Spritzing fame on pulse points with J.Lo, Trump, Banderas

Fragrance firms bank on consumers' desire to identify with celebrities

October 24, 2004|By Greg Morago | Greg Morago,The Hartford Courant

Elizabeth Taylor, amid heaps of fluttery curtains and gauzy focus, walks up to the handsome gambler and nonchalantly pulls umpteen-carats of ice from her ivory earlobes. Tossing them to the table, she says to the card shark, "These have always brought me luck."

It's one of the fragrance world's most enduring images -- a Hollywood icon and her breathy suggestion of dazzling indulgence. It's what has made Elizabeth Taylor's White Diamonds a fragrance best seller for more than a decade now.

Today, however, you need more than luck to make it in the crowded arena of celebrity fragrance. For every Elizabeth Taylor there's a Cher, whose Uninhibited is among those failed scents littering the perfume graveyard. As celebrity and lifestyle merge ever closer, celebrity fragrance has never been hotter.

Such superstars as Jennifer Lopez and Celine Dion have enjoyed lucrative fragrance launches, spurring the likes of Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson and Beyonce to enter the fray. The growth of the celebrity scents -- a $100 million-a-year business -- within the overall fragrance market is lucrative enough to entice stars one wouldn't normally associate with the musky, woodsy, spicy, citrusy, flowery world of skin spritzers.

Cases in point: billionaire Donald Trump's eponymous scent, which will come on the market in November; and Spirit Antonio Banderas, a new fragrance inspired by the handsome Latin lover that is on store shelves now. On the horizon is a curious entry -- teenage Wimbledon sensation Maria Sharapova's fragrance to be launched next year -- and a wholly logical choice for super-luxurious wafts: Sean "P. Diddy" Combs' highly anticipated fragrance in fall 2005.

"It's a hot, hot, hot thing. Everyone is on the bandwagon in just the last two years -- everybody," says Rochelle Bloom, president of the nonprofit Fragrance Foundation. "Because sales in the industry have been flat, people have not gone out and bought new fragrances or have been too overwhelmed by the many new fragrances out there. But if there's a personality behind that fragrance, you might just go out and try it. It's 'I want to be like J.Lo so I'm going to buy J.Lo.' The industry recognizes that these celebrities are big draws. People like Beyonce are bringing in a youth market. Nicole Kidman brings someone back into the fold."

Kidman, while she doesn't have her own fragrance, is the much-hyped new face of Chanel No. 5 and is enjoying an advertising campaign for the world's most famous scent that reportedly costs as much as a Hollywood movie. Kidman's association with Chanel, like Charlize Theron's shilling for Dior's J'adore, further infuses the fragrance market with bankable, big-name, boldface juice.

It's heady stuff. And for fragrance lovers, almost impossible to resist.

That might make the new Spirit Antonio Banderas, a men's fragrance launched last month, a winner. Banderas, who has lent his name to other fragrances marketed in Europe and South America, might be just interesting enough a celebrity to make his scent score in the American market.

"Not every celebrity can translate himself or herself into a celebrity fragrance," says Vince Colonna, executive vice present and general manager of Puig Fragrances and Personal Care North America -- the company that is marketing Spirit Antonio Banderas. "The key to a good fragrance is the likability and aspirational component of that particular celebrity."

Puig is confident enough in Spirit that it expects to do $20 million in a year. Not bad for a whiff of citrus, neroli, bergamot, cinnamon bark, sandalwood and vanilla. Most celebrity fragrances, whether purchased in a drugstore or department store, run between $25 and $60 depending on bottle size and concentration; many scent lines also include items such as body wash, lotion, soap and deodorant.

As long as there are people who aspire to be like celebrities and celebrity lifestyles, there will probably be a market for celebrity fragrances, Bloom says.

"It's aspirational. It's about relating to him or her," she says. "It's 'I may not be able to buy the fancy clothes and the jewels, but I can wear that fragrance.' "

In other words, if you can't be like Trump, you can smell like him.

The Hartford Courant is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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