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Health, Beauty & Fashion

Dollars and scents of celebs

'Mmm, you smell sweet like Taylor Swift' could be a pick-up line as people buy celebrity perfumes, but A-list status does not guarantee roaring sales
The Straits Times - May 14, 2012
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Dollars and scents of celebs Rihanna promoting her fragrance, Reb'l Fleur. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

New York - To witness the odd power of celebrities at the fragrance counter, look no further than two of today's top women's perfume stars: One is a teenage boy. The other, deceased.

Justin Bieber's women's perfume Someday is one of the top sellers in department and speciality stores, and White Diamonds, the scent launched 20 years ago by the late Elizabeth Taylor, tops in big box stores.

But for every Bieber, there seems like there is an A-lister who fails to garner buzz when it comes to fragrance. Jennifer Aniston, anyone?

The most successful celebrities to splash their name across a fragrance bottle speak typically to a niche audience - often older or younger consumers. 'The ones that do well have a strong following with a strong core audience,' says Ms Karen Grant, beauty industry analyst at market research firm The NPD Group.

'Liz Taylor has almost a cult following. Bieber is the same thing, he's all about tweens and the moms getting it for the tweens.'

Celebrity fragrances also are particularly 'giftable' items, she says, because if the receiver is a fan, you are going to get the 'ooh', at least when he or she opens the box.

Bieber's perfume was a bona fide hit and briefly bumped perennial favourites Chanel No. 5 and Coco Mademoiselle off the top sales spots last year.

Later this month, he will be honoured with the Elizabeth Taylor Fragrance Celebrity award from the Fragrance Foundation.

With Taylor Swift and her perfume Wonderstruck, the two young stars revitalised the celebrity fragrance business, up 57 per cent in sales in 2011.

One of the big new launches this spring is Madonna's Truth Or Dare, and Rihanna's Reb'l Fleur has been a strong performer, too.

The successes, say experts, combine celebrity involvement, personal appeal, lively fans and a good 'juice', industry lingo for the actual smell.

Mr Rafael Villoldo, vice-president of Perfumania, which has deals with Rihanna, 50 Cent and Kim Kardashian, says the celebrity has to buy into the product wholeheartedly.

Next, he thinks about potential customers and distribution, and he will check out how active the celebrity is on social media.

'Look at the Kardashians. They don't sing, dance or act, other that the reality show, but you look at Kim and she has 15 million Twitter followers,' he says. 'If I put on a hat that we think looks funny, it's a funny-looking hat, but she'll have 15 million people considering wearing that hat - that's power.'

The Paris Hilton line has had unexpected longevity but Hilton has proven a tireless promoter, says Mr Villoldo, who typically hopes for a five-year run with a celebrity.

A star with a story to tell through fragrance has a better shot, says Ms Betsy Olum, general manager of beauty and merchandising strategy at HSN.

Does the bottle design reflect the celebrity's look? Is there a scent note that has a special meaning? Consumers want to know and they will be able to pick out - or sniff out - the bottles that just slapped a boldfaced name on the front, she says.

On TV, Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Lopez and Eva Longoria all connect with home shoppers in a way that a glitzy ad cannot convey, Ms Olum says.

'When Jennifer Lopez's mom came on with her and then her sister texted in, even I wanted to buy the fragrance - and I did,' she adds.

Men take a slightly different approach in their celebrity fragrances than women, however, says Ms Grant. They buy more into image, using Sean 'Diddy' Combs' Unforgivable and Usher's namesake cologne as examples of scents with the 'sexy, bad-boy vibe'.

Associated Press

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CELEBRITY PERFUME BEST-SELLERS

Mass market (first quarter 2012)

Women's: White Diamonds by Elizabeth Taylor, Reveal by Halle Berry, Fantasy by Britney Spears

Men's: Unforgivable by Sean 'Diddy' Combs, He by Usher, Soul 2 Soul by Tim McGraw

Prestige market (year-end 2011)

Women's: Justin Bieber Someday, Wonderstruck by Taylor Swift, Reb'l Fleur by Rihanna

Men's: Unforgivable, I Am King by Comb's Sean John brand, Usher VIP

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