Ralph scent targets mall prowlers

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Cosmair wants to move young adults from the food court to the cosmetics counter with the launch of a new Ralph Lauren fragrance.

The scent, Ralph, will reach 1,500 U.S. department stores in September, backed by a marketing effort aimed at 15- to 25-year-old women. Cosmair would not release figures, but the total marketing effort -- including advertising, events and sampling -- is estimated at $18 million.

For Lauren, Ralph is a growth opportunity that doesn't cannibalize its other brands, said Andrea Robinson, general manager worldwide for Ralph Lauren Fragrances. Lauren has been strong among men with its Polo and Polo Sport fragrances, but did not have the same position among women until the 1998 introduction of Romance, she said.

"As marketers, we had to look to diversify the fragrance portfolio . . . It's hard to ignore that [teen] population," Ms. Robinson said.

GROWING DEMOGRAPHIC

The U.S. teen population is the fastest growing demographic segment today, said Doreen Bollhofer, assistant VP-product marketing. Not only are their numbers growing, but teens are also heavy spenders and influence fashion trends, even among 40-year-olds, she said.

"There's a whole world being built to affect this influencer," Ms. Robinson said.

The fragrance itself is a "colorful floral" with citrus, floral and fruit notes meant to appeal to young adults. The line will launch with a full bath line to tap teens' interest in toiletries, even when they don't spritz on cologne. The products include It Rocks bath crystals, You've Got Gel body wash and Goodbye Dry body lotion. Prices will start at $20 for body wash up to $49.50 for eau de toilette spray.

Print ads from Carlson & Partners, New York, will break in the September issue of Vogue and will appear widely in October fashion and teen lifestyle books such as CosmoGirl, Teen People and YM. TV spots will follow on Sept. 17, mainly on cable channels such as MTV, and spot buys on network programs with strong teen appeal. Other plans for the launch are still in development, but may include tie-ins with Apple Corp.'s Macintosh computers and teen-oriented events and entertainment properties.

The campaign will include a strong sampling and events element, meant to drive teen girls from their usual spots in the mall into the department stores. Sampling vehicles will include a scented "snap bracelet" -- a teal blue feathered wristband that coils around the wearer's arm when it's snapped on the wrist -- which will be distributed by street teams outside department stores.

Teens are infamous mall prowlers, but have typically shunned large department stores. A study last year from Teenage Research Unlimited estimated teens visit the mall five times a month on average, but only walk into a department store three times in the same time period.

That would shut prestige marketers out of a market segment that spent nearly $153 billion last year, according to Teenage Research. Cosmair's research found teen girls spend an average of $85 weekly on cosmetics and toiletries.

Cosmair is one of several prestige fragrance marketers vying for teen-agers' attention. Liz Claiborne Cosmetics went the same route last September when it launched Candie's and Candie's for Men, a line of fragrances and toiletries aimed at 12- to 24-year-olds under a licensing agreement with the apparel company. That launch also included non-traditional sampling to drive teens into department stores, including distributing scented temporary tattoos as testers (AA, April 12, 1999).

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