P&G Proves Vespasian Wrong

13 November 2007

CINCINATTI: "Money has no smell," responded Roman Emperor Vespasian when criticized for imposing a tax on public urinals.

He was wrong, as Procter & Gamble has demonstrably proved with its successful foray into posh smells.

By linking its pricey perfumes with such names as Italian couturier Valentino, Hugo Boss, Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana, the planet's largest advertiser now rivals beauty behemoths L'Oréal and Chanel in prestige fragrance sales around the globe.

Prestige fragrances - marketingspeak for cunningly-advertised perfumes sold only via chic overpriced retail stores - is one of the fastest-growing segments of P&G's $23 billion (€15.68bn; £10.99bn) beauty division, with annual sales of about $2.5bn.

The market poses the greatest possible contrast to those P&G understands better than almost any other FMCG marketer: the high-profile inundation of thousands of retail outlets with a new brand.

Fine fragrances, on the other hand, typically debut at just a handful of ritzy department stores, aiming to imply exclusivity and attract early-adopter buzz.

Says Graziano de Boni, Valentino's president of sales, marketing and retail world-wide. "Luxury is a very finicky world to understand. It's a careful balance of image, quality, and scarcity."

The latest chalk 'n' cheese venture between the contrasting corporates is branded Rock 'n Rose Couture, retailing at $88. Next spring, the duo plan to offer yet another variant of Rock 'n Rose, called Pret-a-Porter. It will be followed by a lighter eau de toilette, the least pricey of the trio.

But, warns P&G's vp of global fine fragrances Markus Strobel: "There's a risk of commoditization in this industry. We are aiming for fewer, bigger and better launches."

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online. additional content by WARC staff