GIVENCHY DOES THE MATH WITH PI
Byline: Janet Ozzard
PARIS — Parfums Givenchy has chosen a name for its new men’s scent that for most people brings to mind high-school math class and Greek fraternities — not fragrance. It’s called Pi — the Greek letter — and the label and advertising carry the symbol ¦.
“It’s very risky,” admitted Alain Lorenzo, president of Parfums Givenchy, during a recent interview at headquarters here. “We’ve chosen a very original route. We’ve taken a risk in the name, in the advertising visuals and arguably, in the fragrance as well.” But the alternative was unappealing, he said.
“Today, when you try to design a fragrance that is 100 percent mainstream, whose juice tests well and has no negative response to the ad visuals, you run a bigger risk,” he said. “Because you don’t stand out in the crowd.”
Pi will be launched in France and several European markets on Oct. 6. Plans call for a U.S. introduction in the first half of 1999, followed by launches in Asia and the Mideast, according to Lorenzo.
While Lorenzo would not comment on a first-year projection, industry sources estimated the scent could do $30 million to $50 million at retail in its first year. He did say that he wants Pi to place in France’s top five ranking of men’s scents — alongside designer brands such Thierry Mugler and Jean Paul Gaultier.
Givenchy, a division of luxury goods giant LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, is still riding high on the success of Organza, the women’s scent launched last year.
Organza grabbed several European FiFi’s this year and will beat its sales target, according to Lorenzo. Industry sources estimated that sales for the scent could hit $75 million wholesale worldwide once it had rolled out to a full distribution.
While Lorenzo would love to have a success of the same magnitude, he knows that a pricy men’s scent with an esoteric name might not be the easiest sell.
“Organza was a big risk in the sense that the previous couple of years had been very much influenced by CK One. When we launched Organza, people said, ‘Are you sure you want to go upmarket?’ On the other hand, the mix was perfectly legitimate in the world of perfumery.”
The new men’s fragrance, he said, “has no reference in the current market.
“The starting point was that we are a French high fashion brand,” said Lorenzo. “Givenchy fashion per se was not the inspiration. But our product, where it is — the look — has to be very upper end.”
And it has to endure, he said. “Organza was a line that was built on an eternal concept — the beauty of women,” said Lorenzo. Translating that idea for men wasn’t easy. “When it comes to eternal features, beauty is not very masculine.”
After some consideration about the state of manhood in the late 20th century — with traditional gender roles in flux and job security waning — Lorenzo decided to “look for a different inspiration, to find a concept of men that gives a positive image.”
That concept is, he said, “the eternal desire to push their understanding of the universe and to better understand the future and the mechanism of nature. What one would call a natural curiosity. It’s a story of men wanting to take risks.”
Lorenzo and Juliette Rapinat-Freudiger, director of marketing for fragrance, said that the name Pi had “the highest level of intrigue” during focus groups. “It was creating questions in people’s minds.”
There will be a full-throttle print and outdoor campaign as well as a major sampling effort. Sources say that the company could spend up to $30 million on advertising in the first year.
Sales associates will be trained to discuss the oddly named fragrance with curious consumers. “If, at the end of the day, the name just triggers a dialog with a salesperson, the onus is on us to train that salesperson,” said Lorenzo.”At least it doesn’t leave you indifferent.”
The three-sided glass bottle was designed by Serge Mansau and Givenchy’s in-house designers. It is heavily frosted and features arc designs and textures.
“We wanted something really carved because it’s an upmarket product,” said Lorenzo.
The fragrance was created by Firmenich. The juice’s top notes are mandarin, rosemary, galbanum and pine, with orange blossom, basil, tarragon, capucine, guaiac wood and iron wood in the heart and vanilla and benzoin in the base.
“We wanted a very sensual fragrance, because the idea could be a bit cold and scientific,” said Lorenzo. “Original juices tend to have more loyalty than juices that are more mainstream.”
Pi comes in 100-ml. and 50-ml. sizes of eau de toilette, priced $40 and $60, respectively, at current exchange rates; an aftershave splash for $40; a $22 deodorant spray, and a 30-ml. eau de parfum spray at $40.
The 30 ml. is “a higher concentration, but also a bit different,” said Rapinat-Freudiger. “It’s more woody, more vetiver and very sensual. We strongly believe it could be loved by women as well as men.”
To communicate the concept of Pi, Rapinat-Freudiger said, Givenchy wanted to show “the ultimate hero.”
“He’s going out into space, looking for a new planet, exploring,” she said of the photo of an astronaut. To shoot the ad, the company borrowed a bona fide Seventies space suit from NASA. The tag line is “A little farther than infinity.”