Friday, May 18, 2007

Paris or Perry? Where Would You Put Your Money?

Say you are trying to build a business selling your own perfume. If you had a choice of a license agreement with Perry Ellis or Paris Hilton, which would you choose?

Is this a no brainer or a question to give us pause? Certainly Paris is currently hotter than Perry. She could be hot for years. But will that translate into perfume sales for Parlux, the holder of her license?

Recently Parlux sold it's very favorable Perry Ellis license to raise money to put behind celebrity fragrances such as its Paris Hilton brand. Ironically, Parlux has earned far more over the years from it's dull, non-celebrity licenses than it has from its celebrities. But certainly having a celebrity name gets you press and into stores.

Would you have made that choice? A clothing brand such as Perry Ellis -- or Guess?, another Parlux license -- is marketed by its owner. The owner works to enhance the value of the brand, regardless of what happens with the fragrance. Yet the sale of the fragrance helps promote the sale of the clothes, and the sale of the clothes helps promote the sale of the fragrance. This mutually supportive relationship helps explain why "designer fragrances" have been so successful over the years. To the consumer, both the clothes and the fragrance are seen as coming from a common source. The advertising of both the designer and the fragrance marketer support this view.

But "celebrity fragrances" have a different dynamic. Can Parlux run cost-effective advertising for its Maria Sharapova or Andy Roddick fragrances in tennis magazines? Can Parlux sell these fragrances at tennis matches? They might have more success with beer and hot dogs. And where do you sell Paris Hilton perfume? Hilton hotels? Parties? In fact, you're more likely to find it in a drug store. And it's hard to imagine Paris Hilton bonding with "her" perfume when she can afford any fragrance she might desire.

As for Parlux, nothing Parlux does to sell Paris Hilton perfume will make much of an impact on Paris Hilton's lifestyle. So the question for Parlux is, is Paris Hilton doing something that will make people seek out and buy "her" perfume? And, if this does happen to be the case, how long will the trend last?

Building A Brand

Regardless of how small your own perfume business may be, two elements can guide you. First, there is a matter of your perfume itself. Connecting with the public is not a one-shot, all-or-nothing proposition. Sometimes it takes a number of tries before you come up with a fragrance that explodes into sales. So you have to keep working at it.

Your second guide element is marketing focus. This is your company and your perfume and, if you are to tie up with a "celebrity," however small, you'll want your celebrity to share your goals for building a brand. You'll want commitment that will make your celebrity's name valuable for years into the future. You'll want a celebrity who WANTS to help sell your fragrance because the income is meaningful to them, even if they just give it away to charity.

In short, you want a celebrity who will become, in a very real sense, your partner in perfume. A famous name unsupported by the enthusiastic cooperation of the famous person is a risky bet for building a perfume brand.