Interview: Clive Harper (Yankee Candle)

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As mentioned by Lace the other day, we are doing quite a bit with candles recently. I’m not sure if it’s the change in season and everyone’s desire to be surrounded by gorgeous subtly scented candles or something else but candles certainly seem to be the fragrance of the month. So what better time to have a chat with Clive Harper of Yankee Candles about their brand and their candles.


What can you tell us about how the Yankee Candle brand was born?

In 1969, 17 year old Mike Kittredge made a candle as a Christmas present for his Mum and his neighbour asked to buy it, it was here that the Yankee Candle brand was born. Soon thereafter the first Yankee Candle store was opened offering customers attractively packaged scented candles with true to life fragrances.

Where does the inspiration for a new fragrance come from?

At Yankee we decided that in order to come up with what our consumer wants, we must create our ideal target consumer, so we invented “Lisa”. The Key Target Audience Characteristics of “Lisa” are as follows:

- Women aged 25 – 54 (with the average age 40)

- Above average household income

- Have children at home (45%)

- Own pets

- Strong household penetration across all demographics, psychographics, lifestyles and ethnicities

We also take into consideration current consumer trends such as popular culture, colour trends and fragrance trends. We develop 100’s of brand-correct concepts and then process them through a 3 step consumer filter.

Can you talk us through the process of creating a new fragrance?

There are three fragrance notes to every scent, top, middle and base. The top note is pure fragrance that we recognise immediately, then the middle and lower notes are the undertones of the fragrance which are longer lasting and provide the heart of the fragrance.

In some instances we can work on creating a new fragrance time after time and it doesn’t quite turn out how we would like. One fragrance that we have been trying to get right for a long time is Freshly Baked Bread, unfortunately it never seems to smell exactly right! Primarily, cultural and personal differences mean that fragrances need to be able to cross borders.

clive yankee

How do you come up with the names for the new fragrances?

We hold specially selected focus groups to brainstorm names for the fragrances, then, because Yankee is an international brand we have to make quality checks with our contacts across the globe to ensure the name of the fragrance doesn’t translate into another meaning in a foreign language. The name also needs to clearly express the fragrance message across borders and cultures.

Can you tell us how many fragrances make up the Yankee Candle range?

There is around 250 fragrances in the Yankee Candle range with four main collections; Food and Spice, Festive, Fruits and Florals. We are continuously researching the next fragrance but I’m afraid that means discontinuing some of the less popular scents making me the most hated man in the world sometimes! One fragrance, Baby Powder was discontinued and I had customers calling up from all over the world asking why they couldn’t get their favourite fragrance anymore! I had to start production again to keep the customers happy. That’s one thing about our customers, they are very verbal about what they want!

What is your absolute favourite Yankee Candle fragrance, and why do you love it?

People always ask me this question and I have to say my favourite is Midsummers Night – it’s the black jar and I think out of all the scents it is the most masculine, it has musky undertones with notes of sage and patchouli.

Can you tell us please, what are the 3 top best selling fragrances?

The top 3 all-time best sellers are Fresh Cut Roses, Black Cherry and Clean Cotton.

Is there a particular size that is stand out in its popularity?

The large housewarmer jars are the most popular and widely purchased candle globally. They retail for $49.99 and burn for around 110 – 150 hours.

Yankee Candles are available in countries across the world, and over the internet, are there different best selling fragrances for different countries?

Of course, the US market predominantly prefer the food fragrances and the Arabian countries like fruits whilst the French, German and Italian countries all like floral and fresh fragrances.

Do you have any stories of fragrances that customers have formed emotional attachments to?

Every fragrance brings back a memory or an experience which strikes an emotional chord with our consumers. A fragrance can remind you of a friend or a first boyfriend or a cherished time from your childhood. As humans, our emotional connection to smell is stronger than our other senses, ever wonder why you are instantly reminded of something when you get a waft of perfume that someone you know used to wear! One fragrance that I will always have a strong emotional attachment to is Clean Cotton – it reminds me of my Grandmother and washing day!

Are there any plans to create an Australian fragrance? If there are, are there any ideas about what may form the basis of the fragrance?

Well the rumours may be true! We are researching what would make the best Australian fragrance at the moment and we would appreciate your readers input. I’ve had all sorts of suggestions– Vegemite, Sausage Sizzle, Pavlova and Lamington, the problem is that the name has to relate to everyone, nobody outside of Australia knows what a Lamington is – at the moment I like the idea of a Eucalyptus scent because we all think of the Australian bush but we’ll see.

Thank you so much for your time Clive, it’s been a pleasure.

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About Michelle

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I devour books, vampires and supernatural creatures are my genre of choice but over the past couple of years I have broadened my horizons considerably.
I inhale music, hair metal that satisfies my inner bogan is where my musical passion lies, but again I've been exposed to lots of different music I wouldn't normally listen to and have broadened those horizons also.

In a nutshell - I love to write! I love interacting with a diverse range of artists to bring you interviews.
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