CLAIBORNE'S CURVE GETS ON THE ROAD

Byline: Soren Larson

NEW YORK--Liz Claiborne Cosmetics thinks it has a new way to drive customers into department stores.
With the September introduction of two new fragrances, Curve for Men and Curve for Women, the company is taking the concept of a launch promotion to a new level: In a sweepstakes, 20 new Chrysler Sebring JXi convertibles will be given away to customers who visit Claiborne counters. "Considering the department store environment, which is pretty crowded, the question was: How do we make an impact?" said Neil Katz, president of Liz Claiborne Cosmetics. Katz acknowledged that the market will be particularly packed this fall, as new fragrance brands are expected from, among others, Elizabeth Arden, Giorgio Beverly Hills, Donna Karan and Christian Dior (see related story, page 7 ).
"Everybody has a new introduction, and we wanted to step out a bit," Katz said.
He added that the department store fragrance business has been in the doldrums, causing retailers and vendors to search for new ways to generate store traffic. "We're out to bring in customers who haven't shopped at or who have stopped shopping at department stores," he asserted.
The introduction also comes at a critical time for Claiborne. Reports have been circulating that Katz and a team of investors are negotiating with the parent company, Liz Claiborne Inc., to buy its fragrance licenses and start a new fragrance firm.
Katz declined to comment on that, but was more talkative on the subject of the new brand, describing Curve as Claiborne's bid for "younger, hipper" fragrance buyers. The concept of having similar brands for men and women, the advertising imagery and the convertible giveaway are all tailored to meet what the company perceived as the interests of youthful consumers.
"We think this will grab the interest of generation x," said Katz, describing that demographic as between the ages of 18 and 32. The idea behind Curve, he said, is the uncertainty of the future and not being able to see around the bend: "It's about exploring uncharted territory in an optimistic way. This is what today's young people are facing."
The company's first fragrance launch, a women's scent called Liz Claiborne, was brought out in 1986 and targeted to a youthful audience. The brand's quirky, triangular packaging was appealing to 17- and 18-year-olds, Katz claimed, and the brand still puts up solid numbers.
Still, he noted, "You can't expect to be as hip after 10 years--it's time for something in tune with the mid-Nineties."
Claiborne and its antecedents, Realities and Vivid, annually rack up wholesale volumes of $25 million apiece, according to industry estimates. Liz Claiborne for Men adds a few more million dollars to the mix.
While Katz declined to give a sales projection, the new Curve products--which will be introduced simultaneously in 2,000 doors--are expected to help push Liz Claiborne Cosmetics well over the $100 million mark this year, according to sources. This would mean a volume of at least $20 million for Curve.
"We want Curve to be in the top five everywhere it goes," Katz said. The expectation is that the women's version will outsell the men's by about two to one, he said.
To support the new brand, $5 million has been budgeted for advertising in the product's first four months--including Claiborne's first TV spots.
The commercial, which features young men and women driving about in a convertible, will start airing in September and run through Christmas.
"We'll be using cable TV and co-op spots to reach the audience we want to reach," said Katz, listing MTV, VH1, E! Entertainment Television and "late-night programming--wherever the kids can be found."
The print campaign, which will be made up of stills from the TV spots, will first appear in September magazines and will run at least through the rest of the year.
The ads will be in the full gamut of fashion magazines, Katz said, along with a range of publications that cater to other interests, among them George, Entertainment Weekly, US, GQ, Road & Track, Car & Driver, Rolling Stone, Premiere and Spin.
As part of the campaign, over 20 million scented strips--which feature both fragrances--will be distributed, Katz noted.
And then there's the car. Katz said he has worked out a deal with Chrysler, which introduced the Sebring JXi model this month, to feature the convertible in the Curve advertising.
In return, 20 cars were donated for the sweepstakes. In each month from September to December, five of the $25,000 convertibles will be given away.
"Since the image of the road is such a big part of both the name of the product and the advertising, this was a natural fit," said Katz.
Prospective participants need only visit a Claiborne store counter to pick up an entry form, which they then mail in. No purchase is necessary.
In addition, Curve will be launched with two gift-with-purchase promotions: a solid perfume on a necklace for women, and a road atlas for men.
Both varieties of Curve will include an extensive line of ancillary items. The women's product range will include two sizes of eau de toilette: a 1.7-oz. spray for $35 and a 3.4-oz. version for $45. Rounding out the collection will be a body lotion, bath and shower gel, body powder, bath salts, soap and massage oil spray.
One size of perfume will be sold: a 0.33-oz. purse spray, shaped like the Curve logo, for $45.
The men's line will include two sizes of cologne: a 2.5-oz. spray for $25 and a 4.2-oz. version for $45. The 4.2-oz. size can be converted to a pour.
The company will also stock an aftershave splash, aftershave moisturizer, shaving gel, hair and body wash, soap, deodorant and--as in the women's line--a massage oil spray, which is described as having youth appeal.
The packaging for the ancillary products is similar in both lines, with reusable tin containers and little exterior packaging.
"You have to be eco-conscious with this crowd," said Art Spiro, vice president of marketing at Claiborne Cosmetics.
The women's line will be colored chiefly in what the company called periwinkle blue, with the men's line in amber and citrine.
While the packaging has similarities, the fragrances themselves are entirely different.
The women's version, created by Givaudan-Roure, is described as a transparent floral. The men's item, created by International Flavors & Fragrances, is described as woodsy and fresh.
"There's a compatibility between the two, but they're different," Spiro noted.
Added Katz: "Liz Claiborne could never be androgynous."

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