MEN’S ACQUA DI GIO IS ARMANI’S NEW HOPE FOR U.S. BLOCKBUSTER

Byline: Jenny B. Fine

NEW YORK — Cosmair has a lot riding on the beefy shoulders of one Larry Scott, the face of the company’s latest effort to solidify its Giorgio Armani fragrance foothold in America.
Scott is the piece de resistance of the ad campaign for the next Giorgio Armani fragrance launch in the U.S. — Acqua di Gio Pour Homme. At stake is a reported $15 million launch budget, a first-year projected retail volume of $30 million and the latest effort to make an Armani launch click in the U.S.
Although the Armani name is a powerful one in fashion — his apparel sales are estimated to be nearing $1 billion at wholesale — sales in the beauty arena have lagged behind expectations.
Most notable was the dismal performance of the women’s scent Gio, which bowed in the U.S. in spring 1993 with a reported $20 million budget, but failed to entice consumers. The fragrance was pulled from its U.S. department and specialty store distribution this year.
The European Designer Fragrances division of Cosmair — the U.S. division of L’Oreal, Armani’s beauty licensee — came off the canvas in 1995 with Acqua di Gio, the follow-up to Gio that turned into a sleeper hit. Now, hopes are high that the momentum will cross into the men’s market with Acqua di Gio Pour Homme, the first Armani men’s fragrance to hit these shores since the 1984 introduction of Armani for Men.
The scent will roll out to about 1,200 department and specialty store doors in August and September, as well as Armani’s seven U.S. boutiques. It launched in Europe last April.
“We have to hit a home run with Acqua di Gio Pour Homme,” said Jack Wiswall, senior vice president of Cosmair Inc. and general manager of European Designer Fragrances. “Fragrances are a casino by nature, but we’ve done our homework on this project and now it’s going to come down to executing it at the store level.”
Cosmair will reportedly spend $15 million on advertising and promotions during Acqua di Gio Pour Homme’s first year, an effort designed to position the scent as the final building block in what executives hope will be a solid beauty foundation for the Armani name.
“We are looking to take this well beyond fragrance,” said Wiswall. “Once the fragrance base is solidified, that opens the door for us to do anything.”
Wiswall said the company now intends to quicken the pace of new introductions, most likely launching a new Armani fragrance sometime next year. He noted that Armani’s various fashion lines — including the high-priced signature apparel line, the more moderate Emporio Armani brand and Armani’s jeans line, A/X — present Cosmair with “a lot of opportunity” when developing new scents.
An Armani color cosmetics line is also on the drawing board — an expensive proposition, Wiswall said, but one Cosmair doesn’t plan to shy away from.
“It is probably three times more expensive to launch color cosmetics than fragrance in the U.S., so the fragrance foundation comes first, because if we do that right, it helps fund future projects,” he said. “It’s a sound strategy, but the price of admission is not for the faint of heart.”
The stepped-up efforts behind the Armani franchise have been long anticipated by retailers.
“Armani is truly one of the great names in design and in retailing today,” said Allen Burke, divisional merchandise manager for Dayton’s, Hudson’s and Marshall Field’s. “Unquestionably, there is enormous potential for an Armani fragrance franchise that is at this point untapped.”
“There is clearly a huge business out there for them and this is a good way to start,” agreed Steve Bock, senior vice president and general merchandise manager in charge of designer clothing and cosmetics for Saks Fifth Avenue. “They have great potential for growth, but have not managed to capture the amount of business one would expect they could capture with the Armani name.
“With the power of the [Cosmair] organization and the power of the Armani name, they can make major inroads,” he continued.
Jane Scott, vice president of fragrances and cosmetics at Bloomingdale’s, said Cosmair’s track record with its Ralph Lauren Fragrances division — which had a volume of $288 million at wholesale in the year ended March 30 — bodes well for the new Armani push.
“Cosmair has a proven track record with its other franchises,” she said. “And Acqua di Gio looks like a home run as far as men’s fragrances go. It’s a beautiful scent, and I like the freshness, the bottle, the concept.”
Cosmair is making its move just when it will face some steep competition at men’s fragrance counters.
Acqua di Gio Pour Homme will be going head-to-head against such heavy-hitting launches as Estee Lauder’s Pleasures for Men, Christian Dior’s Dune Pour Homme and Liz Claiborne’s Claiborne Sport, as well as new men’s scents from Lalique and Hermes. But Cosmair is starting its push early. Spending on advertising and promotion this year for the women’s version of Acqua di Gio is up 26 percent over last year, Wiswall said — which sources estimate would mean a budget of $9 million for 1997.
“This is to set the tone,” Wiswall said, declining to confirm the dollar amount. “We’re ‘preselling’ the market and making sure the name is out there now.”
Wiswall added that he expects to see a sales increase of “at least” 15 percent for the women’s version, which reportedly had a retail volume of between $25 million and $30 million in the U.S. last year. Armani for Men had retail sales of $16 million in 1996.
Inspired by the Mediterranean island of Pantelleria, where Armani maintains a home, Acqua di Gio Pour Homme is being positioned to appeal to 18-to-49-year-old men.
Formulated by Firmenich, the juice opens with marine notes infused with citrus. The middle notes combine persimmon, rosemary and jasmine, with a dry down of Moroccan cedar, patchouli and Mediterranean cistus.
The price points are similar to those of Armani for Men — ranging from $38.50 for a 1.7-oz. eau de toilette spray to $52.50 for a 3.4-oz. version. Ancillary products are priced at $15 for a stick deodorant, $20 for a 5.1-oz. hair and body shampoo and $39.50 for a 3.4-oz. aftershave lotion.
One-page, two-page and four-page print ads are scheduled to break in the September issues of men’s fashion and lifestyle magazines, including GQ, Esquire, Vanity Fair and Men’s Health.
The black and white images — shot by photographer Herb Ritts — include a close-up shot of Scott with his eyes open, a departure from the brand’s European advertising campaign. In that one, he is depicted with his eyes closed — an approach nixed by Wiswall.
“This ad gives us a better synergistic value with the woman’s ad campaign,” he said. “It is emotional and invites you into this world. Sometimes in advertising, everyone wants to be an artiste, but we didn’t want this to look too ethereal.”
To capture attention during the all-important Christmas shopping period, consecutive-page ads with the women’s and men’s campaigns will run in November and December women’s magazines.
Cosmair plans on disseminating over 30 million scented impressions of Acqua di Gio Pour Homme this year — 15 million scented magazine ads and 15 million blow-ins, remittance envelopes and inserts. In addition, the company will hand out one million vial samples and 500,000 mini-samples — both of which will be packaged in a lilliputian carton that is a replica of the full-sized version.

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