Elizabeth Arden Must Plan on Keeping Britney Spears (RDEN)

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Is it more surprising that Elizabeth Arden (NASDAQ:RDEN) launched the new Britney Spears "believe" fragrance, or is it more surprising that Arden launched it with the Britney Spears name on it?  This is the THIRD Britney Spears perfume from Arden available now.  And this just launched in recent weeks.  Upon first journeying into this, it would have seemed a safe bet that any company would cut and run.  But….

If you have a baseball manager with a losing team the general manager or the team owner(s) give a vote of confidence…. and the manager is sent packing within a month.  But Britney as a brand is no baseball player, and there is surprisingly still a value or a franchise here for at least the time being.  Frankly, for most of 2007, it really looked like Britney Spears as a brand was getting tarnished (or self-mutilated) to the no-return level. 

It isn’t about the divorce from K-Fed or K-reject whatever.  America used to be "mom, baseball, and apple pie."  But now "step-mom, wrestling, and chaw" seems to be the accepted slogan.  She isn’t quite the looker of prior years.  But my own mirror would say the same.  So the hypocrisy is out the window. 

After the head shaving and the rehab earlier in the year I put in a call to Elizabeth Arden Inc. to flush out what the status would be of the falling star.  I’ve always said "follow the money" as the simplest explanation.  It seems Arden has the same idea.  Britney’s fragrances are still selling quite well, and this was surprising.  Some reports I have read put the Britney fragrances at roughly 10 million individual fragrance sales, although that hasn’t been released by the company.  A current reputation has seemingly not affected a corporate sponsor or branding deal here.

There is something about a "hit and run" incident of late and custody of the kids being turned back over to America’s least favorite ex-husband (at least in this decade).  This week, the controversies continue.  The record label moved up the release date of her new "Blackout" CD.  Some reports put the reason being to beat leaked songs on the Internet, but it’s hard not to think it might not have been to get in ahead of any more bad news about her.  Besides the gum chewing while smoking, there are probably a dozen other "occurrences" not mentioned.  Other allegations and rumors are something you won’t see here.

To my surprise it seems like Arden has a solid commitment to the Britney brand.  Not a vote of confidence, but a commitment.  Who knows if that lasts if Britney gets too tarnished.  But this seems different, and surprisingly it is even more different now with a new Britney launch.  Britney Spears hasn’t exactly been a good girl, or at least not anything close to a role model.  Corporations usually have "out" clauses if their star’s image gets too tarnished.  There is no way to know what is coming on the calendar and there is no way to know what will happen to the star.  But for now it seems the selling continues.

Is a call-in a channel check? No, not at one or a few places, anyway.  I called to the Macy’s that I sometimes go to and was surprised to hear the salesperson in the fragrances department say the new "believe" smelt quite nice and that she’d recommend it for a gift for a special someone after she went over to sniff it out.  I didn’t order it, but that is no fault of the Macy’s employee because I was just fishing.  I honestly expected something different and quite contrary.

Maybe not all of corporate America is cut-and-run at the first sign of trouble.  Personally, this isn’t about knocking a celebrity.  This isn’t about knocking a brand or an image.  This is about recognizing a brand and a commitment.  Maybe not even the top brass knows if this commitment will last.  But there is at least something worth noting about a company sticking with a less than perfect persona.  Follow the money seems to be working.  Time will tell the true outcome, but this is one that could have easily been covered in a different light if opinions or thoughts alone were applied.

Jon C. Ogg
October 12, 2007