CEW Examines Successful Celebrity Scents


CEW Arden
Givaudan’s Olivier Gillotin with Elizabeth Arden’s Kathy Widmer and Ron Rolleston (r.)
join CEW’s Carlotta Jacobson.

Cosmetic Executive Women (CEW) hosted a Women and Men in Beauty Series event on June 26 at the Harmonie Club in New York City exploring the different facets of developing a successful celebrity fragrance. The focus of the evening was the creation of Wonderstruck Taylor Swift, and how it came to be a best-selling scent phenomenon—from partnership to promotion.

The discussion featured a panel of experts that were involved in the creation of the scent, including its perfumer, Olivier Gillotin, vice president executive perfumer of Givaudan; Ron Rolleston, executive vice president, creative and new business development of Elizabeth Arden; and Kathy Widmer, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Elizabeth Arden. 

To kickoff the discussion, Ms. Widmer shared several statistics to illustrate the current state of the fragrance market. She noted that in 2004, the total number of celebrity fragrances launched—including primary scents and flankers—totaled just 11, and each brand roughly retailed for $10 million. Last year, 116 celebrity fragrances were launched with an average retail value of $1 million dollars each.

“The size of the pond hasn’t changed, but the number of players and the fragmentation of the business is dramatically up,” she noted. Ms. Widmer also revealed that in the last year, the prestige fragrance business in the US grew 13%, though half of that total growth came from two fragrances—SOMEDAY by Justin Bieber and Wonderstruck Taylor Swift. “It’s increasingly important to partner well and execute well.”

Mr. Rolleston agreed, and emphasized the necessity of cultivating a partnership. “Signing a licensee is a long-term relationship. The key to a successful relationship is based on trust and respect for all who are involved,” he said.

Mr. Rolleston revealed that the collaboration between Taylor Swift and Elizabeth Arden didn’t instantaneously transpire. The company originally approached Ms. Swift in 2007, but the singer and her management team didn’t believe the timing was right to launch a scent. Eleven months before Wonderstruck was on the market in 2011, the deal was signed. Mr. Rolleston credited the ability to work within this brief timeframe due to Ms. Swift being “remarkably creative, smart and knowing who she is and what she likes.”


To reach the teens and young women that form the targeted consumer group of Wonderstruck, Ms. Widmer acknowledged the undeniable benefits of the built-in consumer network of Ms. Swift’s social media fanbase.

“We knew the digital space was going to be fundamental to the launch of Wonderstruck. This consumer is in the always-on, always-connected digital generation,” she stated. “When we started the partnership, Taylor had twenty million digital followers. Now she is nearing thirty-five million. When Taylor speaks to her fans, it’s in her own voice—not an advertiser’s voice. It is Taylor Swift in real time.”

Yet for marketers, reaching the customer is not always as straightforward as a celebrity tweeting about their brand. Celebrities are constantly working to maintain their image and protect their integrity. “It is important to find a way to authentically present the brand, and in a way that the celebrity doesn’t feel like they’re always selling,” said Ms. Widmer. To reach consumers in an authentic way, the Wonderstruck strategy largely implements gifting, sampling and behind-the-scenes access to Ms. Swift’s world. “Taylor doesn’t put on a hard sell, but she’s selling all the time.“

From the perfumer’s perspective, Mr. Gillotin has indisputable experience in creating timeless celebrity fragrances—his star scent credits include Mariah Carey Forever Mariah, Beyoncé Heat, Halle Berry Reveal The Passion and Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds. Though some may hesitate, Mr. Gillotin still trusts in the possibility of developing a classic celebrity fragrance today. “It is more difficult, but it is still possible,” he stated. “The goal is to create the feeling of being part of a celebrity’s life. For Wonderstruck, I worked to capture Taylor’s youthful exuberance. The fragrance is a story about love, and what makes it unique is its richness and depth. Much like Taylor herself, the fragrance is complex.”

To define a classic scent, Mr. Rolleston informed that the primary indicator is “longevity. In the past, many argued that celebrity fragrances wouldn’t last. With Wonderstruck, we were driven to create a beautiful fragrance that fans will go back to over the course of time. Our goal was to create a classic.”

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SGD’s Peter Acerra and Shéhérazade Chamlou join Fragrance Resources’ Rob MacDonald
and Cutler Whitman.
NPD Group’s Lori Monaco and Diane Nicholson (r.) with Karen Huntoon of Elizabeth Arden. Robertet’s Pierre Wulff with Elizabeth Arden’s Gretchen Dowling.
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GG Global Consulting’s Gail Gordon with Robertet’s Rhona Stokols and Olivia Jan. Coty’s Kristin Spinn and Ruth Sutcliffe (2nd. r.) join Givaudan’s Rose Eckert and Ekaterina Gritskevich. Givaudan’s Margaret Opsansnik, Cathy Torelli, Calice Becker and Geraldine Nicolai.
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GSG’s Ken Madsen with Gerald Walle
of Pochet.
Elizabeth Arden’s Laurie Dowley and
Elizabeth Park with Nancy Schmidt of Macy’s.
Ms. Eckert (2nd l.) with Coty Prestige’s
Sara Jackson, Emily Bond and Beth Bracken.
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Firmenich’s Westly Morris and Jerry Vittoria (r.) with Coscentrix’s Jill Belasco. Givaudan’s Kate Greene with Elizabeth Arden’s Francine Gingras, Scott Beattie and Art Spiro. Elizabeth Arden’s Tamara Steele with Givaudan’s Cos Policastro and Lori Singer of Coty Prestige.

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