By and  on January 7, 2011

MILAN — There is no mystery about Gucci’s last fragrance launch, Gucci Guilty, the women’s scent that licensee Procter & Gamble Co. introduced in August and backed with a battery of cutting-edge Internet-driven marketing tactics. Industry sources estimate that the launch doubled company expectations by generating a total of $200 million in retail sales globally, and now P&G aims to maintain that sizable momentum with the introduction this spring of a men’s version, Gucci Guilty Pour Homme.

So much so that sources indicate that the sights have been raised to $250 million in retail sales for the first-year global goal of the upcoming men’s fragrance.

Luigi Feola, vice president of Procter & Gamble Prestige, said in a recent interview in Geneva, “We’re not just interested in a bombastic year one and then moving on to the next thing. Our strategy is to sustain our big initiatives. We have a sustainable plan and a detailed vision of the next 24 months on a quarter-by-quarter basis.”

The new male counterpart is set to roll out in March, and it is designed to put the Gucci Guilty signature on the elusive social-networking consumer, a much-sought-after and slippery target that the industry hopes can help revive its waning appeal.

Aside from a large dose of bravado, luxury fragrance launches now require an innovation injection to market new juices. “It is absolutely true to say that the fragrance category has become ever more competitive and therefore somewhat saturated,” said Patrizio di Marco, Gucci’s chief executive officer. “This puts an even greater premium on the value of Gucci’s brand status and recognition.”

The women’s Guilty emphasized youth-focused digital marketing and an edgy 3-D film. Sara Stern, director of beauty for the U.K’s Debenhams department store, observed, “Gucci Guilty really tapped into the younger end of the market through its launch media campaign. By making an event of the advertisement itself, it was able to bring many firsts to the market. It was the first 3-D ad — fronted by Evan Rachel Wood with on-trend references to superheroes and vampires — and it was the first fragrance house to air on Facebook before the traditional media, building fans for the fragrance before it was even launched.”

Social media, including Facebook and YouTube, harnessed Gucci’s existing online fan base to promote luxury fashion alongside the sassy new scent. From July to November, 146,860 requests for Guilty samples were recorded on Gucci’s Facebook page via a dedicated Guilty tab. A viral campaign also bolstered Gucci’s fan base, which currently stands at almost 3.5 million followers.

“Given the demographic target for the Gucci Guilty fragrance, we decided that digital should play a central role in the launch strategy,” di Marco said. “This was a first for Gucci, and I think also a first for the luxury fragrance sector.”

Di Marco ticked off the key elements of how Guilty was developed, starting with Gucci designer Frida Giannini’s conceiving of the 3-D advertising campaign with the help of Hollywood director Frank Miller. The reliance on digital marketing was seen in every aspect of the launch, right down to iPad press kits, blogger seeding, an exclusive YouTube director’s cut trailer, a dedicated Facebook tab, tailored e-cards, special content for the Gucci App, and partnerships and a significant SEM (search engine marketing) and online advertising investment. “The results have been outstanding,” di Marco asserted.

Important for retailers, Guilty’s viral phenomenon online appears to have boosted off-line sales. “Gucci Guilty has all of the right ingredients — slick packaging using Gucci’s interlocking Gs, a very commercial and on-trend juice and a powerful marketing campaign,” said Annalise Quest, general merchandise manager for beauty at Harrods. “The customer is buying into the lifestyle and designs of Frida Giannini, and the marketing campaign behind Gucci [Guilty] is integral in bringing that lifestyle to life.” Daniela Guardigli, product manager for Douglas, added, “The significant media campaign that P&G has activated drove sales.”

Tracy Van Heusden, senior beauty buyer at the U.K.’s House of Fraser department store chain said, “With regards to digital marketing, we believe this campaign, combined with our customer’s desire for newness, has been translated into sales on the shop floor. In saying that, I also believe that the success of the launch is also due to the fragrance launching in [the fall]. We do see stronger results for fragrance launches in autumn and winter than in spring and summer, perhaps due to the desire for change that accompanies the change in the seasons.”

Spearheading the launch was Gucci’s first foray into 3-D film, a futuristic mini-flick, which featured actress Evan Rachel Wood. The film previewed at the European MTV Awards, as well as on YouTube and Facebook, and went in-store at a selection of key retailers ahead of print ads, which were shot by fashion-photography duo Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott.

Simone Destefanis, director of buying for beauty and cosmetics for Italy’s La Rinascente department store chain, said, “It’s important that brands tell a new story and offer something additional for consumers. I’d like all brands to have a ‘plus’ like Gucci had with their 3-D film. It allowed us to utilize the film and amplify the experience for consumers. An online strategy is fundamental now, too.”

Gucci Guilty took over La Rinascente’s Duomo flagship with a personalized fragrance bar, columns, windows and an in-store area that allowed visitors to watch the scent’s film clip in 3-D.

P&G’s Feola stated: “One of the things we’ll definitely replicate is leveraging the 3-D commercial; in-store, online and at the cinema. There are some TV stations broadcasting in 3-D now, so we’re exploring this as an option as well,” said Feola, referring to the forthcoming Gucci Guilty Pour Homme launch.

Guilty’s male scent is intended to replicate elements of the female version with additional masculine details. “We’ve staggered the launch, but when Frida Giannini designed the fragrance, it was always designed as a brother-sister proposition,” said Feola. To this effect, its distinct olfactory notes blended by P&G’s fragrance-design team in collaboration with Givaudan were intended to have a similar appeal, with top notes of Italian citrus paired with crushed green leaves and sassy bursts of pink pepper. Lavender, an aphrodisiaclike injection of cardamom, orange flower and neroli form its heart, and are anchored by cedar, sandalwood and amber accords.

The scent’s flacon, designed by Giannini, shares the design code of the female bottle, with laser-cut interlocking Gs — a nod to Guccio Gucci’s original logo — providing a window to the purple juice and a metal and anthracite glass combination. “We wanted something uncompromisingly masculine but at the same time linking the initial female proposition,” said Feola.

Evan Rachel Wood created so much buzz in Miller’s original Guilty ads that actor Chris Evans was tapped to co-star with Wood in the latest futuristic installment. The American star — currently shooting the film “Captain America” — plays a rebellious modern-day cowboy that captures the girl — and the scent — only to disappear the morning after a racy night into the modern metropolis. A rendition of Depeche Mode’s “Strangelove” by the British musician Natasha Khan of Bat for Lashes provides a suitably sultry soundtrack.

Given the viral success of the initial women’s Guilty rollout, Feola said the company will continue to run a “supercompetitive” communication campaign in the traditional media. “It’s not so much about a shift in media but putting additional digital reach in to connect with this specific consumer,” said Feola. “In certain countries where digital is more advanced, however, you can rely more on digital and therefore shift some funding,” he added. Di Marco confirmed digital is set to once again play a fundamental part for the men’s launch.

The scent is slated to rollout to about 20,000 doors worldwide in the run-up to Father’s Day. It will debut first in Germany and Italy, followed by other markets including the U.S. in April. In America, Gucci Guilty Pour Homme eau de toilette sprays will be priced at $57 for 50-ml. and $73 for 90-ml. Ancillaries include a 75-ml. aftershave lotion for $40, a 150-ml. shower gel for $33 and a 110-ml. deodorant spray for $27.

Howard Kreitzman, vice president and divisional merchandising manager of cosmetics and fragrances at Bloomingdale’s in New York, said, “The women’s product was very good for us, and there’s no reason we should expect anything different [for the men’s]. I don’t see any reason why it would not rank in the top five.”

As for the future, di Marco said in the four years since it signed a licensing deal with P&G Prestige, Gucci has become one of the fastest-growing fragrance franchises within the luxury sector, a testament to both the strength of the brand and the talents of P&G. As a result, he indicated that Gucci is deep in talks with P&G about renewing the license “with a long-term commitment that will allow us to capitalize on this momentum as we take advantage of the significant growth opportunities that exist within the beauty segment in terms of both geographic and portfolio expansion.”

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