Celebrities have been selling fragrances for as long as most of us can remember. But this year, it’s the African-American market that’s finally feeling the love. In 2007 alone, the likes of Mariah Carey, Usher, Beyoncé and Diddy have lent their names and unique personalities to new launches. And whatever the scent, they all smell like big money.
Having an eponymous fragrance is a status symbol, and creating a successful one can turn a celeb into a full-fledged mogul, pursued by designers and adored by consumers worldwide.
Not to mention that many big names, like Carey, love the chance to show that their mixing skills go far beyond the studio. Her much-anticipated women’s scent, M by Mariah Carey for Elizabeth Arden, drew on marshmallows (which remind her of being in the kitchen with her dad), sea breeze (representing her love for the Mediterranean) and Moroccan incense (which she favors).
For Diddy, it was the sweet aroma of women at the beach that gave rise to his Unforgivable Woman for Estée Lauder, says Diana Espino-Gitlin of Sean John Fragrances.
This was a sexy vision for the man who, according to market research firm NPD Group, had 2006’s No. 1 new fragrance launch with his men’s scent, Unforgivable, already estimated to have brought in more than $150 million globally.
But even star spokespersons who aren’t necessarily involved in creating the fragrances they front have a huge impact. For Beyoncé, the face of this fall’s Emporio Armani Diamonds, it was the chance to reinterpret an old standard—rerecording “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.” But it may be serving as a muse that was the best . part: “Everything about Mr. Armani’s brand is classic and perfection,” says Beyoncé, “so I was honored that he asked me to be a part of it.”
In these image-conscious times, getting the look just right, whether with a celebrity campaign or picture-perfect packaging, is almost as important as the scent. And that’s where stars like Usher really shine. Not only does his love of vintage cars inspire the bottles and caps for Liz Claiborne’s Usher for Men and Usher for Women, but the spinning cap is reminiscent of one of his own signature rings. For some famous folks, it isn’t enough to put out the product, their fragrance also has to reflect their values. In Prince’s case, it was the artist’s giving spirit: Seven percent of sales made on the scent’s Web site at launch were donated to seven charities.
When it comes right down to it though, it’s celebs’ ability to connect to consumers that ultimately helps their fragrances thrive. And nobody does that better than the Idol turned Dreamgirl herself, Jennifer Hudson, which made her the perfect candidate for a multiyear deal fronting Avon’s Imari Seduction. “As a successful woman who achieved her goals through hard work and determination, she is the perfect fit,” says Claudia Poccia, president of U.S. beauty for Avon.
All told, celeb scents represent 7 percent of the prestige fragrance market, which had U.S. sales of $2.8 billion last year, according to NPD. And though experts say the star-powered trend may be slowing at last, the influx of African-American notables may be just the thing to keep major fragrance consumers—that is, us—coming.
Fusing music and fragrance