Say Hello to Abboud, the Lifestyle

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Marty staff wants you to think of Joseph Abboud when you go to the bathroom.

It sounds like a strange ambition, not least given that Abboud is a clothes brand. Yet Mr. Staff, president-CEO of the brand's owner, JA Apparel, intends to reinvigorate the men's suit and sportswear name by putting it everywhere, including men's fragrances and, yes, even the faucet in the loo.

The ambitious five-year plan (which doubles as a promise to his private-equity-firm partner, J.W. Childs) to turn the somewhat dormant brand into the style authority began when Mr. Staff bought Abboud in 2004. He intends for Joseph Abboud to be a megabrand ... la Ralph Lauren or Calvin Klein, the lifestyle giants Mr. Staff learned from during his early days in the business. And it'll get there fast, he said, rapidly expanding beyond what he claimed will be a $405 million retail business this year (up from $220 million in 2004). "That's why I have to have a 'take-no-prisoners' approach," Mr. Staff said.

To that end, Mr. Staff has teamed with KraftWorks NYC President-CEO Neil Kraft-the creative force behind hit campaigns for Calvin (where he first met Mr. Staff), J. Crew and others-to develop a slew of marketing initiatives for the fall. He is spending around $11 million on campaigns such as a "Style Tips" ad effort for the base Joseph Abboud line and a Jeans by Joseph Abboud extension; a viral effort for a younger-skewing Joe by Joseph Abboud line; ads for a Joseph Abboud boys' line; and an expanded home-furnishings line.

Further out, Mr. Staff has lined up a men's fragrance launch for fall of '07 (the working title for the brand is "Confidence") and licensing deals to renew the now-defunct Joseph Abboud women's apparel line for fall '07 as well, to be followed quickly by handbags, hosiery and fragrances and, of course, retail stores and overseas expansion.

All of this will be done without the help of the actual Joseph Abboud, the Lebanese designer who worked alongside Mr. Staff at Ralph Lauren in the '80s before starting his own label in 1987. Mr. Abboud and Mr. Staff parted ways last year, but that should not be a barrier to success, according to NPD chief industry analyst Marshal Cohen. "The [Joseph Abboud] name as a brand has greater merit than the designer," Mr. Cohen said.

According to Mr. Cohen, Joseph Abboud had its heyday in the late '90s. It differentiated itself with great fabrics and color combinations, a heritage, he said, that "Marty really understands." With the trend toward casual fashion, the stylish brand slipped out of vogue and has been stagnant ever since.

With some perceiving a trendsetters backlash against the casual revolution, Mr. Staff wants to "exploit a good name," one research shows consumers perceive as a well-kept secret and and that doesn't carry the baggage of other brands, such as too-wide availability or inconsistent quality.

Mr. Staff first attempted to jolt the brand in '04 with a campaign by DiMassimo Brand Advertising, New York, featuring New York Knicks star Stephon Marbury. It created buzz, but in hindsight was "off-base for the brand," a stylish but not trendy, unpretentious label sold at the likes of Neiman-Marcus and Nordstrom.

The new print, outdoor and internet campaign for Joseph Abboud features a handsome gent of uncertain age to appeal to the whole of the base brand's 35-to-54 target. But it also features "style tips" such as: "The rock-star look only works for rock stars." For the Joe by Joseph Abboud line, a less-expensive label, efforts will skip typical print media in exchange for a web-driven viral effort.

As if all this wasn't enough, Mr. Staff is already throwing out possible names for the extension of the Joseph Abboud brand into the fast-growing mass channel. Joey? JA? Whatever the name, he said, "eventually, we'll be there."
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