By  on January 28, 1994

NEW YORK -- A novel idea when Calvin Klein Cosmetics launched Obsession and Obsession for Men in the mid-Eighties, master brands have become a habit in the fragrance industry. Now executives are wondering whether it's a healthy habit.

"There have been more disappointments than there have been successes," said Allen Burke, divisional merchandise manager for cosmetics at Dayton's, Hudson's & Marshall Field's, Minneapolis. "The success of Calvin Klein has led a lot of people to try to duplicate it."

Ann Gottlieb, a fragrance consultant, said too many cosmetics companies have been trying to market master brands without laying secure foundations, most importantly a name and a concept that are meaningful to women and men.

Some manufacturers are beginning to hesitate about joining the parade. Liz Claiborne, for example, does not have a Vivid for Men in the works, according to Art Spiro, vice president of marketing. And although David Horner, president of Halston Borghese North America, plans to launch Catalyst for Men this spring, he has balked at doing a men's version of Il Bacio, which is Italian for "the kiss."

Last year, 11 of the 21 men's fragrance introductions were companions to women's lines or other men's lines. Industry analyst Allan J. Mottus, who estimates that master brands account for as much as 15 percent of the $3.2 billion women's fragrance market, or $480 million, and 35 percent of the $1 billion men's market, or $350 million, said the list of the six top-selling women's fragrances includes three master brands: Eternity and Escape, both from Calvin Klein, and Elizabeth Taylor's White Diamonds.

Despite its continued popularity, master branding is not always a viable strategy. Retailers' warnings that subsequent launches cannot simply coast on the record of the original scent have not deterred a slew of Calvin Klein copycats.

Among the companion brands that failed to meet expectations, retailers said, are both the men's and women's versions of Bijan's DNA, Elizabeth Taylor's Passion for Men, Fred Hayman's 273 for Men, Giorgio Beverly Hills for Men and Red for Men and Perry Ellis for Women, which launched in 1985 with Perry Ellis for Men and has been phased out.

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