Thursday, March 4, 2010

Clarins Wonders: Can You Crowdsource a Fragrance?

New Global Online Platform 'Womanity' Will Try, With Help From Women and Martin Sorrell

That's because the unusual push for Clarins' Thierry Mugler perfume brand, rather than touting a new scent or the brand itself, is marketing an online media platform dubbed "Womanity," on which the public can come up with the next big products that will hit the shelves.

The home page will consist of tiles, each hosting a piece of content from the community, such as a video, a photo, a poem or an editorial article from

Of course, crowdsourcing is the marketing strategy du jour these days. Numerous big advertisers from Frito Lay, with its annual user-generated Doritos Super Bowl spots, to Unilever, which has turned to fans for marketing ideas for its deodorant brand Axe, are sourcing ideas from the public. But for luxury fragrances, a category that continues to be dominated by massive print and outdoor media buys -- and where creative campaigns routinely feature supermodels sprawled on beaches or Hollywood starlets superimposed upon fields of flowers -- the online campaign is a bit of an anomaly.

For one thing, the campaign might not net a new fragrance brand at all.

Mr. Mugler, best known for his scent, "Angel," which retails its celestial-looking bottles in some 15,000 retailers in 100 countries, isn't putting many parameters on what users can suggest, so the next project could be a perfume, but it could also be something entirely different, be it clothing, accessories or jewelry. "The ambitions are very large," said Ferdinando Verderi, creative director at WPP-backed shop Johannes Leonardo, which is working on the project. "The brand is ready to become whatever the users want."

The involvement of Johannes Leonardo represents a rare step for Clarins, which sources the bulk of its creative in-house and doesn't typically call in outside agencies to handle marketing campaigns. Joel Palix, president of Clarins in Paris, said it hired the 25-person, New York-based creative boutique after a global pitch in which WPP Chief Executive Martin Sorrell was personally involved.

"We held a global competition [for the business]," Mr. Palix said, and Mr. Sorrell "led us to this creative New York agency." WPP media shop Maxus has been tapped as the media agency, while Paris-based Balistik Art, founded by two former Publicis creatives, is handling digital strategy.
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What it will look like
"Womanity" launches Monday via the website. Word of it will be spread through PR, banner ads and other media, as well as Microsoft's MSN, which was selected as an online media partner and is in charge of editorial strategy. will bring traffic with editorial content linked directly from the MSN home page, and versions of the site will launch in different languages, including Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese and French.

The home page of "Womanity" resembles a mosaic of tiles, with each tile hosting a piece of content from the community, such as a video, a photo, a poem or an editorial article linked from the MSN platform. The common thread of all of it is the expression of the opinions or creativity of women around the world. Each tile in the mosaic can be assigned a corresponding color by the contributor, and visitors to the site will see the website's "mood bar" and the Womanity logo change color to reflect the prevailing mood of the community's content.

Other content to be housed there will be a short film, shot by Mr. Mugler, and forums where the community can suggest products or projects that the designer should pursue. The goal is to ramp up to more than 2 million members in nine months.

According to Mr. Palix, Clarins historically has invested in customer-relationship marketing channels, and spent less than competitors on measured media. "For Thierry Mugler parfum, we spend less than 10% of our sales in media, which is about half of the standard of the industry," Mr. Palix said. Clarins Fragrance Group reported sales of just more than $400 million in 2009.

The new campaign for the marketer comes as the luxury market was walloped by a cut in consumer spending during the recession, and as Clarins is looking to new areas for growth. It purchased the organic skin-care brand Kibio last month and is investing more in Asia, in markets such as Thailand and Vietnam. Said Mr. Palix: "Luxury isn't just putting products in the hands of consumers anymore."
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