When I pontificate on branding at two of our nation's fairest dens of higher learning, I show a simple slide like this: The appeal of products such as luxury goods lies in the mystique of their brands. For other items—like a half ton of raw sulfur—investment in branding would be a waste. Perhaps sulfur from one region is purer than sulfur from another—but beyond that sort of distinction there can be little value in naming your sulfur "Stinky" and designing a logo for it.
Now enter the brilliant hedge fund manager John Hempton of Bronte Capital. John likes a perfume that his wife happens to have on her body one day, and driven mad by its powerful scent, he lunges insanely for the perfume bottle and begins to analyze its chemical makeup. How much could these ingredients cost by the ton? Perhaps there is an investment play here? (Meanwhile, we can imagine his wife sitting glumly on the bed, legs crossed, a shiny red pump dangling from her foot, wondering if rather than buy perfume that day she should have stayed home and poured herself a scotch.)
Here is John's closeup of the perfume bottle with contents. (Click picture for a close-up.) Apparently officials in Australia, where John and his Chanel-bedaubed wife live, make you print the ingredients on everything, even bags of bait. "Ingredients: Sand worms, beach sand") But please read the brilliant investment analysis from John, who is both a crafty investor and most engaging writer.
Moral: A ton of chemicals can be turned into thousand-dollar-bottles of precious liquid thanks to the wonders of fragrance technology and the invaluable magic of brand professionals like you.