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Fragrance Follows Fashion at Lacoste

The brand made its first volley into fragrances in 1968, and its been upping its game ever since.

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Lacoste made its first volley into fragrances in 1968, and the brand’s been upping its game ever since.

This story first appeared in the February 9, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

While executives at Procter & Gamble, which has held the license since 2001, would not discuss numbers, industry sources estimate Lacoste scents generate 230 million euros, or $310.9 million at current exchange, in wholesale revenues annually.

“The Lacoste fragrance business has been growing pretty steadily,” said Carla Liuni, vice president of fashion brands for P&G Prestige. “[It] continues to be a key priority for us…and has quite a unique place in our portfolio.”

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Fragrance is the brand’s second-largest license, behind textiles, according to Lacoste.

In a 2005 WWD story, Hartwig Langer, P&G Prestige Products’ global president at the time, recalled the acquisition took place because “we felt we needed a French brand. Lacoste, the crocodile and the icon became hip and cool again. And that was the right time. We jumped it before the crest really started rolling again.”

The sportswear firm’s first fragrance licensee was Jean Patou, privately held by the Jean de Mouy family. Among fragrances launched under the partnership was Eau de Sport in two versions, with each bearing the Jean Patou and Lacoste names, in the late Sixties. There was also Lacoste Original in the Eighties, along with Land cologne, Booster and Lacoste for Women in the Nineties.

P&G and Lacoste have introduced numerous scents, as well. There was Lacoste Pour Homme in 2002, then Lacoste Pour Femme in 2003, which together kicked off the label’s high-end segment. A year later, the brand launched the men’s scent Lacoste Style in Play and Touch of Pink for women, meant to reflect Lacoste’s sports heritage. And Lacoste Essential — marking the introduction of a “freedom” category, about relaxation — hit shelves in 2005.

Pour Femme remains a top-three seller in Russia and has important market share in Germany. Touch of Pink boasts a solid following in the U.K., while Essential has a large fan base in the U.S. Lacoste fragrances are sold in more than 95 countries altogether, said Liuni.

Like the Lacoste fashion business, the brand’s fragrance activity is believed to be skewed toward the men’s category.

Lacoste’s iconic crocodile has been prevalent on its fragrance packaging. For Booster, for instance, the trademark reptile was wrapped around the scent’s box so retailers could position the packages to create a parade of crocodiles. Advertising for some Lacoste fragrances, such as Touch of Pink, features models wearing the brand’s sports gear.

Since the Style in Play scent was about capturing the type of adrenaline rush athletes experience before competition, its 20-second TV spot at launch featured break-dancer Samy Sainte Barbe doing a handstand prior to leaving his dressing room and appearing before a crowd.

However, it’s Lacoste’s most recent fragrance offerings that forge the closest links with the label’s apparel. The Eau de Lacoste L.12.12 men’s franchise, which was introduced in early 2011 starting with a trio of scents, was inspired by Lacoste’s iconic polo shirt — from its name to the textile crocodile emblem on the bottle. Its video spot showing an origamist’s hands transforming a shirt into the scent flacon is the second-most-watched ad on YouTube in France, with more than 2 million viewers, according to P&G.

It’s Lacoste’s best-selling fragrance line, and at launch L.12.12 was among the top-10 men’s scents in such markets as the U.K., Germany and France.

Starting in early January, the Lacoste brand’s then-10.7 million Facebook fans could preview a video of actress Amy Adams discussing the new Eau de Lacoste women’s fragrance, the sister to L.12.12 for which she’s the ambassador. It gleaned inspiration from the feeling on skin of pure white cotton fabric, like that used for Lacoste clothes. The scent’s cap has the same petit piqué texture, and there is a crocodile logo.

Lacoste’s Facebook fans could also sign up for a “VIP sample” of Eau de Lacoste. And it served an ace: Liuni said the batch of 43,000 was out of stock in four days.

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