FCUK abandons abbreviation to get perfume back in stores

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Zirh International, marketer of the controversial FCUK Him and FCUK Her fragrances, is re-labeling the brand French Connection United Kingdom for U.S. department stores in a move that apparently has gotten the brand back onto shelves of the nation's largest department-store retailer.

The re-labeling applies only to U.S. department stores, said Stacy Gubinski, spokeswoman for Zirh, a unit of Shiseido International Corp., in an e-mail. The fragrance brand will continue to be available under the original FCUK name online and in U.S. specialty stores of the same name operated by British retailer and apparel marketer French Connection, from which Zirh licenses the brand.

The $10 million U.S. ad campaign for the brand will remain on hold until next year.

"We will begin advertising the product again next year," Ms. Gubinski said. "However, we are currently discussing the campaign with all parties involved." Omnicom Group's TBWA Worldwide, London, handles the brand both for Zirh and French Connection.

Federated Department Stores, owner of the Bloomingdales, Macy's and Burdines chains, yanked the fragrance brand from stores in October following complaints from customers and organized opposition from such groups as the American Family Association and Catholic Parents Online. As of last week, Ms. Gubinski said Federated had agreed to put the re-labeled fragrance into its stores.

Carole Sanger, VP-communications, Federated, said she was not aware of any plans to bring the fragrance back, but said the chain's original decision affected only fragrance and other merchandise bearing the FCUK acronym. "We have been speaking to [French Connection and Zirh] about using more appropriate logos," she said.

Target Corp.'s Marshall Field's and May Department Stores Co. also scaled back in-store promotion of the brand under pressure from the groups. Two teen magazines also stopped taking suggestive ads bearing the tagline "Scent to Bed" for the fragrance, which Zirh said were placed mistakenly, and the company ultimately pulled the plug on U.S. ads in favor of in-store marketing as it weighed its options. (AA, Oct. 13)

The fragrance will continue to bear the FCUK name in such markets as New Zealand and South Africa, where "reaction to the fragrance has been excellent and controversy has been negligible or nonexistent," Ms. Gubinski said.

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