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Beauty Inc Newsletter: Alexandre Choueiri Lays Out His Vision for Ralph Lauren Fragrances

The executive is refreshing Polo Blue, the biggest franchise in the Ralph Lauren portfolio, with a new campaign starring model and ocean conservationist Simon Nessman.

Almost a year after taking the helm as global president of Ralph Lauren Fragrances, Alexandre Choueiri is starting to unroll his vision for the brand, starting with its largest franchise, Polo Blue.

Next week will see the launch of a new campaign for the scent, one that taps into Choueiri’s vision of creating an authentic connection with the brand’s raison d’être, as well as a new flanker, Deep Blue, developed with perfumer Carlos Benaim.

Polo Blue is our iconic business,” said Choueiri. “A very important business for us, and one of our biggest, if not the biggest, brand for us in the market.”

The Polo Blue pillar made its debut in 2003 and is said to account for more than half of Ralph Lauren Fragrances’ sales. According to industry sources, Deep Blue is expected to reach $45 million in retail sales this year, bringing the total Polo Blue business to $140 million globally. Choueiri declined to comment on the figures, but did say his goal is to jump start the division’s growth and internationalize the business.

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It is a role he is familiar with. Before taking on responsibility for Ralph Lauren Fragrances, the 20-year veteran of L’Oréal helped reposition L’Oréal’s designer prestige fragrance business in the U.S., where it is now number one, according to The NPD Group. No surprise that his favorite term is “reinvention.”

“What I love in what we do is you always have to challenge yourself and reinvent yourself. It’s exhausting and exhilarating at the same time,” said Choueiri. “Everybody wants a sense of completion, but in our métier, because it’s luxury and it’s creative, we are always thinking of how we can do things differently.”

That means continually evolving the brand, whether it’s taking a gender-fluid approach or tweaking a bottle design. “This constant creation is always challenging,” she said, “but that is the most exciting part of what we do, because we never get bored.”

Choueiri is also championing face-to-face meetings with customers to discuss fragrances, and he is continually on the lookout for ways to sell the brand. In fact, he and his team hit the stores every Wednesday for a retail check, talking to shoppers, understanding what drives them to buy and how to deliver a more compelling at-counter experience.

“[Consumers] give you the best ideas,” he said. “In the store, you see what it takes to really sell a product. It also teaches you for the next one how to make this experience the best. For me it’s a very important strategic thing to spend time with the people in retail.”

He added that he often times speak to his seatmates on flights about fragrances. “You’re touching your real customer instead of someone telling you a theory,” he said.

“In luxury, you have to watch the tribes to understand them,” he continued. “You cannot understand them through just studies, you have to live with them. You have to have a discussion with plenty of real people. If you have discussions only with business people, you might only see one side of and that’s why I say stay connected.”

Choueiri challenged himself to raise the bar with the new Polo Blue campaign that launches globally with Deep Blue on March 2. The campaign, which was shot in Tahiti, is fronted by Canadian model and ocean conservationist Simon Nessman, and a group of faces that include two-time World Surfing League World Champion Gabriel Medina, underwater photographer Corey Wilson, Hawaiian model and surfer Leila Dee Thomas, and model Nate Gill and his two-year-old son Paxton. Though Nessman is the global face of Polo Blue, Choueiri included a diverse supporting cast in response to today’s consumer who wants to see more than the traditional advertising campaign.

“The new customers really care. They cannot satisfy themselves with just a beautiful ad,” Choueiri said about the casting. “They want to know what’s behind  the scenes, why this person is here, how each person is contributing to the story.”

In the campaign, which will run in print, digital, TV and social media, Nessman, Medina, Thomas and Gill go sailing, diving and swimming in the Tahitian waters and surfing in intimidating, rushing waves that Choueiri admitted worried him during the shoot. The team went to the French Polynesian island to capture the tallest waves on film, and also to accommodate Medina’s training schedule for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic games.

Nessman also partly inspires beach cleaning initiatives that Choueiri is planning to hold with influencers. He added, “Sustainability is a long fight — it’s not one product and it’s a big effort we do at all levels, at both L’Oréal and Ralph Lauren.”

Benaim, the perfumer behind the Polo Blue franchise, including the latest addition, Deep Blue, was also inspired by the sea. The scent, which will sell for $85 for a 75-ml. bottle and $105 for the 120 ml., has notes of crystal fizz combined with mango, cypress accord mixed with sage and deep ocean accord. “When we created Polo Blue, it was inspired by the transparent waters of the Caribbean water,” he said, noting this is a continuation of the olfactive theme, with the twist of adding a tropical island. 

“What we wanted to convey is that energies of the waves, the ocean, the freshness that you can feel near the water,” he continued, “and also the lush forest of the islands, but mainly the waves. The waves to me are fascinating.

“When we tested this fragrance with the consumers, they came back with three colors of blue,” said Benaim, who also created the iconic Polo Green in 1978 “when I was a child,” he quipped.

Choueiri added, “It’s been a long love story.”

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