Thriving for more than 90 years there is no surprise that Chanel No. 5 perfume stands strongly associated with independence, elegance and liberalism – all of which Coco Chanel stood for herself. In order to maintain the popularity of an iconic perfume, celebrity endorsement has played a key factor in advertising especially in the last 20 years. According to the current artistic director for Chanel, Jacques Helleu, ‘it is the only way of making a sufficiently strong impression on consumers’ memories to trigger a purchase when they are in a sales outlet at a later date’ (i). In response, Chanel has used film icons in a number of their advertisements for the perfume with the likes of Catherine Deneuve, Carole Bouquet, and Audrey Tautou among many others. The ideas and values attached to these stars through their character roles in films are translated in combination with the product.
In 2005, Nicole Kidman became the new face of Chanel No. 5 and was paid $12 million for a three minute commercial (ii). Kidman become widely recognised through a number of her early films including Day of Thunder (1990), Far and Away (1992) and Batman Forever (1995). However, it was her performance in Moulin Rouge (2001) that won her a second Golden Globe Award and her first Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. Her numerous appearances on the red carpet has led her to become a style icon. Kidman’s publicity as a successful actress and glamourous woman coincides with the identity of the Chanel No. 5 perfume brand. The advertisement incorporating Nicole Kidman with the No. 5 perfume showcases the poise, elegant and classic nature of both the perfume and Kidman herself.
Choosing a celebrity which best represents a brand is a difficult when considering the types of values and demeanours attached to celebrities through their filmic roles. It is also beneficial however, for the celebrity to attach a new ideal to the product that will later have a positive increase in sales for the brand (iii). Marilyn Monroe’s famous response to an interviewer, ‘What do I wear to bed? Why Chanel No. 5 of course’, had a huge influence on the brand (iv). As an American actress, model and singer during the 1950s and early 1960s she was known as a pop and cultural icon as well as the ideal American sex symbol. It wasn’t until 2012 when Chanel obtained the recording of the interview and used it for a commercial to advertise the perfume. While Monroe represents Hollywood glamour as a celebrity figure, her combination with Chanel also brings a level of sexiness to the perfume that creates a sophisticated object of desire.
While film celebrities persistently feature in campaigns for perfume, Chanel has drawn attention to other cultural areas to increase brand status. As an artist, Andy Warhol showed particular interest in pop culture and consumer culture. Not only was his artwork an exploration of commodity fetishism but his successful artistic flair and repetitive imagery was a technique used to promote Chanel as a brand by a celebrity himself. In 1964 Warhol created coloured lithography prints of the Chanel No. 5 perfume bottle. Keeping within his aesthetic he created nine prints similar to his famous portraits of Marilyn Monroe. In 1998 Chanel daringly changed their iconic black and white packaging of Chanel No. 5 to feature Warhol’s lithography prints as a limited edition for its 75th anniversary. This saw sales increase between 20% and 32% according to Laurie Palma, the vice-president of fragrance marketing for Chanel (v). This advertising strategy incorporated a recognisable artist whose artwork is extremely reminiscent of his previous Monroe screen prints in order to develop cultural capital. Perhaps Palma saw this as a great opportunity to combine both celebrities from different cultural areas to illustrate diversity. In an inevitable world of commerce, endorsing recognisable celebrities and drawing on cultural history is crucial in sustaining and promoting brand identity.
(i) Fleck, N 2012, ‘Celebrities in Advertising: Looking for Congruence or Likability?’, Psychology & Marketing, vol. 29, no. 9, pp. 651-662
(ii) Hall, E 2004, ‘Kidman to appear in Chanel No. 5 ads’, Advertising Age, vol. 74, no. 2, p. 17
(iii) Choi, S 2007, ‘Who is the celebrity in advertising? Understanding Dimensions of Celebrity Images’, The Journal of Popular Culture, vol. 40, no. 2, pp. 304-324
(iv) Bott, D 2007, Chanel, Thames & Hudson, New York
(v) Brookman, F 1998, ‘The Marking 101: Chanel No. 5: Laurie Palma’, Advertising Age, vol. 69, no. 26, pp. 36