NEW YORK — The four years that it took to develop Clinique’s latest fragrance proves that simple doesn’t mean easy.

The new scent, dubbed Simply, may have what sounds like a straightforward mix, but "it’s actually quite complex," noted Raymond Matts, vice president of corporate fragrance development worldwide for the Estée Lauder Cos.

There’s a big reason for the close attention to detail: Matts’ goal to reinvent the Oriental category. "The Oriental category doesn’t do extremely well in the U.S. at the moment," Matts said, "but I think there’s a tremendous opportunity looming." He’s out to lead the charge for change by shaking up the notes involved in the definition of Oriental.

"Generally, you hear the word ‘Oriental’ and think of vanilla, sandalwood and amber," said Matts. "My goal was to impart the feelings offered with these notes — the brightness, comfort, mysteriousness — without using any of the usual notes."

In fact, the key notes in the scent were largely inspired "by the sweet, creamy scent of newborn babies," said Matts, who got the idea shortly after his first child was born. The initial impression is of wet, green, floral notes, which blends into the scent’s signature middle note of creamy soy milk. The final impression is of smoky, toasted soy nuts. While it may sound like a simple blend, Matts pointed out that simply blending the soy milk and soy nut notes to the proper proportions took close to a year. Matts worked closely with Symrise to create the juice.

The scent is different in another way: it’s the first in the Clinique fragrance portfolio to target thirtysomething women, said Agnes Landau, vice president of global fragrance marketing for Clinique. "Simply adds a new dimension to our fragrance family," noted Landau, who said the brand’s other scents target different demographics. Happy, a citrus floral, is targeted at twentysomethings and Aromatics Elixir, a woody chypre, is designed to appeal to fortysomething consumers.

Simply’s cylindrical glass bottle, reminiscent of seaglass, was designed in-house, noted Jane Mauksch, senior vice president and creative director worldwide for Clinique. The name is printed on the bottle in copper and the outer box is also copper-hued.The fragrance launches in September in Clinique’s full U.S. distribution of about 2,300 department and specialty store doors. It will launch in October in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Latin America, Russia, the Middle East and travel retail. Ancillaries are planned for spring 2004 in the U.S.

While none of the executives would comment on projected first-year sales, industry sources estimated that the fragrance would generate upwards of $30 million at retail in its first year on-counter in the U.S.

National advertising will break in October fashion, beauty and lifestyle magazines, including Allure, Vogue, Vanity Fair, Glamour, Jane and Elle. The ads will include more than 35 million scented strips. While none of the executives would comment on the projected advertising spending, industry sources pegged the number at about $5 million.

Sampling is intended to be a large part of the campaign. The effort will include more than 2.4 million LiquaTouch samples; 700,000 bookmark-shaped vials on cards; 200,000 deluxe samples and an additional 200,000 samples intended to be packaged in an August gift-with-purchase. As well, the launch will be supported with an at-counter fall event, in-store displays and a launch unit, noted Sharon Klein, global marketing director, fragrance for Clinique.

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