YSL HOPES TO REVIVE THE BUBBLY

Byline: Alicia Drake

PARIS--Yves Saint Laurent Parfums is aiming to put the fizz back into the fragrance formerly known as Champagne.
The company is moving ahead with its plan to rechristen and relaunch the scent under the name Yvresse on Oct. 21. The unusual challenge it now faces is how to communicate the change to consumers, while reassuring them that the fragrance remains the same. The product has been sold without a name for over two years in France and Switzerland and more recently in Germany. The name change will roll out first in France, before reaching the rest of Europe over a year, starting in January.
The company is also closing the book on the bitter legal dispute it had with French champagne growers in 1994, which ended with YSL agreeing to drop the name Champagne immediately in France and withdraw it worldwide by the end of 1998.
"This rebirth marks the end of the legal problems," said Francoise Mariez, marketing director for YSL women's fragrances.
The promotional campaign for Yvresse--a play on the designer's first name and the French word ivresse, which means intoxication or rapture--will focus on the original concept of celebration. New imagery has been shot by Ellen von Unwerth, and a new logo--Parfum de Fete--will be placed on the packaging and on the advertising. The bottle remains the same.
Sales have not lived up to the 1993 launch objectives of $100 million. Worldwide wholesale volume was $48 million (250 million francs) last year, with sales in France dropping as much as 20 percent.
"We were handicapped by having no name in our major market--France," said Mariez. "The situation since its launch has been so unusual, you cannot call the fragrance a success or failure, as we don't yet know how it will behave in normal market conditions." The company predicts the relaunch will produce sales for Yvresse of just under $58 million (300 million francs) next year.
As of yet, there are no plans to relaunch in the U.S., where the fragrance will be sold under the Champagne name through the end of 1998. "Normally, we'd want a worldwide image, but we invested a lot in the launch and we want to take advantage of that," said Donald Loftus, president of Sanofi Beaute Inc., the U.S. subsidiary. "We're hoping that by the time we have to change, the name Yvresse will be well known."
In addition, he pointed out, the new name's pun is lost on English speakers.
Meanwhile, the new print campaign will break in France on Oct. 21 in Elle and Femme Actuelle, in Belgium in November magazines. In addition, one million phone cards with Yvresse advertising will be distributed, and the company will undertake direct mail and sampling campaigns.
While executives would not reveal specific figures, spending will be substantially lower than the massive $18.5 million advertising and promotional budget for the first launch, which included television spots.

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