By  on December 3, 2004

NEW YORK — Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have built a billion-dollar empire on cuteness. Over the summer, which began with their 18th birthday and ended with a move to the East Coast to attend New York University, the young women evolved from adorable to tabloid stylish. Now they want their fans (aka their consumer base) to mature with them.

The superstar pair and Coty Inc. have created a new fragrance duo called Mary-Kate and Ashley Coast to Coast, due to be launched in March. Designed to capture their jet-setting lifestyle that involves frequent trips from their apartment in the Big Apple to their home in Los Angeles, the fragrances present the Olsens as they are now. However, the scents will target a slighter younger consumer, girls 12 to 17 years old.

The Olsens and their Dualstar Consumer Products company have geared the marketing of their products to target multiple age groups. For example, the girls teamed up with Aquafresh last year to create a toothpaste for kids. The toothpaste tube features a photo of the girls at age 13. “The consumer locks the girls into whichever life stage she is in at the moment,” said Sherryl Zucker, group marketing director, global fragrances, Coty Beauty U.S.

As they did for their first fragrance line, Dualstar and Coty have created two signature scents, Mary-Kate and Ashley LA and Mary-Kate and Ashley NYC.

The girls’ first fragrance line, Mary-Kate and Ashley One and Mary-Kate and Ashley Two, which bowed nearly two years ago in Wal-Mart stores, played off a twin theme. The original scents — housed in light blue and pale yellow packaging — were designed to appeal to the average 10-year-old. Since expanding their distribution beyond Wal-Mart into thousands of new doors in March, the fragrances have generated $1.4 million in sales (excluding Wal-Mart), according to Information Resources. “The success of fragrances proved that there was an audience for Mary-Kate and Ashley outside of Wal-Mart,” said the Olsens’ spokesman Michael Pagnotta.

This time around, Mary-Kate and Ashley were adamant about presenting themselves as individuals. Each girl, identified by an initial earring, is pictured by herself on one side of the rectangular package. A third side is reserved for the name of the scent, LA in blue letters against a white backdrop and NYC in hot pink against black.The LA scent, a light blue juice housed in a square bottle, is described as a carefree, tropical fragrance with top notes of mango guava, tangerine, and Chinese Osmanthus; middle notes of pink gardenia, sweet honeysuckle, and pink beach accord, and a base of musk and sandalwood.

The NYC scent, a pink juice, is an energetic, feminine fragrance with top notes of orange, bergamot and pomegranate juice; a heart of pink rose, blackberry and pink freesia and is finished with sandalwood, musk and cashmere accord.

Each fragrance, priced at $15.95 for a 1.7-oz. bottle, will bow in March. A gift set containing two 1-oz. eau de toilette sprays, one in each scent, will be available in May for a suggested retail price of $15.95. Industry sources expect the two Mary-Kate and Ashley Coast to Coast fragrances to generate $3.4 million in first-year sales.

Print advertising will break in April in teen books, such as Teen Vogue and Cosmogirl. And while the girls don’t do public appearances for individual products, Coty executives aren’t worried about creating a buzz for this launch. “These girls are living media,” said Roslyn Griner, vice president of bath and body for Coty Beauty.

Since announcing plans to step out of the limelight earlier this year, the Olsen sisters have been spotted alongside A-listers at glamorous industry events, in the pages of gossip columns, and front row at the fall fashion shows of Marc Jacobs and Oscar de la Renta. Their transformation into fashionistas has opened the door to the possibility of launching a prestige fragrance collection, noted Griner, adding that there are no plans to create a fragrance for the department store channel at this time.

Despite the hoopla surrounding Mary-Kate Olsen’s struggle with an eating disorder — which some have said was a cover-up for drug abuse, although her spokespeople adamantly deny it — Coty’s market research indicates tweens and teens respect both sisters, and admire Mary-Kate’s decision to get treatment for her illness.

“Even the mothers of young girls prefer Mary-Kate and Ashley to all other teen stars today,” said John Galantic, president of Coty Beauty U.S. He added, “Coty plans to grow this franchise fragrance as Mary-Kate and Ashley grow up.”“These girls are bulletproof,” said Griner.

Nevertheless Mary-Kate’s struggles magnify the risks of the celebrity fragrance concept. Coty, which helped revive the trend with Glow by JLo and Celine Dion Parfums, uses three key characteristics as a litmus test when choosing a celebrity partner: awareness level, charisma and likability. Of course that’s on top of tons of consumer research, explained Griner.

Coty is also banking on the celebrity fragrance trend to outrun its earlier incarnation in the Eighties. Griner commented, “Today celebrities are our fashion icons. When was the last time you saw a model on the cover of a magazine?”

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