John Pearson and Stephanie Seymour for Drakkar Noir 1992

A Men's Fragrance Responds to the Winds of Change

Elliott, Stuart
The New York Times
December 4, 1991

THOUGH it is often overshadowed by its better-publicized rivals, Drakkar Noir is one of the country's best-selling men's fragrances. Still, in response to rising competition and rapidly changing consumer attitudes, its maker is overhauling the brand's advertising.

Brand: Drakkar Noir
Year: Spring/Summer 1992
Model: John Pearson and Stephanie Seymour

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Cosmair Inc., owned by the French cosmetics giant L'Oreal S.A., is introducing revamped television commercials and print advertisements by McCann-Erickson New York. A $10 million campaign begins tomorrow in 45 large markets across the country, timed to arrive at the start of the key holiday fragrance-buying season.

Drakkar Noir -- the first word, pronounced Dra-CAR, refers to a flat-bottomed Viking ship -- is less a household word than rivals like Calvin Klein's Obsession for Men, made by L'Oreal's archrival, Unilever, and Estee Lauder's Aramis.

But among "prestige" scents sold in department stores for $20 or more a bottle, Drakkar Noir is among the three top-selling brands in the United States and No. 1 in the world, Cosmair says.

Allan G. Mottus of Mottus & Associates in New York, a fragrance and cosmetics consulting firm, estimates that from 60 percent to 65 percent of the annual dollar volume in the nation's $1.2 billion men's fragrance industry is in higher-priced lines.

The Old 1986 commercial

Contributing to Drakkar's popularity was the commercial being replaced, which has run since 1986. That spot, which was aimed at men 18 to 34 years old, was infused with "a very 80's, very sports-minded, very masculine, very macho attitude," said Robert Cassou, vice president and general manager of Cosmair's European designer fragrance division.

The spot, backed by a rhythmic electronic beat, featured fast-paced shots of a serious, mysterious young man engaged in frenetic activities like archery and a night on the town. The aloof stranger interacted fleetingly with a mysterious woman who seemed as much an accessory as his expensive briefcase.

In the new spot, the man is less serious -- he even smiles -- and he is considerably less mysterious, a bit older and somewhat calmer. And unlike its predecessor, the replacement spot tells a coherent story of an actor-director and his relationship with a woman appearing in a film he is shooting.

The new 1992 Commercial, John Pearson and Stephanie Seymour
Dir: Dominic Sena

"Because of the changes we've seen in the men's marketplace," Mr. Cassou said during an interview at Cosmair's midtown Manhattan office, "we felt compelled to do new advertising and rethink our image."

One change he described was in the man at which Cosmair has aimed Drakkar Noir. "The 90's man is somewhat different," Mr. Cassou said, "less removed and detached," as well as less self-centered.

The imagery in Drakkar Noir's previous advertising "caught that yuppie, 80's man who played racquetball," said Mr. Mottus, the industry consultant, who described himself as a fan of Drakkar Noir's "citrusy, light smell." The scent's image was reinforced by what Mr. Mottus called "the black, sleek, Porsche look of the product's packaging."

But all that seems dated now, he continued, adding that "unless you keep a brand fresh, people will walk away from it and try something new."

John Pearson and Stephanie Seymour, 1992
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And there are more new brands to try in the men's pricey fragrance market than ever. Among the newcomers Cosmair must fend off are Eternity for Men and Photo from Unilever, Egoiste from Chanel, and Davidoff Cool Water from the Lancaster Group U.S.A.

Mr. Cassou cited the pressure from all those products trying to squeeze onto crowded store counters as another reason why the Drakkar Noir campaign was being changed.

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