NEW YORK — There’s been little drama in mass market fragrances the past five years — except tears shed over dismal sales.
ABC Daytime and Wal-Mart hope to rewrite the script for holiday sales this year, with a groundbreaking marriage between Hollywood’s soap opera culture and the most powerful retailer on earth. It also is one of the most outlandish exercises in product placement.
ABC’s blockbuster soap, “All My Children,” watched by 1.4 million weekly viewers, will team up with Wal-Mart to simultaneously launch a fictional and a reality scent. On TV and at Wal-Mart, the fragrance is called Enchantment and sources think it could conjure up first-year sales of $15 million. It could represent the next episode in mass market fragrances.
The debut of Enchantment represents the confluence of several trends. First, there has been a rush to link licensed fragrance introductions with celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears and Celine Dion. Three stars of the soap will appear in Wal-Mart stores and on in-store merchandising materials.
Then there is the flood of product placements appearing on television that help build instant word of mouth. Oprah gives away Chryslers; the Donald promotes Toys ‘R’ Us. “We think ‘All My Children’ is a natural for fragrances,” said Bruce Gersh, senior vice president of business development at ABC. A fictional cosmetics company has been part of the plot of the soap opera for more than a decade.
The final factor at work is the power of Wal-Mart. By inking an exclusive deal with the nation’s largest and most powerful chain, ABC joins the ranks of other firms using Wal-Mart as a proving ground to establish start-up brands. For Wal-Mart, the exclusive introduction provides shoppers with another reason to select the discounter over the competition. Such proprietary deals are popping up all over the retail landscape, such as BeautyBank’s three launches at Kohl’s or Sonia Kashuk at Target.
But beyond the exclusive angle, succeeding at a respected retail power is the new testing group for manufacturers. Elizabeth Arden turned to Wal-Mart as a test market for its Skin Simple skin care, which, if successful, could eventually roll out to other stores. Coty first launched its color cosmetics, Rimmel, into the U.S. at Wal-Mart. Now it is being extended into 9,000 other retail doors. And Marykateandashley fragrances are now available in other retailers — only after passing sales goals at Wal-Mart.
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Years ago, marketers tested items out in drugstore chains to decide if they were viable and then headed to Wal-Mart. Now the tables are turned.
Success at Wal-Mart can reduce the mammoth budgets that marketers used to pump into new fragrances. Wal-Mart means instant entrée into 3,000 doors. The high price of entering the fragrance world is one factor creating a dearth of new mass market fragrances. If Enchantment ranks high this Yule, it could open the door for more television-inspired debuts. “It is like the Seventies and Eighties again,” said industry consultant Allan Mottus, referring to a spate of launches such as Forever Krystle, based on “Dynasty.”
“Wal-Mart controls about at least one-fourth of the mass market business. If a product isn’t up to selling at Wal-Mart, it probably won’t sell anywhere,” said Mottus.
Wal-Mart has the bragging rights to Enchantment for the launch and through the holiday season. After that, the fragrance will be opened up to other mass merchants.
Wal-Mart jumped on the exclusive, seeing a match between viewers and its shoppers. “We recognize that many of our customers are ‘All My Children’ fans and will be excited to see the product integrated into the storyline,” said Ronnie Hoyt, senior vice president and general merchandise manager for Wal-Mart. Enchantment hits Wal-Mart stores on Sept. 27.
The fragrance is being launched in the storyline of “All My Children,” which has been among the most popular soaps on daytime television since the Seventies, and helped make Susan Lucci a household name.
The actual decisions about packaging and bottle design are mirrored in the storyline. Alicia Minshew, who plays Kendall; Cameron Mathison, who stars as Ryan Lavery, and Rebecca Budig, who is Greenlee du Pres, are committed to appearances to tout the fragrance.
Beyond the marketing hoopla, Debbie Hicks, senior director of marketing of AMC Fragrances, the creator and manufacturer of the scent, said the fragrance was formulated with emerging trends from Europe in mind. It is a Gourmand Oriental, meaning it fuses the current move to heavier scents infused with ingredients such as vanilla, coconut, citrus and amber.
There are three sizes for the launch, a 0.5-oz. bottle for $7.94, a 1-oz. size for $13.63 and a 1.7-oz. version for $21.96. The prices are between knockoffs and designer brands. There also will be gift sets for the holiday with special keepsake items. In addition to celebrities visits, header cards on displays feature the cast of “All My Children.” There will be network, print and outdoor advertising. Wal-Mart also will promote Enchantment in its circulars, according to the company.
This isn’t the first time “All My Children” has been a launchpad for products. “ABC Daytime consistently tries new and innovative programs, such as jewelry sold on HSN, as part of a program called ‘Shop the Soaps,’ which was very successful,” Gersh said. “We’ve had the cosmetic company in the storyline for so long that it made sense to develop this program,” he said, adding that other beauty products are planned.