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CANNES, France — A strong theme that emerged from conversations with beauty executives at the TFWA World Exhibition 2011 here last week was the growing realization that companies are increasingly doing more to support their classic brands.
Kay Spanger, a member of Gebr. Heinemann’s board, said people often ask him what Chanel’s magic is, and he responds, “Chanel supports its pillars.”
Spanger’s sentiments were echoed throughout the meeting rooms of the Palais des Festivals.
Another company that has always stood behind its brands is Groupe Clarins. The latest manifestation is in an ambitious and elaborate TV advertising campaign that resembles a small movie. Joël Palix, president of Clarins Fragrance Group, noted this has been the case with Chanel campaigns and more recently with Dior’s advertising for J’Adore. He particularly pointed out the new Eva Mendes commercial for Thierry Mugler’s Angel, in which the star even sings. It premiered on prime-time French TV earlier this month.
Another support for Angel is an Internet promotion called The Dream Machine, in which someone can pick out five words from a list of 150 to best express their dream. The words then connect into the five points of the star shape long associated with the Angel brand, and a visual manifestation appears.
For Azzaro’s Decibel men’s scent, the advertising campaign features The Strokes’ front man, Julian Casablancas.
“We’re all talking about brands becoming entertainment,” said Palix. “We no longer say we do a commercial. We produce a film. We are a media-producer.”
Palix noticed that his competitors are investing more in their brands — both for media campaigns and the development of a scent’s juice.
“I was more worried about the category three to four years ago than I am today,” he added, referring to the rise some years back of celebrity and more affordable fragrances. “I think there’s been an effort, and it is paying off. More brands are taking care of their classics.”
This trend was also noted at Euroitalia, which is mounting a double-barrel media campaign promoting two of its Versace fragrances, first the new Yellow Diamond and then the strength of the Versace brand, Bright Crystal. Mario Testino photographed both commercials.
Giovanni Sgariboldi, president of Euroitalia, explained the thinking behind creating a new advertisement for Bright Crystal, which was launched in 2006.
“If we change the communication, we think we will be more powerful,” he said.
Over at Perfume Holding, president and chief executive officer Enrico Ceccato is busy restaging his arsenal of brands, starting with Ferrari and Benetton. He also intends to dust off the venerable Atkinsons’ name, which — with Creed — was a fragrance supplier of the European aristocracy in the 17th century.
“We have the recipes for a thousand nobles,” said Ceccato, predicting it would take two years to bring the house of Atkinsons back to its illustrious roots.
One brand that is not yet a classic, and may never be due to its disgraced namesake, is John Galliano, after the designer was recently found guilty by a Paris court of uttering racist and anti-Semitic insults at a cafe.
Three days before the incident was made public, Perfume Holding was in the midst of launching the brand in the German-based Douglas chain. The rollout was halted, according to Ceccato. However, due to blogger demand, it was resumed again.
“The final result was the consumers don’t care,” he said. “Sales where we were able to launch and stay in stores have done very well.”
“Italy wasn’t affected,” continued Ceccato. “Germany was superaffected. Asia was not affected. Singapore seems to be affected.”
Meanwhile, Perfume Holdings continues to stand behind the Galliano brand. A launch of an eau fraiche is due next year, and a new men’s fragrance is being planned for 2013.
Beauté Prestige International, Shiseido’s high-end fragrance arm, is working to build its recently launched Elie Saab brand into a classic. The Elie Saab Le Parfum scent has been a “great success, above expectations” in the markets where it was introduced in July, such as France, Germany and Spain, according to Eric Henry, BPI’s chief operating officer. For example, the fragrance ranked number two at Douglas in Germany in July and remained in the top 10, placing sixth there in August.
“It will be above the projection that we made. I am very, very confident,” continued Henry.
At the time of its launch, industry sources estimated Elie Saab Le Parfum, which is slated to hit the U.S. market in 2013, would generate $50 million in first-year retail sales globally.
For Jean Paul Gaultier, BPI’s cornerstone class brand, a new men’s fragrance, called Kokorico, was being featured at the TFWA trade show. Its rollout began with the French market earlier this month.
Henry delicately described BPI’s relationship with Gaultier as “a new context.” BPI’s Gaultier fragrance licenses lasts until mid-2016, but rival Puig has acquired 55 percent of the Gaultier fashion house and it is widely assumed that Puig would like to take the license back.
Henry, however, made a point of saying that BPI continues to spend behind Gaultier, which includes some best-selling classic, core brands such as Classique and Le Male.
The general upsurge in support for classic fragrance brands could reflect consumers’ desire — in these uncertain times — for known, quality products.
“I think there’s a kind of hankering for secure things, safe things,” said Jill Hill, managing director of fragrance distributor Aspects Beauty, speaking as an industry observer. “If you’re going to spend your money, you’re going to spend it on something that you trust, rather than necessarily trialing new things. I think people believe if they spend money it’s going to be on a product which has provenance, which has got tradition, heritage and all those good names.”