Acqua di Parma Is a Good Case Study of Reviving an Old Brand to Create a Story that Resonates with Consumers
After the Guerlain fragrance purchases earlier, I ended up buying several new bottles of Acqua di Parma, including the Colonia, Colonia Intensa, and Blu Mediterraneo Bergamotto di Calabria in the Italy Pavilion of Epcot at Walt Disney World. Again, I realized that most of the people who were in the store with me probably didn’t know the story of the high-end brand, or the business behind it that provides a great example of how a left-for-dead business can be revitalized to become relevant, fresh, and lucrative.
Like Guerlain, the Italian perfume maker Acqua di Parma is now one of the fragrance businesses in the stable of the French-based luxury conglomerate LVMH. It was founded in Parma Italy in 1916 and remained a small, successful retailer of perfume thanks to the patronage of stars such as Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. Then, World War II raged across Europe, reaching an apex in the 1940’s, with the Italian fallout in the post-Mussolini years hitting the top and bottom lines. Sales began to decline until 1993, when a management buyout led to the company’s takeover. For the next eight years, the brand was nurtured and grown, until it was sold to its present owner in 2001. The business is no longer headquartered in Parma, having moved to Milan.
The revitalization of the Acqua di Parma business is due, in part, to a much more intelligent marketing strategy, focusing on the type of men who read GQ, buy custom dress shirts, vacation in Europe, and appreciate nicer things. The brand name was used to launch related products such as leather goods and shaving supplies. Acqua di Parma also releases limited edition fragrances now to create demand among the collector market. The focus on lighter scents also has a unique house feature that causes the line to appeal to certain types of clients.
I’m happy with the Acqua di Parma fragrances, although I do think the focus on Eau de Toilettes and Eau de Colognes is … unfortunate. I prefer Eau de Parfum of higher, regardless of the cost. I think it is mistake for them not to offer it, though I am sure it pads their profit figures. My favorite feature is the style lines of the bottles and product categories. The shaving supplies are some of the cleanest, most beautiful masculine packages I’ve ever seen targeted to the fragrance market. The consistency across bottle lines also means lower costs because the only thing that changes is the label and the cap color.
The most famous of the Acqua di Parma scents is the original Colonia, which was launched in 1916. At the time, it was much lighter than the other fragrances on the market, which led to its appeal to customers who wanted something different. Legend has it that the original intent was for Italian men to spray the scent on their handkerchiefs but it quickly became a personal scent worn on clothing due to its popularity.