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Zealot Crusader

Avon Mad Men - A Masculine Fragrance History Pt 6: Renaissance Overreach

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Avon had a completely different outlook after the turn of the millenium thanks to CEO Andrea Jung. The company touted as being for women by women was finally lead by one for the first time ever, and Jung brought her experience from managing Nordstrom to the table. She wanted to lift the company upmarket, both back to mid-tier levels where it sat in the 60's and 70's, plus make a new designer tier called "Mark" that would be sold brick and mortar in department stores at the beauty and perfume counter for the first time in Avon's history. Additionally, the men's side would get it's own separate catalog and see expansion into skincare, as well as tons of new fragrances.

The first thing collectors will notice about 2000's Avon masculines is the sheer volume of them. Seriously, Avon put out a half-dozen new fragrances a year for men alone, not even taking into account their larger feminine lines, which had also probably bloated out beyond all comprehension as well. Andrea Jung seemingly borrowed what worked in the past and combined it with new ideas. The frequent releases to pique curiosity rather than establish singular line loyalty was back in the Avon operations menu like it was in the 70's, just without the goofy decanters as purchase bait. Avon was more aggressive with advertising too. Avon was back on TV and exploring the Internet more directly, but this even-more-direct marketing undercut their sales representatives in the field, which started to affect sales later on in the decade.

Avon also inked deals with celebrities and outside design houses again, like they did in the 80's, with some pretty happening houses like Emanuel Ungaro, Herve Leger, and Christian Lacroix releasing lines through Avon. Celebrities included the likes of Derek Jeter, Patrick Dempsey, Fergie, John Bon Jovi, Reese Witherspoon, just to name a few. Plus, unlike before, Avon house-branded fragrances did not take a back seat to the celebrity and designer collab ones, with reputable perfumers from chemist corps like IFF working with them. Names like Calice Becker and Harry Freemont began being listed as the nose for Avon scents, which was a first for the house that had never listed their talent in the 120+ years prior.

There are far far too many masulines to list here as I've done in past entries of this series, and many of them had two or three alternate names depending on what market they were released in, making it even more of a headache. Furthermore, 2000's Avon masculines had the shortest production life of any before or since, because there were so many and they were so rapidly cycled in, then cycled out with discontinuation, with a few oddly fetching prices that discontinued designer scents typically reach. Luckily, Avon also did things in unofficial series as well, with many of their masculines being just slight modifications of discontinued ones from the previous year, meaning a lot of them smell alike. Only completists will want them all, which can be a daunting task at best. Within the male side alone, there was a series of "chypres" made in the early 2000's (in quotes because they often didn't contain true oakmoss, animalics, or labadnum), then a series of aquatics, a series of gourmands, orientals, and fougères, that leap-frogged over each other year over year.

The celebrity fragrances were all made in conjuction with the person who's name was on the bottle, so they didn't follow these patterns, but the designer collabs sometimes did. Everything Avon made for men from 2000 until about 2011 when Jung stepped down was inventive and contemporary at best, or conventional and following current tastes of the day at worst. Quality ran the gamut from drugstore to designer unfortunately, but Avon eventually segued into eau de toilette concentrations and mixed it up between 100 and 75 ml/3.4oz and 2.5oz presentations, with everything in a sprayer from the start as was the market standard long before then. It was a great time for a guy to discover Avon, and their single best decade since the 70's, but it wouldn't last.

Andrea Jung spread Avon too thin by the 2010's, as all the expansion and experimentation, including a chain of actual Avon retail stores in Asia (where direct selling was illegal), had the company spending more money than it was making. The Mark line would be culled because after much pandering to outside retailers, it ended up only being sold in JC Penny's, who wasn't doing so well and would eventually sublet their beauty department to Sephora, which was owned by competitors LVMH, who wouldn't want to stock Avon anyway, higher-end or otherwise. Avon also trimmed it's men's offerings again, ditched most of the men's skin care, and severed ties with multiple celebrities and design house partners over royalty and distribution spats.

Compounded with all this was the American shift away from Human contact via solicitors or brick and mortar stores to completely non-interactive online shopping, making Avon bleed cash as more representatives in it's largest market quit, or just opened eBay stores and sat waiting for bites. Before long, Avon was only doing well in developing areas like Eastern Europe and South America. After Jung stepped down, Avon stock was wrestled over by investors and at once point Coty offered to buy them before British firm Cerberus International purchased a controlling stake and moved Avon HQ away from NYC to the UK, effectively ceasing their existence as an American perfume house after 130 years. Current US Avon presence is a smaller LLC that licenses the name and right to sell Avon back from the UK mothership, and current Avon is a shadow of it's former self. Onto the final chapter.

Updated 9th May 2018 at 08:22 PM by Zealot Crusader

Door to Door Drugstore: Avon Products



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