MAC’s Scent Trio Readies for Blitz

NEW YORK — MAC is basing its new fragrance trio on vanilla —but this isn’t your mother’s baking extract. <br><br>"Vanilla has been a signature of MAC since the very beginning," said MAC president John Demsey. "It’s been...

NEW YORK — MAC is basing its new fragrance trio on vanilla —but this isn’t your mother’s baking extract.

This story first appeared in the November 1, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“Vanilla has been a signature of MAC since the very beginning,” said MAC president John Demsey. “It’s been in our lipsticks since the start, and it’s part of the DNA of the brand.”

Staying true to the DNA of the brand was also why Demsey chose to launch three fragrances, rather than one — despite a challenging fragrance climate flooded with new product offerings.

“We had a debate about a fragrance strategy for MAC, given our fashion and makeup positioning,” Demsey said. “After we talked it through, we knew that we couldn’t represent our diverse customer base with just one scent. As a team, we came up with the concept for MAC Creations — three fragrances that really capture our mantra: all ages, all sexes, all races.”

The fragrances —?put together by a team that included Demsey; James Gager, senior vice president and creative director for MAC; Jennifer Balbier, senior vice president of corporate product innovation for the Estée Lauder Cos., and Karyn Khoury, senior vice president of corporate fragrance development for the Estée Lauder Cos. — are MV1, which Demsey calls “more of a girly floral,” MV2, which is “more iconic and classic,” and MV3, a “tribal, dark, masculine” scent.

While all three have vanilla as a core element, MV1 also includes notes of bergamot, lilies, white jasmine, vanilla, milk cream, musk and sandalwood; MV2 adds lemon, lavender, vanilla bourbon, vanilla mousse and heliotrope to vanilla, and MV3 mixes vanilla with black plum, bergamot, Tahitian jasmine and tolu balsam wood, sparked with amber crystals, leather, Madagascar vanilla and Indonesian vetiver. While Demsey wouldn’t comment on the fragrance houses that the brand worked with, industry sources indicated that the brand worked with Givaudan and Dragoco on the trio.

Packaging is minimalistic. A signature black band runs across the bottom of each clear glass bottle; the cap colors —?white for MV1, gold for MV2 and black for MV3 — identify each scent.

Creations isn’t the first time that MAC has attempted to do fragrances. The company had dabbled in the category in 1999 with MAC Potions, a limited-edition scented oil collection. Also a trio of scents, the lineup included Hyper Souk, Synthetic Nirvana and Asphalt Flower, with such unusual notes as bay rum, cannabis flower and black violet. Each Potion was sold in a three-vial set retailing for $25 per set, while an amulet designed to hold them retailed for $30. All were developed by perfumers at Quest International. The company discontinued the scents last year.

Demsey is also taking a nontraditional approach to launching these scents. A limited-edition run —?half-ounce bottles retailing for $20 —?will be available for holiday selling in the U.S. only in MAC’s 61 stores. Then, in March 2003, MAC’s full distribution —?401 doors in the U.S, including department and specialty stores and MAC stores; 591 doors worldwide — will roll out the permanent size, 1.7 oz. bottles retailing for $36 each. Demsey wouldn’t comment on projected sales, although industry sources estimated that they would do about $6 million at retail in their first year on counter.

National advertising is not planned, but Demsey is arranging to begin a direct mail and sampling effort in March — about 500,000 samples are planned in the first six months, as are about 1 million direct mail pieces. An ancillary line is also in the works and will likely launch in June or July of 2003.

“If this is successful, it’s now created a mechanism for MAC to be in the fragrance business, so that we can bring out new scents whenever we feel like it,” Demsey said. “It’s a different way of dealing with the fragrance category, with MAC language and MAC vocabulary. It makes sense for us. For instance, we have seasonal color collections every three months. We feel that we have a concept that lends itself to multiple execution against multiple ideas.”

Still, Demsey squashes the notion that MAC is aiming to become a fragrance house. “It’s planned as an accent on a very dynamic color and fashion business. I’m not looking to take away from the premise of color, but MAC customers wear fragrances, so why shouldn’t we sell scent to them?”