“We have to confess that it does refresh,” said a commercial that frequently appeared on Mexican television in the 1980s to advertise a product that has survived the test of time: Sanborns Cologne Water.
This colony is an icon for the Sanborns chain, by Carlos Slim. There isn’t a single Sanborns store that doesn’t have it. It was created in 1927, and although there is little information about its history, its aroma of orange blossom has become characteristic for some generations, and has also managed to cross the borders of stores, since it is also possible to find it in self-service chains, such as Walmart or Soriana.
The popularity of the fragrance had an important boom during the 20th century, and it has not only been used to perfume the skin. There are those who recommend it to repel mosquitoes in hot weather, or to refresh the skin after shaving or highlight its relaxing power. In a post on his social networks, Sanborns shared that cologne is the “favorite of Catemaco witches for their cleanses and in Acapulco they recommend it as a mosquito repellent.”
But its aroma of orange blossom goes beyond its uses: its aroma evokes specific moments or people for more than one of its users, or that is what can be seen on Sanborns’ social networks: “I remember when my mother put us after the bath. I loved it,” wrote one user. “Her unmistakable aroma, my grandmother forever,” wrote another.
Carlos Gómez, director of the marketing school of the Banking and Commercial School (EBC), comments that for companies, in this case Sanborns, it is important to have such an iconic product that manages to be part of the daily life of people beyond to offer a product. “Products like this took part in the lives of an entire generation, becoming part of their experiences, memories, joys, and turned it into a product that identifies consumers with their dynamics of life,” he says.
However, the specialist believes that replicating a product remaining on store shelves for 100 years is a very difficult achievement to replicate. Although it seems that the Agua de Colonia Sanborns has remained related to the generations of adults, although the youngest are not oblivious to its existence.
The reality is that the fragrance has had changes, to begin with, the formula has gone beyond orange blossoms and the variety of scents has been extended to other presentations, such as the aroma of oak and agave. The packaging has also undergone changes, although it maintains its green lid and the orange flowers on the front label.
Connect with the new generations
“(Sanborns cologne water) It reminds me of granny’s house, when she was a child she always smelled of orange blossom cologne in her drawers,” wrote a user in a post where Sanborns shares an old advertisement for her classic cologne. And so, there are several examples that connect this aroma with older people. Although this may not be nonsense.
For now, there is no publicity about this Carlos Slim retail product, and although advertising campaigns are usually important, for Sanborns Cologne Water the benefit is that it already has an image built in the market, this does not mean that it has disappeared altogether. On channels like YouTube and even TikTok, where the content goes two ways: its attributes and the remembrance of the product.
This call to nostalgia is a success in a market that seeks to recall memories and emotions, according to the EBC academic. And it seems that the Sanborns neighborhood has achieved it naturally, especially because more than offering a service, with its purchase it satisfies the emotions.
“With this product, Sanborns managed to understand a market and a society,” says the specialist. “The boom of the brand was in the 80s and 90s, now the lifestyle has changed and competition and forms of purchase have increased, this is what determines if a product becomes obsolete, but now you have to touch the emotions, which is the characteristic of the new generations”.