Monday, May 11, 2009

Dummy Water and the New Small

Nathan Branch had an interesting post recently about the current trend toward smaller perfume bottles. He attributes it to changes in the market: an overabundance of new fragrances, limited room on the dressing table, and the disinclination of users to limit themselves to a single, “signature” scent. The upshot is that brand-hopping consumers with a limited number of dollars prefer smaller units and retailers are obliging them.

What I find fascinating about this trend is that it runs counter to the prevailing gigantism of American commercial culture. Serving sizes have ballooned, for example. A Coke in the old 8-oz. glass bottle seems dainty in an age of 20-oz plastic guzzle-loaders. For grownups, it’s hard to find a martini glass that holds less than a mind-bending 10 oz. of alcohol.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m OK with large. In fact, I have a morbid fascination with the supersized figurines of roadside America. But that’s another story.

Nathan’s post got me thinking about dummy water. That’s our term of art for the liquid inside a factice—the enormous fake bottle of perfume used in marketing displays. Dummy water has to be colored to an exact match for the real juice. It also needs preservatives, otherwise that ginormous bottle of L’Air du Temps will turn slimy green with algae like a neglected fish bowl.

Not surprisingly, factice bottles are collectibles and can run from hundreds of dollars to more than a thousand. Based on the scalar properties of advertising physics, I predict that as real bottles shrink, the size and price of factice bottles will get even larger. Big and fake go so well together.


Nathan Branch said...

I wouldn't be surprised to eventually walk into a department store cosmetics section and encounter a massive Chanel No. 5 bottle that towers floor to ceiling, all lit up from below and bathing customers in waves of revolving golden light.

What a psychological offset process that would be -- "Pay no attention to how small the bottles are getting. Just gaze in awe at HOW HUGE I AM!"

Avery Gilbert said...


Why not go all the way and film an ad with Paris or Britney swimming in a mega-factice of her latest launch?

Nathan Branch said...



You're getting paid for these ideas, right? I mean, what's to keep the CEO of Coty from just reading this blog and . . . oh, never mind.