New Scent's Digital Debut Means Stores Will Have to Wait

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Achim Daub knows the Web is primarily a visual medium -- not exactly the first place most marketing directors think to sell men's fragrances. But changes he sees in the marketplace have convinced him and others at Procter & Gamble Fine Fragrances USA that the company needs to sell more scents directly through cyberspace.

"I just think the days of untargeted mass media are over," he said.

So P&G next month will begin promoting a new Hugo Boss fragrance with a campaign designed to lure buyers online -- but not to retailers' checkout lines. Though the pricey aftershave, shower gel and eau de toilette became available on the Web this month, P&G has opted to keep the products out of department stores until next spring.

The new fragrance -- called "Boss" -- is a sub-brand designed to appeal to the older and more wealthy portion of Hugo Boss buyers. Essentially that means P&G's Fine Fragrances unit, Hunt Valley, MD, wants to reach the same affluent males who were among the earliest cybershoppers. So for now, the company is skipping the big retailers in favor of the Net.

Daub was careful to say P&G won't exclude the brick-and-mortar merchants for long, and he expects the company's marketing blitz to boost in-store sales next year. Still, retailers such as Macy's and Bloomingdale's are losing first dibs on the new product line, and Daub admitted some offline merchants have expressed skepticism about the strategy.

"Change is always perceived differently by different people," he said. won rights to become the exclusive Web retailer for the new line, which also is available in 16 Hugo Boss shops scattered around the United States.

Of course, consumers are unlikely to pay for a fragrance before they can smell it. To get around that problem, P&G, which licenses the right to make goods bearing the Hugo Boss name, is putting 30 million free Boss samples in magazines in September and mailing another million samples in October and November. More mail campaigns will follow next year, and the company plans e-mail efforts and online banner ads as well. The samples are pivotal to the campaign, Daub said.

"Fragrance is a very dynamic experience," he said. "You need to deliver the actual product to the home so people can try it and put it on their skin and experience it over a couple of hours."

The company considered 40 mailing lists before settling on 10 from J. Crew, Conde Nast, and others. Preliminary designs for the mailers proclaim as the exclusive Boss retailer and entice recipients with a chance to win a custom Hugo Boss wardrobe.

The print advertisements will tout and give the e-tailer's toll-free number. Ads are slated to run in Details, Esquire, GQ, Wired and Yahoo Internet Life. They will appear in Cosmopolitan, Glamour and W as well -- 40 percent of men's fragrance purchases are either made by or influenced by women.

Daub would not specify the budget for the campaign except to say he expects marketing costs to be in line with a "top 10 brand in the male market." Grey Advertising, New York, and Targetbase Marketing, Dallas, both worked with P&G on the campaign. The "peel and apply" fragrance sampling system is made by Arcade Inc., New York, and the Hugo Boss push marks the applicator's first use in a national print campaign.

P&G recommends a $49 price tag for a 3.4 ounce bottle of Boss eau de toilette, or $39 for a 1.7 ounces. The line also includes aftershave, aftershave balm, shower gel and deodorant. Daub described Boss as "fruity and spicy, with woody undertones."

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