeline System Finished

1978

  • First Test-Tube Baby Born
  • John Paul II Becomes Pope
  • Jonestown Massacre

1979

  • Ayatollah Khomeini Returns as Leader of Iran
  • Iran Takes American Hostages in Tehran
  • Margaret Thatcher is Elected as First Woman Prime Minister of Great Britain
  • Mother Teresa Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
  • Nuclear Accident at Three Mile Island
  • Sony Introduces the Walkman

 

1970s Peace & Love with a colorful peace sign in the background

Advertising in the 1970s

The 1970s were viewed by some in the industry as a cooling off period. While sex was the largest positioning strategy in 1970, by 1979 only 28% of fragrances used a sex-only strategy. Sex was still present in many ads, but it was combined with other strategies. The tone of advertising for women's fragrances headed towards women using fragrance for themselves and being in control and self-sufficient rather than using the scent to turn on men. Throughout the 1970s, feminist groups worked to draw the public's attention to sexual stereotypes in advertising and to change them through protests, product boycotts, letter-writing campaigns and lawsuits. In the mid-1970s the industry itself started paying more attention to images of women in advertising. Big companies that had formerly only targeted TV spots to women during the daytime, starting buying time on nightly new shows to reach working women. Because of the growing population of working women, there were a lot of ads geared toward women. As the 1970s unfolded, more and more women were working, heading households and/or controlling the discretionary spending. Both print ads and TV spots from the 1970s to the early 1980s began to reflect the impact of feminism. Ads portrayed women in non-traditional roles and started featuring husbands fixing dinner for their working wives or taking care of children. 

In 1975, a new ad agency called Advertising to Women was founded. Its intent was to reach the contemporary, career-oriented woman who was not inhibited by her sexuality. Market research conducted by the agency showed that women were responsible for most household purchases, 60% of all vacation destination choices and nearly 30% of new car selections. It's interesting to note that the number of women in advertising nearly tripled from 1973 to 1986. 

The 1970s were the decade that marketing really appeared for the perfume industry. Jean-Claude Ellena noted that "In the 1970s, marketing appeared. Suddenly, the decision about a perfume was given to the marketing people. So perfumery had to adapt to this new approach and a perfumer now had to please a lot of people." The 1970s brought about the sultry revolution, enticing women into perfume sales for the first time using sexual prowess as its marketing campaign.

Fragrance advertising was revolutionized in 1973 with the launch of Charlie, named after Revlon company founder Charles Revson. The ad campaign shook up the fragrance market. This campaign, featuring model Shelley Hack as the "Charlie girl," showed an independent, perhaps even employed, female who selected her own fragrance. In its first year on the market, Charlie brought in more than $10 million in sales, according to Advertising Age. Between the years 1973 and 1977, it brought in over $1 billion in sales. Charlie's advertising convinced women not only to buy the scent for themselves but also to wear fragrance daily rather than just for special events. 

Charlie wasn't the only success story of the 1970s. Jovan launched musk oil in the 1970s and used a unique marketing approach - the fragrance was unisex, appropriate for men and women. Jovan was a small fragrance marketer who spiced up consumer advertising and the fragrance industry in the mid-1970s. Executives at the company used blatant sex appeals to boldly introduce a line of musk-oil-based colognes and perfumes. The headlines of their ads proclaimed:

  • "Sex Appeal. Now you don't have to be born with it."
  • "Drop for drop, Jovan Musk Oil has brought more men and women together than any other fragrance in history."
  • "Jovan Musk Oil Perfume. The only Musk oil dedicated to the proposition."
  • "Someone you know wants it." 
  • "In a world filled with blatant propositions, brash overtures, bold invitations, and brazen proposals…Get your share." 

The approach earned the company and its three executives accolades, and sales soared from $1.5 million in 1971 to $77 million by 1978. With no previous experience in the fragrance industry, Jovan's founders implemented a marketing strategy that was brazenly sexual. Its ads made outright statements about what would happen with sexual outcomes if you used their colognes. This campaign proved quite successful and the Fragrance Foundation in 1975 voted Jovan's Musk Oil promotion the "most exciting and creative national advertisement campaign." Jovan's CEO, Bernie Mitchell, also earned an industry award. He was voted "the year's most outstanding person." One of the other innovative techniques used by Jovan was to print sales copy directly on the box. This approach was referred to as the "talking package" because copy on the box described the contents. In Jovan's advertising, packaging and promotions, sex was always at the core. 

The success of Charlie and Jovan Musk opened the floodgates to perfume marketing. One of the more notable campaigns from the decade was from Prince Matchabelli, which offered up the notable "I can't seem to forget you, your Wind Song stays on my mind".

Enjoli and Aviance fragrances were both depicted by women who could work, do chores and keep their man happy at night. Enjoli's commercial became the iconic image of a superwoman, one who could "bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan and never, ever let you forget you're a man." 

Aviance’s message was that the fragrance should be used to turn on your man. Their marketing director put together a successful campaign designed to play to the insecurities and desires of stay-at-home wives in the mid-1970s. Research had shown that stay-at-home wives visualized their husbands at work with voluptuous, liberated women and used fragrance to transform themselves from wife and mother to a sexual partner. Aviance was advertised as the fragrance that could assist them in making that happen. Even though the woman in the ad is objectified (her only worth to her man is as a sexual plaything), this ad was produced by the female run agency, Advertising to Women. Even the jingle was created by the agency's president, Lois Geraci Ernst. Aviance sold over $7 million its first year and the ad was selected by Advertising Age as one of the best commercials in 1975 despite having a scent described by its own marketing director as "not that appealing". I remember these commercials and was surprised to read that they ran for only four months during 1975. The print campaign was a full page color shot of a husband leaning against the doorway as seen through the legs of his wife. 

Jontue tried to tread the line between making the wearer smell sexy yet innocent, a gimmick Love’s Baby Soft carried to a cringe-worthy degree. In a 1975 television commercial, Love's Baby Soft went extra creepy. "There is one person that no one can resist and that's a baby. So Love's made Baby Soft with the innocent scent of a cuddly, clean baby that grew up very sexy. So innocent it may well be the sexiest fragrance around. Because innocence is sexier than you think. For your baby at Christmas." Ick!

In the 1970s when it came to advertising men’s fragrances, (or after-shave back then) the more macho the message, the better. The 1970s were the decade of brown, denim, corduroy and body hair and men's scents were musky and manly. Square-jawed actors, models or sports stars rubbed shoulders with gorgeous women to promote the scents. Fabergé first started selling Brut aftershave and cologne in 1964, but the product didn’t become a household name until famous athletes like Joe Namath and Wilt Chamberlain started appearing in their TV commercials. 

Some of the slogans from 1970s fragrances:  

  • Faberge Brut - "Oh you great big beautiful Brut."
  • MEM English Leather - "All my men wear English Leather or they wear nothing at all."
  • Faberge Tigress - "Are you wild enough to wear it?"
  • Prince Matchabelli Cachet - "A fragrance as individual as you are."
  • Shulton Cie - "For all the women you are."
  • Revlon Ciara - "Devastatingly female."
  • Faberge Babe - "A fragrance so fresh, so natural, Faberge named it just for you."
  • Revlon Charlie - "The gorgeous, sexy-young fragrance."
  • Leeming-Pfizer Skinny Dip - "Makes a girl feel pretty."
  • Revlon Enjoli - "The 8 hour perfume for the 24 hour woman."
  • Menley & James Love's Baby Soft - "Because innocence is sexier than you think."

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Some of the famous faces from 1970s fragrance advertisements:

    • Joe Namath (Revlon Pub Cologne)
    • Charles Bronson (Mandom by Mandom--Japanese Co.)
    • Jaclyn Smith (MEM English Leather)
    • Lola Falana (Faberge Tigress)
    • Candice Bergen (Shulton Cie)
    • Lauren Hutton (Revlon Ciara)
    • Margeaux Hemingway (Faberge Babe)
    • Shelley Hack (Revlon Charlie)
    • Sandy Duncan (Leeming/Pfizer Skinny Dip)
    • Pam Dawber (Avon Sweet Honesty)
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