NYCC 2013

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Playboy Fragrances by Coty

10th - 13th October 2013 | Written by Maxxum

In an office full of nerds, everyone I'd spoken to about the Playboy Fragrance line, and the Playboy bunny taking pictures with people at New York Comic Con expressed the same, wide-eyed response, "Playboy was at Comic Con?!", followed by an incredulous "Really?!"

Developed by Coty, a French company founded in 1904 that currently maintains 10,000 employees, generating approximately $4.6 Billion in revenue, the Playboy Fragrances line was being showcased at NYCC, and was also the sponsor to the Sci-fi Speed Dating sessions held in the same room.

For men and women, the line is comprised of city themed colognes for men, as well as 'VIP', and 'Super Playboy' versions. The women's perfumes are best described as themes on "attitude", with names like 'Sexy', 'Lovely', and 'Spicy'. The perfume line also shares the VIP and Super Playboy name, and all are available at major brick & mortar retailers, and online for $16 per bottle.

The 'Super Playboy' fragrance was the scent du jour at New York Comic Con. The association between the product line and the convention was initially lost on me, which I admitted in my interview with Mary Santangelo, Senior Marketing Manager for Coty Beauty US.

Maxxum: Playboy's market has been media, apparel, and accessory licensing - why is Playboy entering the fragrance market now after [almost] 60 years?

Mary Santangelo: Well, Playboy has actually been in the fragrance market since 2008, so that is when we launched the Playboy Fragrance brand globally and in the United States. The fragrance was seen as a great extension, it really makes the Playboy brand accessible to consumers, and fragrance is a really easy entry point for that. And, at the same time, fragrance is very aspirational... fragrance allows you to maintain a degree of attainability, but aspirations at the same time in a way where clothing and apparel sometimes does not.

Clothing and apparel can become very ordinary, so fragrance really takes it to the next level, it's a very elevating way to bring your brand to people, and give them a piece of that experience that they can't otherwise experience firsthand. I can't really speak to Playboy's motivations beyond that, but in terms of when we speak for them, and about being a partner in fragrance that has always been the discourse about what we do as Playboy Fragrance - we bring people a piece of the Playboy good life.

Were the fragrances developed in house, you'd mentioned [earlier] another perfumery.

The way the fragrance industry is structured, we use fragrance suppliers - so, there are creative centers in the industry where all the perfumers work, and there's several of them that compete, so Coty works with these fragrance suppliers to develop everything, and Playboy was no exception to that. Each of the different Playboy fragrances come from a different perfumer, from a different fragrance supplier. So, there's no hard and fast rule for where exactly we award the fragrance.

The Comic Con is new territory for Playboy...

Yes, it definitely is.

So, uh, how to phrase this... how are Coty and Playboy engaging nerd culture? Nerds don't really fit the idea of the super playboy image.

But, they do, and I think that's the part that makes this really special. The "super playboy" as a concept was inspired by the idea of action, comic book heroes... the idea of having special powers. ... Playboy as a brand is all about powers of seduction, male and female attraction, and all of the fun that comes with that. So, Super Playboy was really an evolution of that idea, and now bringing it to a new place because what we do is explore different facets of that experience, we explore different facets of seduction, so this was just borne from a really fun idea: what if you took your seduction powers to the next level, to an exponential level. If you could live out your alter-ego and really go above and beyond this world... that is where Super Playboy came from. It was really seen as fun, and definitely on point idea, a creative interpretation of the Playboy Fragrances brand.

So, [New York] Comic Con was the perfect opportunity from a local marketing perspective, to really engage a new audience for this. I think male/female attraction, seduction, it's universal whether you're a nerd, or not. People want to get together, people want to have a good time together, people want to experience love and romance no matter what. So, this was the perfect forum to do that, now that they have speed dating here at Comic Con, it was such a natural fit for us to sponsor this speed dating event here as Playboy would because we want men and women to get together, we want people to find attraction and romance and fun and have a story together. So, linking them with Super Playboy was the perfect way to complete that trifecta.

Heh... that's very tongue-in-cheek. So, it's more SUPER Playboy.

Yes! It's SUPER Playboy. You're super sexy, super seductive, just like your favorite action hero.

Yeah, that makes a lot more sense now...


I'm glad you explained that. I was wondering why the video seemed so much more of a parody of what was happening.

Right, and if you look closely at the packaging, you'll see that there's comic inspiration. We have comic book animation tiles in there, and we have some *POW* and *BOOM*, those fun terms in there.

Yeah, I could see that going many places.

Some subtle humor. *laughs*


While not science fiction, I do read about colognes, an interest I acquired from an ex. Although the idea of wearing colognes didn't at first appeal to me, the skill demonstrated in the analysis of scents is intriguing. And, if you've ever spent hours fine tuning a D&D character, perhaps you can appreciate why it can take so long to choose a scent that expresses who you are.

When looking at fragrances, I ignore the names - they are marketing vectors. The name doesn't do anything to explain how it will smell on you. Instead, look at the "notes" of a fragrance, separated into top, middle, and base. The top note is the first scent out of the bottle, the one you immediately detect on your skin. Ignore it. After a few minutes, you can smell the scent change as the alcohols evaporate and reveal the middle notes. Depending on the longevity of a fragrance, the middle notes can at times be ignored if the scent changes quickly, i.e. in the time it takes to drive to meet a date. The duration of a middle note can vary substantially between fragrances. Ultimately the base note is the scent that lingers the longest, and that comprises the overall body of a fragrance, it's the one to which you should pay most attention.

After going through the scents available, I chose to review 'Hollywood Playboy'. It is described as an oriental woody cologne (think of a delicate incense with hints of citrus), and was designed by Vincent Kuczinski. 'Hollywood' is mix of natural and synthetic ingredients, and possesses a light sillage, meaning that one will need to be closer to smell it, almost like a body spray. The top notes evaporate quickly, lasting roughly 5 - 10 minutes. The middle notes are woody floral (fougere), bordering on feminine - this lasted 20 minutes. The base notes contrasted sharply with the middle notes, becoming distinctly masculine, and lasted roughly 2 - 3 hours.

This scent was appealing to me, and why I chose to review it over others that were available. However, because your body chemistry will differ from mine, it might smell entirely different on you. Moreover, the scents that I find pleasant could be unapproachable to someone else, and why perfumers produce so many variations on a scent. It's important that when trying a fragrance you 1.) bring someone you trust to judge, and 2.) have the patience to wait in store as the fragrance goes through its phases on your skin.

After the interview, Mary and I discussed at length a lot of the motivations behind wearing a fragrance, and how that fits into a nerd/geek's lifestyle - which takes me to the subject of a debate I had with a member of our team, Melissa M., who provides artistic balance and criticism to my photography and stories. Melissa asked bluntly why had I decided to pursue the interview, further asking what did fragrances have to do with a comic convention - a question to which I'd alluded during the interview.

The implication isn't so much that nerds don't understand nice scents, it's that the lifestyle choices associated with nerds don't typically require fragrances beyond soaps (nowhere is this more clear than on the websites of certain large conventions reminding attendees to bring deodorant), nor do we necessarily feel that the lifestyle of an attractive socialite is attainable. My empirical observations, and what I experienced growing up as an overweight, unpopular geek was that I and others like me weren't attractive enough to wear cologne, nor did we have the confidence to put ourselves in a situation that could have resulted in a failed attempt at romance. In a min-max approach to dating, our skill points had been allocated elsewhere to handle a very specific type of creature.

The question remains, why did I cover Playboy Fragrances despite lingering doubt expressed by just about every nerd I know. I don't believe that Coty is suggesting the impossible. I was a fat geek... I'm not anymore. And, if you're afraid to ask someone out because they might say "no", consider then the odds if you don't pose the question. The rejection stings, worse if it's consistent over time, but people still send letters to Playboy starting "I never thought it would happen to me..." for a reason. If you view grooming as essentially an attribute modifier, then it's not so difficult to see why it can improve one's odds when making a pass at someone.

Photos by Maxxum