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Avon Products Inc. has turned up the volume in the rising din of the celebrity fragrance fray by signing one of hip-hop’s hottest acts — Black Eyed Peas frontwoman Fergie.
The multiyear deal comes on the heels of a record-breaking 26-week run at number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart for the Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow” and “I Gotta Feeling,” and serves as Avon’s answer to last summer’s deal between Parlux Fragrances Inc. and musical heavyweights Jay-Z, Kanye West and Rihanna, not to mention Coty’s latest coup in signing perhaps the greatest prize, Beyoncé Knowles.
Fergie, 34, whose real name is Stacy Ferguson, is the latest high-profile name to join Avon’s growing cast of celebrities. The list includes Reese Witherspoon; Patrick Dempsey and his wife, makeup artist Jillian Dempsey; Courteney Cox; Derek Jeter; Jennifer Hudson, whose contract is due to expire, and in Latin America, Salma Hayek. Avon’s designer alliances have included Cynthia Rowley, Christian Lacroix and Emanuel Ungaro.
“I love the roster of women Avon has supported,” said Fergie in a phone interview from Auckland, New Zealand, where she just completed the Eastern leg of a world tour with the Peas to promote their latest album, “The E.N.D.” “Each one is completely different, but they are all wonderful, strong women who have a purpose. It was very important to me to bring what I have to the table. I’m a bit more rock ’n’ roll than some of the other artists, and Avon has really allowed my personality to come through.”
The yet-to-be named women’s fragrance, which will be available next year through Avon sales representatives, is scheduled to launch overseas beginning in the third quarter, followed by the U.S. next fall.
Avon’s wave of celebrity and designer alliances stems from the turnaround strategy the company unveiled in late 2005. Since then, Avon has nearly tripled its advertising spending to $400 million in 2008.
“The brand-reinvention strategy since the beginning of 2006 was about advertising, celebrity and designer endorsements, as well as a real commitment to [research & development],” said chairman and chief executive officer Andrea Jung. “[Those three elements] have helped to dimensionally step-change the brand image and to gain share. It’s one of the pillars of strengthening the brand.”
According to Avon’s 2008 annual report, beauty grew 10 percent on a reported basis last year, fueled by market share gains across each category. For instance, color cosmetics gained 11 percent, boosted by Avon’s Global Ambassador actress Reese Witherspoon; fragrance increased 9 percent, aided by celebrity and designer alliances, including Unscripted by Patrick Dempsey, U by Ungaro and Bond Girl 007, and Skin Care gained 10 percent, with the flagship brand Anew increasing 20 percent to reach $900 million in total sales.
Jung said Avon’s celebrity strategy began in earnest when it signed Derek Jeter in 2006. Avon has since built its men’s grooming line, Driven, around the New York Yankees captain.
Explaining how Avon selects it high-profile partners, Jung said, “We are seeking partners who share the same core values of the company. Somebody who fits with the personality and culture of our brands, and more importantly somebody who will resonate with our customers and representatives.”
She noted Reese Witherspoon has worked to motivate representatives across the globe, making stops in Brazil, Japan and the U.K. Jung said they must also share in Avon’s commitment to philanthropy and be willing to lend their voice to the company’s causes, including its efforts to stamp out breast cancer and domestic violence. For instance, Fergie’s first order of business for the company will be performing at the annual Avon Foundation for Women Awards Gala on Oct. 27th.
“We are really excited about Fergie….She’s very inspirational and serves as a great partner on that front,” said Jung. “She’s strong, she’s vocal and in my own personal opinion she is an empowered woman who stays true to herself and is not afraid to state her opinion.
“With Fergie, we have the ability to reach a younger consumer base. She will appeal to not only those buying our Mark brand, but also our core brand.”