NEW YORK — When the high-decibel 1991 U.S. launch of its men’s fragrance Egoiste fizzled in less than a year, Chanel had to decide whether to write off the estimated $9 million it had spent promoting the brand or try to cash in on the hype it had created.
The result: the ego trip continues, this time with Egoiste Platinum, a new men’s scent that will be launched in mid-March.
It is, says Arie Kopelman, Chanel president, a dual effort to recoup the company’s investment in the brand and to develop its somewhat lackluster men’s fragrance business.
Jean Hoehn Zimmerman, senior vice president of marketing and sales, said Platinum, backed by a $5 million ad campaign, is expected to double Chanel’s men’s fragrance business in the U.S. in a year.
In addition to Egoiste, the company’s men’s stable includes Antaeus, Pour Monsieur and Bois Noir.
Although Zimmerman declined to discuss sales figures, industry sources estimate that Platinum could have a first-year volume of about $6 million at wholesale, or roughly what Chanel’s men’s scents account for now.
During its launch year, Egoiste reportedly had a first-year volume of some $7 million, but that fell to $2.5 million for 1993, according to industry estimates.
Although he acknowledged the name Egoiste has “an edge to it” that requires more explanation in the U.S. than it does in Europe, Kopelman said, “For the money we invested in it, it seemed the name had some potential. We weren’t willing to walk away from the brand name.”
The original Egoiste set a record for a men’s fragrance launch at Bloomingdale’s — more than $150,000 in the first week — but it has not lived up to Chanel executives’ expectations that it would be a top five brand.
Kopelman laid almost all of the blame for Egoiste’s poor sales on the juice, which he called “too sophisticated” for the American market. Egoiste is a spicy scent with notes of cinnamon and vanilla.
In a bid for broader appeal to American tastes, Chanel, which develops its fragrances in-house, created a fougere-fresh scent for Platinum, using notes of lavender, geranium and tree moss.
“The most important aspect of Platinum is the fragrance itself,” said Laurie Palma, vice president for fragrance marketing. “It definitely was developed to be successful on the American market. In order for a brand to be successful worldwide, it must be successful in the American market.”
This time, Chanel is not willing to take as many chances. For the first time, Palma said, Chanel conducted blind testing with 1,000 consumers in the U.S. and an equal number in Europe.
Kopelman said Chanel will spend less to advertise Platinum than it did for Egoiste because the name is already known.
When Platinum was launched in Europe in October, the advertising campaign included TV. The U.S. effort, however, will be limited to print ads showing a man and a woman embracing while wrapped in a single white bathrobe.
The firm plans no advertising for the original Egoiste this year, Palma said.
Kopelman said Chanel opted out of TV in the U.S. not only because of the expense but also because there would be “too high a risk” that the viewer would not realize Platinum was a completely new scent.
“The U.S. thinking is that for those people who tried Egoiste and didn’t come back, we want to make sure they smell the new one,” Kopelman said.
The Platinum strategy puts Chanel in the ironic position of trying to capitalize on the Egoiste name while distancing itself from the Egoiste product.
Palma said Chanel will run 10 million Scent Seals in men’s and dual-audience magazines beginning in April. In addition, she said, Chanel will distribute millions of Platinum towlettes at the counter as well as three-packs of Platinum, Antaeus and Pour Monsieur towlettes.
“We’ve got to make the announcement that we’re in the men’s business,” Kopelman said.
Chanel executives said the company traditionally has had a harder time in the men’s fragrance category because the house is so closely associated with women’s fashion and does not have a major presence in men’s apparel.
“Our priority is the women’s business,” Zimmerman said. “However, with so many men buying Chanel as gifts, it would be foolish not to try to capitalize on that customer.”
Jane Scott, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for cosmetics at Bloomingdale’s, said that being known as a women’s brand does not preclude Chanel from being “a player” in the men’s market. Scott said that while Egoiste’s sales have been falling, Antaeus and Pour Monsieur had a sales surge of roughly 20 percent during the holiday season.
Chanel is trying to create a somewhat younger, hipper image for Platinum than it did with Egoiste. During the launch period, the company will offer a gift set for $38.50, consisting of a 1.7-oz. eau de toilette spray and a CD of 10 songs by artists who have hit platinum, or sold one million copies of an album or a song.
For Father’s Day, Platinum will have a gift set, featuring a black backpack and Chanel sun products, for $48.50.
“We’re trying to make Platinum a little bit more fun,” Palma said, adding that the new scent’s target is men in their 20s and 30s, compared to Egoiste’s audience of men in their 30s and 40s.
Kopelman said the company selected the name Platinum for the follow-up fragrance because it connotes luxury and is an attractive color for packaging. Platinum’s bottle is the same as Egoiste’s, but the cap is silver rather than black. The box is silver and black.
The four-item Platinum line consists of a 1.7-oz. eau de toilette spray for $38.50, a 3.4-oz. size for $60, a 2.5-oz. pour version for $45 and a 2.5-oz. after-shave moisturizer for $30. The prices are slightly higher than those of Egoiste, because Platinum is an eau de toilette, while Egoiste is a cologne.
From March through May, Platinum will be launched in 350 to 400 doors, Palma said, and will be rolled out to a total of 800 to 1,000 doors from late August through the fall.
Bloomingdale’s, the exclusive launch store for Egoiste, will again be the New York launch account. Other launch stores include Bullock’s, Los Angeles; Burdines, Miami; Dillard Department Stores, Little Rock, Ark.; Rich’s, Atlanta; Dayton’s, Hudson’s & Marshall Field’s, Minneapolis; Foley’s, Houston, and Kaufmann’s, Pittsburgh.