Exceptional...Because You Are (Exceptional Perfumes)

I once worked for an PR guy who fancied himself a neuro-linguistic programming guru. Half self-help method, half übermensch cult, NLP was the hot pseudo-science of the corporate 1980's-- inspiring the Greed Is Good generation to weasel-talk its way to the top.

My boss embraced NLP like old-time gospel religion. Hypnotic "trance phrases" and "trigger words" peppered his speech like a sprinkling of Quaaludes. He practiced mirroring others' gestures and speech patterns to manufacture rapport-- then ruined the effect with a spooky Rasputin stare. Most of the time, he saved these scintillating techniques for his clients… but as his involvement in NLP deepened, he started using it on me. As you might imagine, this did not exactly create a friendly work atmosphere. The day my boss attempted to "mind-manage" me into wearing shorter skirts to work, I figured it was quittin' time.

It's been two decades now. I have no idea what became of my old boss. But I just encountered a perfume that summons him up before me like a devil in Prada… PR doublespeak and all.

Exceptional...Because You Are is billed as "a distinctly feminine fragrance featuring a crisp and elegant introduction, a lightly spiced floral heart and a sensual drydown". In point of fact, it is a cardboard-flat Febreze floral, indeed almost too dull to merit description. The only thing “exceptional” about it is its name. Equal parts flattery and bribery, that little tagline unites perfume and wearer in a slippery symbiosis that transcends simple aspiration and tiptoes into marketing mindfuck territory.

In NLP, the word "because" is an extraordinarily potent coercive tool, implying rock-solid authority and reliability. It magically links concepts together, legitimizes commands, and lends verity to stated facts. In NLP parlance, "because" language has the power to circumvent the listener’s natural skepticism and resistance. It wins obedience, as if by magic.

Exceptional...Because You Are uses it in a very wily manner. Obviously, a perfume's inherent quality is not determined by (or proportionate to) the quality of the person wearing it, or vice versa. But rather than produce a better perfume, its creators choose instead to aim a little linguistic barb at the wearer’s self-esteem.

This fragrance is exceptional because you are. You ARE exceptional, aren't you? Well then, so is this fragrance. If IT is not, then maybe YOU are not. Ever think of that?

And then you try it on and find that it’s a cynically cheap little nothing of a scent, and perhaps you can admit that you were suckered—but perhaps you can’t. The product itself secures your shamefaced silence. Sure, the sample card doubles as a coupon for $20 off your next Fragrance.net purchase, but even that comes off as vaguely insulting. It’s as if the Emperor -- fully aware that he's wearing no clothes – is offering to buy off anyone who spotted him naked.

But don't worry—this fragrance won’t get far on its own. The only trick up its sleeve is that clever name. It has no other arguments to make, and it washes off skin with almost embarrassing ease. If Exceptional... Because You Are were smarter, it would give the consumer something to think about, or at least remember. But when she decides that she’s done with it, she need never, ever look back.

Scent Elements: Lalique Flora Bella plus blond woods but minus tenacity, personality, and class.