Coty Prestige’s Mavis Fraser: CK invites netgen in2 brand conversations

If you're familiar with Obsession for Men, CK One and Eternity, blame it on Mavis Fraser. A fragrance industry heavy-hitter and director of marketing at Oakville, Ont.-based Coty Prestige, Fraser has been around cosmetics long enough to know what works. 'I'm a product junkie,' Fraser gushes. 'I love the product experience. I'll try anything new.'

If you’re familiar with Obsession for Men, CK One and Eternity, blame it on Mavis Fraser. A fragrance industry heavy-hitter and director of marketing at Oakville, Ont.-based Coty Prestige, Fraser has been around cosmetics long enough to know what works. ‘I’m a product junkie,’ Fraser gushes. ‘I love the product experience. I’ll try anything new.’

This desire to try anything new is arguably what makes this 2006 Canadian Fragrance Awards Lifetime Achievement nominee so darn good at her job. Fraser’s latest laurel, is the simultaneous launch – the brand’s first time ever – of Calvin Klein’s two newest fragrances, ck IN2U her and ck IN2U him, concoctions aimed at iPod-toting, tech-savvy 21-year-olds.

To do this, Fraser had to do her homework, first logging on to MySpace to decipher this demo’s lingo. ‘I was trying to understand some of this activity,’ she recalls. ‘We used a focus group, asking them questions like what they do [when they're together], what they read, where they go and what turns them off.’

Then she brainstormed with OMD’s associate director of strategy, Zaheeda Jiwan, to get her and her team equally passionate about the product. One element of those sessions materialized on text-to-screen LED boards (powered by Addictive Mobility) at Toronto’s Dundas Square. The boards nudged onlookers with the provocative question: What are you in2? For two teaser weeks in March, folks were prompted to text their answers to a shortcode and watch it appear on the board. Ads on Google and MySpace taunted visitors with the same question.

Fraser also worked with Montreal-HQ’d Speed Promotions on grassroots efforts. Look for garbage cans in Toronto and Montreal all decked out in the creative. Post-its bearing the question and a link to whatareyouin2.com blanketed windshields in the entertainment districts.

Fraser also negotiated with The Bay to be part of their corporate window displays in five flagship stores. ‘This is not typically made available to fragrance vendors,’ she says, ‘but they loved the ‘What are you into’ theme. For the first week they wrapped the windows in a ‘What are you into’ teaser, before the window reveal.’ They had presence with product, images and website branding for a full month. ‘At the same time we were up on focus inside the fragrance department along with fragrance demonstrators sampling the product in-store.’

The Bay created the whole look, complete with funky mannequins, ckin2u logo illumination on the sidewalks and music piped onto the street.

Fraser then worked with Vice magazine to create a mini-mag distributed with the March issue. Flip through it and you’ll find nary a brand mention anywhere, just a link to www.whatareyouin2.com and portraits of good-looking people confessing their desires – from animal husbandry to dirty behaviour to even dirtier martinis.

She also gave Vice carte blanche in creating a microsite with a gateway enticing readers to click on whatareyouin2.com. The site borrows from the likes of Facebook, a place for folks to upload their photos, type in what they’re into and search for someone with the same appetites.

Says Vice sales director Shawn Phelan: ‘Mavis really keeps in mind who she’s trying to reach. She looks to her audience and lets them have a conversation about her brand. She didn’t want logos on [the mini-mag] or ads on every page. It was a very subtle play and our readers really responded to that.’

And respond they did. Phelan confesses to ‘tons of hits’ on the Vice-created microsite and more than 200 photos were uploaded, though most of it was inappropriate content that couldn’t be used. Phelan says the effort has piqued the interest of other marketers, who now want to do something similar.

‘Mavis is the first mainstream client to commit to Vice,’ says Phelan. ‘There aren’t a lot of marketers who have the guts to do that. They see tits in a magazine and they run away.’

You wouldn’t typically expect such chutzpah from someone who once wanted to be a librarian. But, after a year in Humber College’s library arts program, Fraser felt she needed more than the Dewey decimal system to contend with.

In 1978, she answered an ad for an admin position at Estée Lauder’s Aramis, then one of the largest names in prestige. Fraser spent her 10 years at Estée Lauder in sales administration, marketing and customer service for Aramis, Estée Lauder and Clinique.

Asked about the highlight of her early career, Fraser reflects. ‘They’re the best to learn from because of their attention to detail in brand positioning. There’s a lot of strategy behind it.’

Fraser left Estée Lauder to join Calvin Klein Cosmetics GM Patrick Carroll in starting up the first global affiliate head office in 1988. Heady startup years had Fraser and Carroll working in his basement prepping for the launch of Obsession for Men.

And then it was 1994 and ck One was released. ‘This was such a huge brand,’ she recalls. ‘Everything about it was different; it was the biggest launch in CK history.’ Fraser remembers having to push for freestanding units in stores – ‘a really big deal back then’ – going against the grain of the traditional perfume bottle sitting within a glass case guarded by someone at the counter.

‘Our target then was Gen X,’ says Fraser, ‘and we knew they didn’t want people selling to them. The ads had real models and the bottle design was unique. We were selling 20 bottles a minute during that launch. I had a lot of fun with that!’

With this year’s ck IN2U launch effort, as in each time past, Fraser’s challenge is answering the age-old question: How do we get their attention? After all, gone are the days when brands launched just one new fragrance a year. ‘This year, I’ve launched seven and it’s only April. So how do you max out each launch?’

The ck IN2U teasers gave way to a full product reveal in April. Fraser worked with Speed Promotions to work the club district yet again. A couple was dispatched to distribute samples at clubs and perform a dance showing how into each other they were. Free daily Metro was wrapped in ck IN2U creative for one day in mid-April to drive sampling in-store. Toronto’s Traffic Communications did 34 interior and exterior mall boards in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Nine of these sported Lucite cages with the ck IN2U bottle affixed within. Talk about interactive OOH: The spray tops of the bottles were exposed so that passersby could sample ck IN2U. As well, a branded kiosk at the Telus World Ski & Snowboard Festival in Whistler, B.C., gave samples and sold product.

Plans are afoot to drum up in-store activity in the near term. Fraser is thinking of taking the Post-its and bringing them to flagship Bay and Sears stores for shoppers to fill out. She’s also pursuing DJ Medley to spin at key stores where folks will be invited to play on gaming tables.

Fraser also tapped Toronto-based Matchstick to build even more buzz online via a web-based word-of-mouth program in May. Bottles of ck IN2U were given to blogging tastemakers as game prizing for online visitors.

‘Mavis is very good at bridging the old with the new to fully understand the DNA of the new brand,’ confirms Coty Canada president/GM Jeffery Wagstaff, who claims that Fraser was already riding the WOM wave back when she launched Crave for Men five years ago. He explains that while Coty’s global group develops the brand, it’s Fraser who develops the local market’s taste for it.

‘Traditionally, we spent the money at point of sale. Mavis insisted on spending it at places where people spent time instead. She’s very passionate about that,’ he insists. Wagstaff also dropped hints about an upcoming Facebook initiative to further push ck IN2U.

Seems Fraser’s ‘I’ll try anything new’ approach to product extends to social media tactics as well, and, by extending that love of the ‘product experience’ into cyber channels, she’s taken another cyberleap from that old school perfume bottle sitting within a glass case guarded by a sales clerk a decade ago.

FOUR QUESTIONS

Brand that really knows how to talk to customers in the new media space

The phone companies. Telus really stands out.

Most bulletproof brand

Luxury brands like Tiffany.

Favourite TV commercial

I like the Nicoderm commercial with the psychotic flight attendant.

What keeps you up at night?

ck IN2U lately! I have to mind all the details!

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