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Christian dior's Mascara Flash was, without a doubt, one of the hottest cosmetics introductions of 1997. Launched in May, Mascara Flash generated such instant hype that retailers ran out of the product, and Dior was forced to cancel a run of fall print advertising.

"It was an incredible success story that surprised everyone," says Caroline Geerlings, senior VP-marketing at Dior.

Mascara Flash allows consumers to streak their hair with color highlights the same way they'd tinker with their lips or eyes.

"It struck a chord with consumers," Ms. Geerlings says. "It gave them an instant fashion accessory and was fun to experiment with. But it was also temporary. If you put it on in the morning and didn't like it, you could take it off that night."

Dior launched the product with print ads in women's service books. The ads, produced in-house by Dior in Paris, showed the top half of a woman's face with her bangs colored in seven different shades of Mascara Flash. Dior also produced an in-store video showing consumers how to apply the product.

In all, Dior spent less than $1 million on the launch, a tiny sum for a prestige cosmetics brand. Mascara Flash returned the investment with estimated retail sales of $7.8 million.

Despite the product's success last year, Ms. Geerlings doesn't expect similar results this year. She's projecting a 50% sales decline, the result of mass marketers entering the category and undercutting Dior on price. It's also a function of fickle consumer behavior.

"It'll be a flash in the pan," Ms. Geerlings says. "Consumers are going to move on to the next big thing. But we've enjoyed the ride while it lasted."

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