How An Impromptu TikTok Video Altered Fragrance Brand Ascention’s Trajectory
In July, Ascention Parfums founder Greta Fitz got hit on at her gym by a man at the front desk who complimented her scent. Instead of letting it pass, she decided to quickly shoot a video asking what inspired him to comment on it. “It smells good and, like, sensual,” he said. Adding her own commentary, Fitz said, “I’m telling you this fragrance is amazing. I’m literally sweaty. I just left the gym. This is strawberry nectar, rose nectar, vanilla musk. Try it for yourself and experience the magic.”
On TikTok, the video has drawn 2.1 million views and led to consumers snapping up about $100,000 worth of the fragrance showcased in it, Ascent to Love. It’s one of a dozen Ascention videos that have racked up 2 to 5 million views, according to Fitz, and was among several catalysts, including the maturation of the brand and the functional fragrance category, for a transformation at Ascention that has it focusing on gen Z and millennial fragrance enthusiasts, elevating its prices and packaging, tweaking its distribution strategy and doubling down on spiritual wellness.
“Over the years of paying back loans and not getting funded because we weren’t growing as fast as other brands were—and that’s OK—I took it as a sign to basically go slow and steady and figure out really what is our role, soul and purpose,” says Fitz, who held marketing positions at Coty, Shiseido, L’Oréal and Clean Beauty Collective prior to launching Ascention in 2019. “As we grew, we stayed under the radar. We were underground working on social media content, and I was finding my audience in the sense that, when people actually used my brand, I did have proof of concept that it was working for them.”
Ascention’s patented packaging contains crystals at its base such as amethyst to invoke inner peace and citrine to encourage self-assurance and affirmation cards. Fitz instructs customers to practice a scent ritual in which they remove the crystal from the packaging, set an intention, apply the fragrance of their choice and recite an affirmation. In the days, weeks and months that follow, customers can return to the fragrance to evoke the feeling or vibe they wish to evoke. Fitz, a manifestation coach, has noticed a fascination with witchy brands on social media and predicts the next phase of wellness fragrance will incorporate mysticism.
On the ground level, Ascention’s packaging is switching from a recyclable plastic base to a metallized base to increase its sturdiness. Beginning in the first half of 2024, the brand will be offering new perfume formulas in 50-ml. sizes priced at $160 along with 10-ml. sizes at $38 and $10 samples. Ascention has a 40% customer return rate on its samples. Guided by advice from Sephora, the brand initially had its perfumes priced at $98 to keep them under $100. It participated in Sephora’s Accelerate mentorship program in 2019.
Back in 2019, Fitz underestimated the costs of doing business. She explains, “The marketing costs have skyrocketed. When it used to be $40 customer acquisition cost, now it’s over a $150. Because of COVID, we did buy a lot of the packaging materials, so I was covered for three years, but, when I had to actually go back and rebuy everything, everything went up 20% to 30%.”
With the assistance of AI tool Preflect, Acention has recently been able to decrease its CAC to $60 with Google and Meta advertising and avoid outside agencies that haven’t proven to be successful for the brand. Meanwhile, the brand is shifting away from the most price-sensitive customers. Previously, it tried selling on QVC, but Fitz believes the price orientation of the television shopping network’s predominantly baby boomer and gen X audience wasn’t the best fit.
““Gen Z and millennials got the concept easily and didn’t have to be convinced.”
“Gen Z and millennials got the concept easily and didn’t have to be convinced versus gen X and boomers needed a little bit more convincing,” she says, elaborating, “Our brand is value-driven, but not in the sense of a price, it’s the value of the emotion and the benefit you get from using the product.”
Today, Ascention is concentrating on direct-to-consumer distribution rather than retail chains, where expenses can be extremely burdensome for indie brands. However, Fitz is interested in placing it in a key retail partner—she lists Credo as a dream partner—and independent boutiques that can help it cultivate a loyal community. The brand is available on Amazon and TikTok Shop. Ascention has nearly 200,000 followers and 1.9 million likes on TikTok. In 2024, its goal is to reach $5 million in sales.
The brand’s bestselling fragrance is Ascent to Love, and it’s second bestselling fragrance is Ascent to Prosperity featuring sandalwood, patchouli, vetiver, white freesia and coconut water. This month, it’s running a pre-sale on an Astral Elixir perfume collection with $38 rollerballs of Ascent to Love, Ascent to Inspire and Ascent to Enchant. Tropical fragrance Ascent to Inspire and woody fragrance Ascent to Enchant are new. Ascention has upgraded Ascent to Love’s formula with raspberry, coconut and wild strawberry to enhance its seductive power.
In 2020, Fitz says she raised $250,000 from angel investors. At the moment, she isn’t chasing external investment to give her room to fine-tune Ascention. Instead, to aid with funding the brand, she’s developed a consultancy side of its business counseling entrepreneurs. Speaking of investors, Fitz says, “If you’re slow to deliver on projections, then you’re done, and it’s the same with a retailer. For us, it’s the freedom of owning your own brand to take it slow, make mistakes, be agile, learn and pivot.”
With Ascention expanding into a consultancy and her rebranding efforts, Fitz has changed the name of the brand slightly. It was originally called Ascention Beauty, and it’s become Ascention Parfums. “Over the years, I’ve learned that perspective is everything with it comes to branding,” she says. “Ascention Parfums exudes the perception and expectation that this is a luxury perfume brand made with the finest ingredients and craftsmanship, which it is.”
Ultimately, Fitz envisions Ascention becoming a “universe” of fragrance encompassing body care, makeup, home goods and standalone stores, starting with a location in Montclair, N.J., where people can come for meditation and events as well as check out the merchandise. “I have a local fitness studio that I go to. The membership is about $200 a month. Even in the economy we’re in, they are growing 200% a year-over-year because they’re creating an experience that isn’t mimicked that you can’t find anywhere else. It makes people feel good, and people become addicted to feeling good,” says Fitz. “That’s what I want to create with Ascention.”