Every year, students, alumni and others spend more than $4B (yes, that’s a “B”) on college-themed merchandise in the US. And if some schools have anything to say about it, that pie is only going to get bigger, thanks to college-specific, “theme” perfumes and fragrances.
As Arian Campo-Flores and Meredith Rutland wrote in the WSJ a couple of months ago,
The fragrances are only the latest in a litany of products colleges are hawking under their brands to students, alumni and die-hard sports fans. At Louisiana State University, the list includes garden gnomes, fishing lures and musical bottle openers—not to mention onesies and caskets. “We have licensed products literally from cradle to grave,” says Brian Hommel, director of trademark licensing at LSU, which began selling fragrances by Masik in 2009.
Whether the scents can compete in a crowded U.S. fragrance market—which had $5.8 billion in retail sales in 2012, according to research firm Euromonitor International—remains to be seen.
They need to be “of high enough quality that people genuinely fall in love with the product,” says Matt Frost, vice president of global marketing for International Flavors & Fragrances, which creates scents for brands around the world, though not for specific colleges. “You don’t want to launch a product that ends up as a joke or a gag gift.”
Jason Sager, who earned an M.B.A. at LSU in 2002, says he bought the school’s cologne soon after it was launched, more as a novelty item. But he ended up liking it so much that he ditched Giorgio Armani’s Acqua Di Giò and has been using it ever since. It “definitely smells like LSU,” he says. “It reminds me of the oak trees on campus.”
Since, fundamentally, the only thing that makes most people to buy perfume X or cologne Y is the brand, if this works for colleges, especially those with large student bodies and an even larger alumni base, more power to them.