Chanel N°5: How to Develop, Market and Sell as Coco Did

Lessons from Chanel N°5, the best-seller of the century.

essential oils and violet flowers
Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Coco Chanel–the first and best business women of the 20th century

Launched on 5th of May 1921, Chanel N°5 is its celebrating 100th birthday. Photo by Chanel.

Mademoiselle Coco and the scent of love

This article is inspired by a novel about Coco Chanel, Mademoiselle Coco und der Duft der Liebe by Michelle Marly. (English translation would be “Mademoiselle Coco and the scent of love”). The novel is, as written by its author, an interpretation of historical facts. Thus, it’s not all 100% truth, but author based the story on actual facts. It describes time of Coco’s life between years 1919 and 1922, when she developed and launched first Chanel perfume, Chanel N°5. I’ve drawn all details related to how Coco did business and marketing from this exciting novel.

How to develop, produce, market and sell as Coco does?

Well, I’ve put down some notes to share them with you.

Image of cover of the novel Mademoiselle Coco und der Duft der Liebe by Michelle Marly
Image of cover of the novel Mademoiselle Coco und der Duft der Liebe by Michelle Marly
A novel that inspired this article. Author of the article read it in translation in Slovene. Photo by Goodreads.

Marketing mix & the 4 Ps of Chanel N°5

What was Coco’s marketing strategy for one of her best sellers, perfume Chanel N°5? There are many insights in the novel. I’ve put them into 4 categories, known as 4Ps of marketing mix; product, price, promotion and place.


Do not reinvent the wheel.
Regarding the composition of fragrance notes Chanel N°5 was not something new. It was a novelty only for the European market. Coco got inspiration from the Russian royal perfume “Bouquet de Catherine”. Similarly, the revolutionary simple form of glass jar was not new. Coco brought it from other categories (the novel says pharmaceuticals, other sources say alcoholic beverages).


Premium product sells for premium price.
Coco knew best ingredients cost money. She also had knowledge that there was target audience public, who was going to pay this price.


Power of WOM
Coco was queen of word-of-mouth promotion. She would use it frequently. For example, she gifted her best dresses to the models, because they would wear them again among the ladies of high society. She would use same tactic in case of perfume. After she’d had launched the perfume, she disappeared from Paris into a vacation house, where no one could visit. So, clients could not share their opinion with her, but talk to other women. First few bottles were gifts for loyal customers. Friends of those customers were then the first buyers of Chanel N°5.


Direct selling
Launching perfume meant Coco was entering a new category. Until then, she would only sell hats and clothes. While developing the product Coco visited cosmetic shops many times and asked herself how should she enter those shops with only one product in the category. However, she was always courageous enough to do things her way. When it was time to sell the Chanel perfume, she kept it in-house. Thus, this instant popular item was available only in 3 places in France: in her boutiques in Paris, Deauville and Biarritz. By selling without intermediaries, she could keep control over selling process, its costs and clints’ feedback.

Environmentally conscious marketing professional. Plant based (95%) food lover. Mom. In a transition from fast-speed to a slow living life.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store