NEW YORK--"We're dancing," said Alan Jacobs, vice president of cosmetics for R.P. Scherer , describing his current efforts to sell a dozen major beauty companies on a radically new fragrance sampling method.
If Jacobs has his way, everyone will soon be doing the twist, or more precisely, the twist-off. Stamped to resemble tiny perfume bottles, Scherer's TruScent soft gel capsules contain the essential oils of a fragrance on a patent-pending base. Samples inserted into magazines are enclosed in foil packets.
Already, Oscar de la Renta, Elizabeth Taylor's Black Pearls and Trueste by Tiffany are experimenting with the technology. Jacobs is working to sign on four more fragrances for fall. Between January and April, he hopes to roll out TruScent samples for another 10 to 15 scents.
Within five to seven years, he foresees a $20 million business, based on cannibalization of the sample vial business as well as a market trend toward increased sampling.
The St. Petersburg, Fla., firm's cosmetics division currently posts annual U.S. sales of $15 million, 65 percent of which is in twist-off products. R.P. Scherer, which also makes pharmaceutical, nutritional and paintball products, has annual worldwide sales of $500 million.
Sanofi executives were the first to test the products in magazines with May ads for Oscar in two Canadian publications: Flare, which has a national circulation of 220,000, and Clin D'Oeil, a magazine with a circulation of 50,000 concentrated in Montreal.
Liz Falconer, executive director of marketing and creative for Oscar worldwide, said she is waiting for complete data on the effectiveness of the sampling effort before deciding on future TruScent ventures.
"We'll watch it for another three months, but the initial impression we're getting is very positive," she said.
Lisa Curtis, marketing manager for the fragrance in Canada, said TruScent's sales impact will be difficult to gauge because it is only one prong in her overall marketing plan to maintain Oscar's best-selling status in a year chockful of women's launches.
The delivery system does have obvious advantages, though, she noted. These include:
* The consumer can apply it directly onto her skin.
* It is interactive; consumers have to open a "bottle."
* There is no leaking, so it is not offensive to magazine readers.
* In stores, it is more cost-effective than a vial or a spray sample. A TruScent sample is 6 to 10 cents, versus vials which can cost up to 25 cents, according to Jacobs.
* It has a two-year shelf life.
* It is biodegradable.
* The capsule can be stamped into distinctive shapes--such as that of a perfume bottle --and sealed in a packet that features brand image.
"In the May issue of Flare, there were 19 perfume ads, including seven scented strips," Curtis said. "But we stood out."
Early results from a study commissioned by Scherer and being conducted by Perspective Resources of White Plains, N.Y., appeared to back her assertion. According to Ira Weinstein, president of the market research company, 76 percent of the 175 women randomly picked by computer from Flare's subscription list recalled the Oscar ad.
Moreover, 92 percent of them said they "would be more influenced to make a purchase as a result of the Oscar-type sample."
Jacobs is also working to introduce twist-off soft gel capsules to the hair market with products for brands including Infusium 23, Zotos International, Redmond, Redken and Todd Christopher.
In addition, he is working with a major manufacturer on a skin care product employing soft-gel technology to launch in August.

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