The Player: Hirschler sets out to make Claiborne a fragrance power

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The fragrance world is an ethereal one, based on image and aspiration. But David Hirschler, new VP-marketing at Liz Claiborne Cosmetics, believes some of the analytical principles that worked when he was promoting brands like Colgate toothpaste and Speedstick deodorant can be applied to the flagging fragrance category.

"My hope is to marry the creativity and outstanding imagery of the brand with the discipline and basics of classic brand management," said Mr. Hirschler, who picked up many tips on branding during the 12 years he spent mostly at Colgate-Palmolive Co. and then at Unilever.

His new employer is hopeful, too, that Mr. Hirschler can help bring much-needed growth to the fragrance business, which actually declined last year due in part to the slowdown in traffic through traditional department stores.

"David brings something very different to the company since his background is not typical cosmetics marketing," said Art Spiro, president of Liz Claiborne Cosmetics (who previously held the position of VP-marketing at the company). "He brings a different intelligence and viewpoint to the category, and because we're living in a different world in terms of retailing, we need to be looking at it with a fresh pair of eyes." Claiborne's ads are handled in-house.

Although only on the job since late August, Mr. Hirschler is already "knee-deep" in trying to figure out how to develop consistent packaging and advertising for next year's fragrance launches that fit within his disciplined approach. In order to launch and nurture a brand, he's learned, "everything you do must religiously hold to the brand essence," an essence determined by rigorous research on the product's differentiation in the marketplace, its demographic and psychographic target.

In looking ahead to next year's new-product plans-among them the launch of Curve Crush, a younger, modern version and the first line extension of its leading Curve brand-Mr. Hirschler plans to apply lessons from his previous experiences. At Unilever, for example, Mr. Hirschler spearheaded the successful launch of Mentadent toothbrushes based on the "powerful clean" concept of the original Mentadent toothpaste brand.

`master brand'

"It made me realize that when you have a powerful equity, you can borrow from it, but if it's not a well-defined brand, a secondary or ancillary launch is unlikely to succeed," he said. "It taught me the value of the `master brand' concept."

The new position is not Mr. Hirschler's first foray outside his comfort zone. In 2000, he said, he "caught the Internet bug" and went to work for, a seller of Internet domain names. But after a few years working mostly on business-to-business direct marketing, he was eager to get back to consumer marketing.

"At Liz Claiborne, there are great brands and it's a great category, but Art felt that the company had been doing the same things year in and year out, and that he needed to modify the way we did business," Mr. Hirschler said. His next challenge is to make Liz Claiborne a key player alongside rivals such as Estee Lauder and L'Oreal.

Fast Facts

Name: David Hirschler

Age: 41

Now: VP-marketing, Liz Claiborne Cosmetics

Challenge: To invigorate growth and drive and stimulate demand for products to grow profitably.

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