Coty's Message in a Bottle: Keep Growing, One Celebrity Scent at a Time

Last Updated Apr 5, 2010 12:54 PM EDT

Celine Dion Pure Brilliance adAmericans think it's much more important to look good than smell good, according to a study by independent business analyst Datamonitor. (Our European cousins place almost equal importance on both). Still the fragrance industry is projected to grow globally and that growth will be spurred, in large part, by the leading manufacturer of mass market fragrances -â€" Coty.

But for the mega-company -- owned by Benckiser Consumer Products, the U.S. arm of a family-owned German household-products giant Joh. A. Benckiser GmbH -- recent announcements to create fragrances with megawatt celebrities Céline Dion, Kimora Lee Simmons, and Beyonce, it's just business as usual.

The company, which racked up sales of nearly $4 billion in 2009, pays homage to its founder with every new product line. François Coty started the business in Paris in 1904 with a simple principle: "Give a woman the best product you can, market it in the perfect bottle, beautiful in its simplicity yet impeccable in taste, ask a reasonable price for it, and you will witness the birth of a business the size of which the world has never seen." Céline Dion's fragrance is just the latest example of how the vision gets to market.

The French Canadian chanteuse, who's sold well over 100 million albums and regularly fills stadiums with ardent fans, has been in partnership with Coty since 2003 when she launched her signature fragrance. She mused, "I like to believe my music touches people in a positive way and my hope is that this fragrance will be an extension of that." But the hard fact was that the perfume collection took aim squarely at the middle market, with affordable pricing between $20 to $44 at such outlets as Sears (SHLD), JC Penney (JCP), and Kohl's (KSS).

In just seven years (and the addition of seven more perfumes), devotees of all things Dion flocked to purchase the elegantly designed atomizers that bore her name -- to the tune $850 million at retail worldwide. Dion's now set to launch Pure Brilliance in September, a fruity floral in a faceted flacon that industry insiders estimate will ring in about $16 million in its first year.

Selling into mass market venues as opposed to more upscale outlets is Coty's plan for Kimora Lee Simmons, who also has a new scent set to debut called Dare Me. Simmons' previous five fragrances have all launched in department stores and eventually made their way into Target (TGT), Walgreens and other such discount and drug chains. The push to appeal to a younger customer (with a smaller budget) is a strategic one as U.S. consumers continue to shuck off recessionary stinginess. Simmons told WWD, "These price points will allow many more people to experience my fragrance, to try it out," she said. "And I love that the smallest sizes are going to not only be accessible pricewise, but easy to carry everywhere. I love the idea of bringing people back for more."