How Coty Made U.K. Girls Wild for a Japanese Craze

Gwen Stefani's Harajuku Lovers

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On a visit to Tokyo in 1996, a trip around the city's fashionable Harajuku district inspired Gwen Stefani to bring the Harajuku essence of super-kawaii (super-cute) to her music, and later her fashion and fragrance lines.

Although the pop singer and her Japanese back-up dancers popularized the aesthetic around the world, it still took some marketing savvy for Coty Inc. to make her new line of "Harajuku Lovers" fragrances, each partnered with a super-kawaii doll, a rage in the United Kingdom. Coty wanted teenage girls to collect all five variants.

To meet its goal, the fragrance company developed an online fan base of influential teens that seeded the craze in appropriate digital platforms. Online treasure hunts helped girls explore the world of Harajuku in their bid to win £1,000 ($1,524) shopping prizes. Cryptic clues guided girls in the search for five dolls, each holding a unique code, that were hidden across targeted websites; once girls had discovered all five codes, they uploaded them to the Harajuku Lovers site for a chance to win.

Additional in-store activity, such as karaoke video booths, generated further excitement. Videos were automatically posted to the Harajuku Lovers site for others to watch and comment on. Harajuku Lovers stayed at the top of the sales rankings for five months.

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