PARFUM BIC

Marketing 250, Pace University, Prof. Winsted

Societe Bic has had a lot of success with developing low-priced, high-quality disposable versions of a variety of durable goods and getting consumers to switch to these versions.  Past products which were highly successful included cigarette lighters (previously dominated by Zippo), razors (headed by Gillette) and pens (at one time dominated by fountain pens from Parker and Schaefer).  Recently, Bic has decided to extend this strategy to a number of new product areas, including perfume.

Bic conducted market studies which told them that consumers considered fragrance to be the most important characteristic of a perfume, not image.  Conventional wisdom in the industry, however, suggested that the key to success for perfume was image.  Fragrance prices in the $3 billion perfume market had increased by 66% since 1981, so Bic felt the market was ripe for a low-price alternative.

Parfum Bic was developed and priced at $5 for a quarter-ounce pocket spray bottle.  The bottle was designed to resemble Bic's cigarette lighters, connoting everyday usage and self-purchase.  Bic built a state-of-the art plant outside Paris, hired a leading scent designer, and spared no expense  to create top- quality fragrances.  Four fragrances were developed, each with a different color top to identify them.  Fragrances included Jour ("day", a red-topped floral scented women's fragrance), Nuit ("night", a blue- topped spicier women's fragrance), Homme ("man", a black-topped musky fragrance for men), and Sport (a green-topped unisex outdoors scent).

Parfum Bic was first launched in Europe, where the launch was officially considered a success, though initial results were below target.  It is now being launched in the United States where some 800 fragrances are currently on the market.

An executive at Bic has stated that the key behind the Parfum Bic concept is "taking fine French perfume out of the bedroom and into the on-the-go world".  It is key to the product's success that consumers realize that the fragrances are not cologne, but, in fact, are high quality alternatives to expensive perfume.  Designer knockoff perfumes, which copy expensive fragrances, but sell for much less, have been very successful in the United States, so Bic is predicting initial sales in the U.S. at $15 million, increasing to $50 to $100 million per year.

Bic decided to rename the men's fragrances "Bic for Men" and "Bic Sport for Men" for the U.S. market.  They will distribute the product in the same stores as their other disposable products, in mass merchandisers, supermarkets and convenience stores.  Staying out of department stores avoids head-on- head competition with other lower-priced perfumes and helps keep price down.  The U.S. launch will be supported with a $15 million print and TV advertising campaign with a theme of "Paris in Your Pocket".  The print campaign will feature  a "pocket view" of scenes from Paris and the TV ad will feature stylish women trying on hats and doing other sophisticated activities.  The purpose of the ads is to set an image of high quality.  Sales promotion activities will include free scent strips to be given away in stores and a discounted French scarf.

A perfume industry executive criticized Bic's idea, saying that there are intangibles in the fragrance industry that did not exist in the other industries Bic successfully entered.   Bic's ad supervisor is confident, however, saying "We build new categories.  We change consumer behavior".

Question:

Will Parfum Bic be successful in the United States? Why or why not?   Analyze each component of Bic's marketing mix (4 P's) for this product.

This mini-case was written by Dr. Kathy Winsted using information from a case called "Spritz Your Bic:  Bic Takes on Perfume" from Marketing by Keegan, Moriarty and Duncan, Prentice-Hall.

Return to  Marketing 250 Home Page