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Shawn “Jay Z” Carter is on the verge of delivering his long-awaited first men’s fragrance, and it is already shaping up as not your everyday launch.
This story first appeared in the November 1, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The scent, which he has dubbed Gold Jay Z, will make its debut at Barneys New York on Nov. 20 as part of his exercise in fashion collaboration with the store. That will be followed on Nov. 29, Black Friday, with the rollout of the distribution to 2,000 department stores, led by Macy’s, Sephora, Nordstrom, Dillard’s, Belk, Bon-Ton and Ulta.
The superstar’s partnership with Barneys apparently is moving forward, despite calls for him to withdraw as part of a protest and controversy sparked by the questioning about possible alleged credit card fraud by New York City police officers of two black shoppers after they made expensive purchases in Barneys’ Madison Avenue flagship. An executive at Parlux Ltd., Carter’s fragrance licensee, quoted his organization on Thursday as saying the singer is currently involved in a world concert tour and is not available for comment. However, when the controversy related to Carter’s capsule men’s fashion collection with Barneys first broke, Carter posted a statement on his Facebook page saying that the project was designed to raise money to help those facing socioeconomic hardships. Carter said then that he was waiting to learn the facts and the outcome of a meeting between Barneys and community leaders. Meanwhile, Mark Lee, chief executive officer of Barneys, has said no store employee had taken issue with the purchases and that Barneys is collaborating with community leaders and the broader retail community to find solutions to larger issues raised by the controversy.
As for the launch, the promotional campaign is in tune with the current zeitgeist. It will be driven by a combination of digital and outdoor advertising, instead of the traditional magazine print campaign. There will be ads on fashion magazine Web sites like GQ.com and platforms like Facebook, Yahoo Sports, the Spotify music site and ESPN.com. The bottle and Jay Z’s face promise to be inescapable, with ads plastered on billboards around the country, bus shelters and a variety of display venues inside malls.
Macy’s has taken the unusual step of giving the launch two sets of visual weeks — before and after Christmas. The displays go into the windows on 34th Street, near the entrance to the men’s department, for the first time on Nov. 25, then return the week starting Jan. 8. One of the large windows will contain a visual interactive feature. When a passerby stands in front of the glass, the window is designed to reflect the image of a golden avatar of the person on the street. Inside the store, a 15-second video will be running on-counter showing an image of Jay Z, morphing into gold neck chain, then cap — inscribed with his words to live by — and a fragrance bottle. It also will be broadcast online. During Thanksgiving weekend, an army of rotators will be dispatched to hand out samples in front of Broadway theaters. Contests will be run online for concert tickets.
“We are going to make a big noise,” said Donald J. Loftus, president of Parlux Ltd. and executive vice president of Perfumania Inc. “For the 30 days before Christmas, it will be impossible not to know he has a fragrance.”
Loftus said Carter “stressed that he didn’t want to do what had been done before.” That included sticking to the traditional August-to-October launch window. Carter also rejected 3,200 possible fragrance names that were submitted to him. Finally, he picked up the bottle, declaring, ‘‘This is the s–t; it’s gold,’” Loftus said.
The fragrance is a white fougère created by Ilias Ermenidis of Firmenich. Although the concentration of the juice was amped up to more than 18 percent, as part of a strategy to convey superior quality, the concentration is described as an eau de toilette, because the more accurate eau de parfum was deemed to be not masculine enough.
Price points for the juices range from $39 for the 30-ml. size, $55 for 50 ml. and $70 for 90 ml. There also will be an aftershave pour in a translucent bottle, a deodorant and a shower gel.
Loftus said the company decided to invest its money in the quality of the product, rather than compete with traditional and expensive advertising. Parlux declined to provide a sales projection, but industry sources estimate that in the U.S. alone, the fragrance could generate $20 million in retail sales for the last two months of this fiscal year and for next year provide an additional $35 million.
In addition, an international rollout is being planned. Diana Espino, global vice president of marketing and brand development, said the fragrance will be launched in Canada in January and the spring rollout lineup so far includes Germany, Mexico, Northern Scandinavia, the U.K., Australia and travel retail.