MARKETERS READING TEA LEAVES; COTY, EVAN-PICONE TRY NEW AGE THEMES IN ADVERTISING

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Maybe it's in the stars-or the cards. These days more advertisers let New Age themes guide their marketing choices.

Inspired by trends among consumers-as evidenced by the resurgence of yoga and the popularity of New Age books, including the best seller "The Celestine Prophecy"-many marketers are focusing on the mystical in advertising, packaging and promotions.

When Ithaca Industries' Evan-Picone legwear decided to change its 12-year-old package design this year, Creative Director Carin Ullman used a color-coded numerology system to design the packaging, and included inspirational message cards that flutter out when the package is opened.

"We found that women have a love-hate relationship with their hosiery," Ms. Ullman said. "They love the way it makes them feel, but they hate it when it runs. The challenge was how do we combat that negativity."

In developing the $250,000 print campaign, Ms. Ullman asked women which page in magazines they read first and found out it was the astrology page. So when the in-house-created campaign broke in September issues, ads ran opposite Elle's numerology column and Vogue's horoscope page.

Still, Ms. Ullman said over-selling a New Age message could turn some shoppers off. Other marketing challenges arise in getting consumers to understand such an intangible concept.

"It's a complicated message to communicate," said Mary Manning, VP-market development for Coty, whose ghost myst fragrance was launched last month. "It is more inner directed and it has to get across an inner directed message."

Coty will spend $6 million on the campaign by Bright House, Atlanta. Print ads in October issues of fashion magazines and November network TV spots will stress inner beauty with the tagline "You can't see it, but you know it's there." The fragrance, targeted at women over 28 years old, is packaged so the bottle appears to float in its transparent box.

Increasing self-confidence and belief in inner beauty among women today make them more open to the spirituality theme, said Ms. Manning.

"Aging baby boomers have difficulty identifying with younger models and Generation X has always been about substance above surface," she said. "I think the two different generations are doing the same thing."

Spiritual marketing can be effective outside of inner beauty as well. The Ford Motor Co. hired an astrologer to give a reading for Ford Taurus' "birth date" during a June publicity event.

For the last 25 years Celestial Seasonings has used poetry and painted outdoor scenery on its tea packaging to "deepen [customers'] connections with themselves," said Lindsay Moore, director of creativity.

But while many advertisers say we have entered the permanent era of New Age, Taurus Product Manager John Jelinek cannot foretell the future of spirituality in advertising.

"The jury is still out," Mr. Jelinek said. "It's just one of the many avenues we've chased down."

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