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Rockin’ Role: Bon Jovi to Front Kenneth Cole Scent

Jon Bon Jovi has five words to say to friend Kenneth Cole regarding his fall projects: I’ll be there for you.

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Jon Bon Jovi has five words to say to friend Kenneth Cole regarding his fall projects: I’ll be there for you.

Bon Jovi is the face for Cole’s newest men’s fragrance, RSVP, and is designing a limited-edition men’s and women’s jacket collection for Cole, both of which will benefit charities that work with the homeless.

“I’ve been the co-owner of an arena football team [Philadelphia Soul] for years, and all of our efforts are based in the community and giving back through a variety of charities,” said Bon Jovi during an interview Tuesday at the ad shoot for RSVP. Through the team, more than $1 million has been given to charities big and small in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. “As the years have gone on, I’ve become more drawn to the cause of homelessness. It doesn’t discriminate — race, color, creed, age. Over the last year, between the band, myself and the team, we’ve built 49 houses thus far through Habitat for Humanity and a Philadelphia-based charity called Project Home.”

Cole also has a long history of championing a variety of charities that aid the homeless, including HELP-USA, a nonprofit organization cofounded by his wife, Maria Cuomo Cole, in 1987. “Jon had this desire to somehow do something with his celebrity and presence onstage that could manifest itself offstage,” said Cole. “He has this personal affinity for outerwear and has a collection of vintage leather jackets that are very rock ’n’ roll. We came up with the idea of launching a few exclusive, signed Jon Bon Jovi jackets that we’d sell for the holiday season, exclusively in our stores and Web site and in Saks Fifth Avenue, with proceeds to benefit the homeless.”

The limited-edition jackets, priced at $795 apiece, will be sold at Kenneth Cole New York retail stores and Saks Fifth Avenue stores beginning in November, with all proceeds benefiting HELP-USA.

“Everything I do is subtle,” joked Bon Jovi, showing off the lining of one of the jackets — a large panel inside showcases his name, although the outside of the jacket is simple and tailored. Turning serious, he said, “I said I would only do this if all of the money is given away. Kenneth’s company has always been socially conscious, so we agreed that 100 percent of the [jacket] proceeds would be given away, and I said, ‘I’m in.’”

At the same time that the jacket discussions arose, Cole was working on RSVP. “We realized that both the fragrance and the jackets were speaking to the same customer — a modern, contemporary guy who has various demands on his time, as we all do — a professional who had a desire to relate to the community. The synergies were very real. It wasn’t just his stage persona, it’s Jon offstage, as well,” Cole said, adding that, as the jacket deal came together, the two decided Bon Jovi would appear in the RSVP ads, making a charity component to the fragrance a natural addition.

“As this initiative continues, we’re going to continue to raise money for these charities,” said Bon Jovi, who, to be sure, isn’t your average heavy-metal, hard-partying rock musician. The New Jersey-based married father of four, whose eponymous group has topped charts for more than two decades, has a long history of charitable involvement, including the Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity, the American Red Cross and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

And, while he is widely thought of as a rocker (he also is credited with the dubious achievement of starting the Eighties hair-band movement) this year Bon Jovi and his group became the first rock band to have a number-one hit on the country charts with “Who Says You Can’t Go Home,” which also features Jennifer Nettles — and addresses the issue of homelessness. “We went to country radio with it, and they really embraced it,” said Bon Jovi. “Nobody really expected it, but then it went to number one.” And they’re not done: Bon Jovi noted that he and the band are at work on an all-country album now. (The self-described workaholic has appeared in 12 films — including “Pay It Forward” — and also guest-starred on “Las Vegas,” “The West Wing,” “Sex and the City” and “Ally McBeal.”)

RSVP, Cole’s eighth fragrance, will be available early next month at Kenneth Cole retail stores and Saks Fifth Avenue. In February, it will enter its full distribution of 2,200 department and specialty store doors. Like the outerwear collection, the fragrance will have a charity platform, said Carlos Timiraos, vice president of global marketing for Kenneth Cole Fragrances. One of the events will be a concert that Bon Jovi is expected to help put together. “The idea is to generate some funding for the homeless initiatives which are so important to this brand,” Timiraos said. “We’re looking at turning marketing on its side, even for events in-store. And Jon has been incredibly generous with his time.”

The fragrance, concocted by Frank Voelkl of Firmenich, has top notes of lavender, grapefruit, pepper and wet grass; a heart of iris, orchid and cedarwood, and a drydown of sandalwood, patchouli, vetiver and soft cashmere. Eaux de toilette in two sizes, 1.7 oz. for $45 and 3.4 oz. for $59, will be offered. Three ancillaries also are planned: a 3.4-oz. aftershave balm, $45; a 3.4-oz. aftershave splash, $45, and a 2.6-oz. deodorant, $16.

Both national print advertising and national TV spots, shot by Peter Lindbergh, are planned for RSVP. TV will begin in February, and national print ads in fashion, beauty, lifestyle and men’s magazines will begin in February issues.

While none of the executives would comment on projected sales or advertising spending, industry sources estimated that RSVP would do upward of $30 million at retail in the U.S. in its first year, with an additional $20 million in retail sales elsewhere in the world. Advertising and promotional spending is expected to top $13 million globally in RSVP’s first year. More than 50 million scented impressions and one million vial-on-card samples are planned.

“The partnership was a perfect fit on many levels,” said Timiraos. ‘‘We really played off the R in RSVP, which is to respond. Like all of Kenneth’s campaigns, there are many layers to the communication — it provokes you to think and to challenge yourself. We are convinced that this will be a top-five brand in the U.S.”

The cognac-shaded fragrance bottle drew its inspiration from a liqueur, Timiraos said, and its embossed cap and neck are in silver tones. But it’s in the outer packaging where the fragrance departs from the norm, he says: Rather than being offered in a traditional cardboard box, RSVP is in a wood box with a slide-off top, with the name and size embossed on the lid.

Coty has held the Kenneth Cole fragrance license since June 2003. Prior to that time, the license was held by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. “At the time we acquired the license, we set forth two goals,” said Catherine Walsh, senior vice president worldwide of American fragrances for Coty Prestige. “We wanted to focus on North America and grow the franchise — specifically, get not one, but two Kenneth Cole male brands in the top 10. That was a strategy we were able to achieve with Black and with Reaction. We feel that our inroads have been made.” In fact, said Walsh, the Kenneth Cole fragrance franchise has had a 53 percent growth, net sales to net sales, since Coty acquired it. It is Coty’s second-largest fashion designer brand, she added.

“The second part of our strategy has been to look outside of North America,” said Walsh, noting that the brand has untapped global potential. “In fall 2005, in Germany, was our first big venture [Black and Black for Her were launched, both landing in the top 10 in Germany]. We partnered with Douglas. It was a way for us to build the Kenneth Cole name throughout Germany on a national level.” The retailer also added strength in Switzerland, Italy and Austria, Walsh added.

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