PARIS--"Just because we ride motorcycles doesn't mean we don't wash." So pronounced Francoise Cauwet as she wheeled her black, 20-year-old Electra Glide into place alongside 600 other Harleys at an American-style barbecue here last Saturday that was preceded by an hour-long, police-escorted motorcade through Paris. Francoise Cauwet is a HOG, a member of Harley Owners Group, and she was at an event hosted by L'Oreal to celebrate its new licensing deal with the Milwaukee-based motorcycle manufacturer. The beauty giant couldn't agree more with her comment about the grooming habits of bikers. Why shouldn't Harley owners--and consumers who identify with them--have their own set of products? So L'Oreal will roar into the French market next week with a six-item fragrance line called Legendary Harley-Davidson and company executives are calling it their most important men's launch in Europe this year. In addition, of course, L'Oreal hopes Harley will appeal even to men who have never had anything more exciting than a Schwinn between their legs. If all goes well, Legendary will be rolled out next year to more markets, including the U.S. In France, the company is aiming for $19 million (100 million francs) in sales by the end of 1995, said Alain Ducasse, managing director of Gemey, a L'Oreal mass-market division overseeing the launch. Besides the broad brand name recognition that Harley-Davidson enjoys--it is recognized by 89 percent of men and 68 percent of women in France, according to an independent 1993 survey--and the marketing potential that creates, there are other interesting aspects to the project. The launch challenges the traditional distribution system for men's lines in which products are usually introduced into either mass market outlets or prestige doors. Legendary will be sold in both classes of trade, including 1,000 prestige perfumeries and department stores, as well as mass market variety stores and the top 400 hypermarkets. L'Oreal has successfully straddled different distribution channels before, with women's scents such as the Gloria Vanderbilt lines, Oui-Non by Kookai and the Naf Naf scents, but this will be the first time the group has made a major effort to bridge the mass-class divide in the men's category. Patrick Rabain, managing director of the France division of L'Oréal and one of the chief architects of the Harley project, said it is old-fashioned to segment the market into two camps. It is more important, he said, to target all types of stores where potential customers shop. "It's not a debate about mass versus selective. It's a debate about modernity versus how things were done yesterday," Rabain said. At a suggested price of $23 (119 francs) for the 100 ml. eau de toilette spray, the product will be priced above other men's scents at the hypermarket, where the average price is $19 (100 francs). But in perfumeries and department stores, it will be among the lowest-priced items. The deodorant will sell for $6 (31 francs), and the aftershave will be priced at $7.50 (39 francs). "It is not a mass market product," Rabain asserted. "It's a year 2000 product that is not based on elitism, but the quality is as good as any you will find in any prestige brand." For years, L'Oreal has sought to license a name with a strong image that would appeal to a broad group of men. The firm considered sports cars, then set its sights on Harley-Davidson. But Harley executives were gun-shy after surviving a short-lived fragrance deal with a small Swiss manufacturer called Luzar SA in 1988. The company considered the venture a flop, and wasn't about to repeat the mistake. "They really wanted to determine two things about us," Rabain said."Did L'Oreal share basic corporate values such as a flair for design and the ability to carefully manage an image? Second, would our executives invest time personally in the project?" Determined to protect its brand image, Harley-Davidson has been a demanding licensor all along, and Jeffrey L. Bleustein, president and chief operating officer for Harley's motorcycle division, still has the right to nix the U.S.launch. The Milwaukee company even insisted that L'Oreal commission a survey of Harley owners in France and the U.S., asking them if a toiletries line would detract from the macho Harley image. Over 90 percent of the respondents said no. Top L'Oreal executives traveled frequently to Milwaukee to soak up corporate culture there. There was never a question of commitment on the part of Rabain, who carries a photo of his limited-edition Heritage Softail Nostalgia, dubbed "the moo-glide" for its cowhide details. Harley headquarters kept a close watch on product development. "We weren't involved enough the first time around," Bleustein said. The fragrance, developed by Givaudan-Roure's U.S. perfumers, is heavy on masculine musk and woody notes. Bleustein said he is especially pleased with Legendary's packaging, which blends leather with chrome and uses the orange and black Harley logo. The bottle lines are rounded, like the bikes, and the cap--which has an engraved eagle-and-shield insignia--is inspired by the ridges on the motor. In addition, L'Oreal has taken the unusual step of instructing its French sales reps to personally visit eight or 10 perfumeries near their homes to explain the product and the launch. Usually, the sales force limits its calls to chain buyers.
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