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The Math on Celebrity Fragrance: Do They Still Add Up?

By: Jeb Gleason-Allured
Posted: May 23, 2012, from the June 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.

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The various shapes of celebrity partnerships: When it was launched in 1999, J’Adore (Christian Dior) grew to post annual sales of $40 million, explained Terry Darland (Parfums Christian Dior). Over time, sales fell to $20 million. When actress Charlize Theron became the celebrity face of the scent, sales recovered to $35 million. Recent marketing for J’Adore have supplemented Theron’s image with those of icons such as Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly. The lesson: a celebrity can shore up sales, but not necessarily return them to original luster.

Not all celebrity fragrance customers are alike and each must be understood, said Linda Levy (Macy’s). For instance, 95% of Someday customers did not buy Wonderstruck and vice versa. Ron Rolleston (Elizabeth Arden) agreed, saying that understanding fan bases and audience relationships is crucial.

“This is a nurturing process,” said Theo Spilka (Firmenich), noting that it is crucial to craft sense of ownership between celebrity and their scent brand in order to encourage proactive promotion. He explained that celebrity deals are changing, whether they are royalty deals, charitable giving, retailer exclusives or some other new hybrid. In all cases, celebrities must be educated from creation to launch. Rolleston noted that celebrities are excited by expertise of perfumers and so are not averse to this education. Classically, he said, Liz Taylor loved working with perfumer Claude Dir.

Any marketing deal should include a specific number of days for celebrity public relations, said Rolleston. Media appearances must be part of any fragrance marketing plan. Levy concluded that “real partnerships with celebrities will create longevity.” The ideal launch, she said, will take into account what the celebrity is willing to do to support the launch over at least a year. Hit-and-run celebrities will not be successful, said Levy, highlighting her formula for success: authenticity + commitment + dollars.