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Lessons from J Petterman

August 2, 2010


I was browsing in a Paris antique shop one winter afternoon when a fitted leather train case caught my eye.

It contained silver-handled brushes, boot hooks, a straight razor, several silver-stoppered glass bottles…

One bottle was different. Encased in yew-wood, with a handwritten date: 1903.

Inside the bottle, there was still the faint, intriguing aroma of a gentleman’s cologne. A “prescription” cologne, custom-made for a rich traveler a century ago.

Curiosity was eating at me.

I bought the case (the price was shocking) and sent the bottle to a laboratory for analysis. They broke down the residue by gas chromatography. Identified its fingerprint through spectro-photometry.

The report said: an “old woody fougère.” Clean citrus notes, bergamot, “green notes.” The middle notes: clary sage…cardamom. The dry-down: leather notes, smoky labdanum…elemi, tabac, frankincense.

The detective work was impressive.

So is the thing itself.

Women like the way it smells on a man. Like a symphony that begins loudly, then soon slides into subtle, entangling developments that grow on them.

Or so I’ve been told.

J. Peterman’s 1903 Vintage Cologne
(No. 1400) in handsome wood-encased bottle almost exactly like the one I found in Paris. 3.4 fl. oz., 100 ml. USA.

Above is an excerpt form a past J Petterman Catalog.  Who doesn’t want to step into the adventurous life of J Petterman?

What J Petterman has taught us is that character trumps content.  People want to feel a connection to their brands.  This is ALWAYS more important than product stats and price.  You could have the highest quality product out there at the best price, but if people don’t feel connected to it, it won’t survive.  On the opposite extreme, you could have a subpar product at a high price that survives because people feel this intense loyalty (ie connection) to it.

J Petterman has made himself stand out among the plethora of catalogs and companies out there.  He gave people something to talk about, a reason to choose his company and created relationships with buyers that were rock solid.   Some will say Seinfeld helped with his notoriety, but actually Seinfeld was the cause of his demise.  It caused J Petterman to expand too quickly and focus on investors instead of what his company was really about — experiences.  He now has bought back his company out of bankruptcy and is rebuilding on this core strength.  But I digress…

So we at Smashing have become protegés of J Petterman.  And, well, you all know how I love to tell a good story.  So at Smashing there will not be any boring style numbers.  No, each of our items will have a name.  And behind every name, there will lie a story…..

2010 Copyright Smashing LLC 2010 Copyright

One Comment leave one →
  1. Margaret Lynn permalink
    August 2, 2010 9:32 am

    born with a pen in your hand? you have a gift.

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