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Acqua di Parma Eyes U.S., Taps Will Chalker for New Marketing Approach

The brand embodies "the Italian way of life" in its new campaign.

Acqua di Parma is unleashing a digital heavy marketing campaign and fresh new scent to appeal to a younger audience — and one that is more U.S. based.

The LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned brand’s revamped global communications and marketing strategy will roll out in tandem with fragrance Colonia Pura, which hits counters in September. Will Chalker, the former construction worker turned model who shot to fame after becoming a favorite of Karl Lagerfeld, will appear with his family in Acqua di Parma’s ad campaign.

“We’re communicating through a platform that is much more digital than before…but the main change isn’t about the media, it’s the way we’re going to communicate,” said Laura Burdese, chief executive officer and president of Acqua di Parma, noting that to date, all brand communication was product oriented.

“There were no people or emotional links or bonding,” Burdese said of the shift, which is now centered on illustrating the “Italian way of life” and a modern take on the brand’s Italian heritage.

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To depict this, ad imagery features a combination of Chalker, Chalker and his wife and son and Chalker and his son to create an “emotional link” with consumers that encourages feelings of “bonding with the people around you.”

Burdese told WWD that two-prong communication strategy is under way, designed to target the European and U.S. markets, respectively. The campaign kicks off in Europe in early September to coincide with product’s rollout in stores, with 60 percent of spend dedicated to digital, 30 percent to print and 10 percent to out of home. For North America, an entirely digital and social campaign will roll out the end of September through early October.

Will Chalker is the new face of Acqua di Parma.
Will Chalker is the new face of Acqua di Parma.

While Burdese notes that Colonia Pura is unisex — the business today is 60 percent men’s and 40 percent women’s with the majority of fragrances billed as “unisex” — the main group Acqua di Parma wants to reach in the U.S. is the men who comprise the HENRY — high earning, not rich yet — demographic. To do this, Burdese said the brand is using marketing to be wherever this customer is, which is online and watching less TV than ever.

“The U.S. market is our main priority.…The main challenge we have faced over the last month was to see how we can tweak our brand equity to see how we can be successful in the States — at the same time being loyal to our heritage.”

An industry source projected that Acqua di Parma will do about $100 million in global sales this year. Currently, the U.S. comprises just 10 percent of overall retail sales, and Raffaele Martino, president of the Americas at Acqua di Parma, said doubling that business is the goal in the near term. He estimated the region could soon drive 30 percent of the business, and with the brand growing double digits globally, the U.S. should be a $50 million business in five years’ time.

With a global door count of 2,000 — 200 of which are in the U.S. and Canada — the brand isn’t looking to add many doors its distribution. Instead, increasing its presence in existing department stores within U.S. and Canada is a priority, Martino said, adding that there are plans to build a presence where the brand “under-penetrated” in cities such as Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Nashville; Minneapolis; Indianapolis; Portland, Ore., and Charleston, S.C.

The brand — which operates five freestanding doors in Miami, Milan, Rome, Paris and Shanghai — has a portfolio of 33 fragrances spanning six franchises: Colonia, Blu Mediterraneo, Ingredients Collection, Le Nobili, Profumo, Acque Nobili and Note di Colonia, as well as a shaving and men’s skin-care collection “Collezione Barbiere.”

Last year, Acqua di Parma celebrated its 100th anniversary with a two-day event in Parma, launched its highest priced and sixth fragrance franchise to date, Note di Colonia, which will see the addition of a fourth scent later this year. The brand also opened its first store U.S. store in Miami, which is performing double digits higher than original projections and has led Burdese to evaluate additional U.S. doors in New York or Los Angeles. (She hinted at a store opening in New York City in 2018.)

“The brand is, by design, a male brand and was born as a male brand by a man…[but it became] clear that the brand wasn’t only for men. It was meant to be for men at the beginning, but it was appealing to women,” Burdese said.”[Acqua di Parma] started to develop a lot of fragrances with a strong genderless approach, even when the word genderless wasn’t really used. Colonia Pura is a kind of genderless fragrance — it’s light and fresh.”