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Brut Re-created by Helen of Troy

NEW YORK — Brut, a name that has endured within the fragrance industry for decades, is being reinvented.

First launched in department stores 41 years ago as Brut by Faberge — then as Brut 33 at mass in the late Sixties —...

NEW YORK — Brut, a name that has endured within the fragrance industry for decades, is being reinvented.

First launched in department stores 41 years ago as Brut by Faberge — then as Brut 33 at mass in the late Sixties — what’s now simply called Brut has been retooled and infused with a new look, new products and some serious marketing muscle.

Helen of Troy, the $475 million appliance and personal care firm, acquired the rights for Brut in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico for $55 million from Unilever in fall 2003. The brand is now part of Idelle Labs, which is Helen of Troy’s three-year-old skin and hair care division.

Brut’s past marketing efforts have aligned the likes of Mickey Mantle, Mohammed Ali, Joe Namath and Troy Aikman with the brand. Today, Helen of Troy’s plan to resurrect Brut includes an alliance with the National Hot Rod Association and a sponsorship of drag racer Ron Capps.

A relaunch of Brut is expected to be completed at mass by the end of this month. In addition to making subtle design changes to Brut’s medallion logo, Idelle has introduced the brand’s first shaving products. Brut’s new Shave Gel for Sensitive Skin boasts vitamin E and its Shave Gel for Normal Skin includes shea butter. Each is priced at $3.29 for 7 oz. An 11-oz. Balancing Shave Cream, priced at $1.99, also uses vitamin E. Moisturizing After Shave Balm, which features shea butter, is priced at $5.99. These four items, all aloe-based, join Brut’s existing products: a cologne, an aftershave splash, a deodorant and an antiperspirant.

All told, the venture could drive a 30 percent rise in sales this year for Brut, which does an estimated $75 million in retail sales volume in the Americas, according to industry sources, 67 percent of which is generated in the U.S.

Marc Broccoli, director of men’s category marketing at Idelle, called the Brut initiative a “skin care approach.” He added, “We are capitalizing on the male skin care trends going on today. Men are more attuned to not only protecting [their skin] but also preserving their appearance.”

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Plus, “you’re seeing a proliferation of stockkeeping units coming out into the men’s category.”

Indeed, the Brut relaunch stands to further heighten competition within the men’s category at mass. L’Oréal Paris just unveiled a men’s grooming and anti-aging line, while Nivea for Men recently introduced new treatment products. Last year, Gillette launched the men’s skin care line Complete. That’s not to mention the existing Neutrogena Men collection, product launches in the past year by brands such as Old Spice and current and future introductions by the likes of Axe and King of Shaves.

With $10.5 million in sales last year, excluding Wal-Mart, Brut was the number-three brand behind Axe ($60 million) and Old Spice ($17.8 million) in the men’s shaving lotion, cologne and talc category, according to Information Resources Inc.

As part of a marketing campaign beginning this month and running through yearend, Brut will sponsor the Dodge Stratus funny car driven by Capps. The NHRA drag racing season began in February and the green Brut car is among the newest on the circuit. While Brut is backing Capps himself, the effort also includes a wider sponsorship of the NHRA and visibility at races and related events.

Local radio spots for Brut will be run in markets visited by the racing series.

The effort also will include a “very extensive print campaign,” said Broccoli, featuring an ad that will picture Capps with his son and carry the tag line, “New Generation. Same Values.” — in a way a metaphor for the rebirth of the brand, Broccoli contended. Some single-page ads will feature the Shave Gel for Normal Skin and the Moisturizing After Shave Balm along with Capps’ race car and crew. Visuals will appear in magazines such as People, Sports Illustrated, Car & Driver, Outdoor Life, GQ and Cargo.

Industry sources speculate that the campaign is worth about $20 million.

As Broccoli sees it, Brut is embarking on the next step of “an evolution, not a revolution.” There’s the “potential” for a new Brut scent next year, he noted. While International Flavors & Fragrances is the main supplier of fragrances for the brand, details of any future scents have yet to be determined.

“We have a stewardship of the existing brand,” said Broccoli, to which he wants to remain true. “Brut has a place in men’s grooming and has always had a place there.”