By Brian Steinberg
Jabot Cosmetics has been a bustling concern for years, even though the average person has been unable to sample its wares or buy any of its products.
That’s changing, however, as Jabot (rhymes with "merlot"), a fictional marketer that exists solely in the storylines of CBS’s long-running "Young & the Restless," turns actual marketer and takes on the likes of L’Oreal and Maybelline. Starting this month, Jabot products will be real and available for purchase, while also appearing during "Y&R" to bolster storylines.
"To generate viewer excitement and motivate sales, we’re tying the whole thing to what’s going on dramatically on the show," said Steven Kent, senior exec VP-programming at Sony Pictures Television, which produces the program.
Many TV networks and marketing gurus have tried over the years to extend the nation’s most popular TV programs into tangible products that fans can buy, such as a T-shirt sporting the likeness of "The Fonz" from ABC’s "Happy Days" or the mischievous scent "Forever Krystle," introduced in 1984 to play off the character in the popular ABC soap "Dynasty."
These products are usually the result of licensing agreements, just as new lines of Jabot skincare, cosmetics and fragrance products will be. But where those goods are marketed with little involvement with the program they play off, Jabot will play nearly as central a role on "The Young and The Restless" as many of the soap’s long-time characters.
Want to demonstrate how certain cosmetics might be put to use? Just put the stuff into the hands of the show’s characters. New product introduction? It can be woven into a plot. Need an instantly recognizable spokeswoman? Tracey E. Bregman, who plays Lauren Fenmore on "Y&R," will serve as pitchwoman for the real Jabot merchandise.
The new products, slated to be sold on HSN and by Ulta retail outlets, will reach "an obsessive community of consumers who are in love with a brand already, and that’s incredibly rare," said Alisa Marie Beyer, founder and creative director at The Benchmarking Co., a beauty-industry consultancy that has helped put many of the Jabot elements in place.
Even so, this venture was tough to launch. Neither Sony, which produces the soap, nor CBS, which airs it, are in the manufacturing, beauty or retail businesses; partners from those sectors had to be secured. And guidelines had to be worked out to allow Jabot products to appear on screen without affecting the quality of the series. "In terms of the integration, we needed authenticity," said Liz Kalodner, exec VP-general manager, CBS Consumer Products. "It’s not just a "slap-the-logo-on’" sort of process."
Indeed, CBS, Sony and their partners have been working on this launch for at least the past year and a half, and the idea has been kicking around for a few years. Ms. Kalodner got the ball rolling and Ms. Beyer and Fusion Brands, a maker of cosmetics, came on board.
Fusion devised a strategy that would make Jabot appealing even if potential consumers weren’t "Y&R" aficionados. Research showed consumers "wanted packaging that was really upscale but accessible," noted Caroline Pieper-Vogt, CEO of Fusion Brands. To draw a wider crowd, Jabot was expected to provide a big sponsorship of the daytime Emmy Awards, slated for Sunday, June 19, a good platform to launch a line of "red carpet" products. Meantime, backers have enlisted feedback from actresses and makeup artists on the "Y&R" cast and crew, said Ms. Pieper-Vogt, the better to lure a broader range of consumers with insight to "tips and tricks" from workaday Hollywood.
Whether rival cosmetics brands wishng to advertise on "Y&R" will be put off by the presence of a rival remains to be seen. But there’s no denying the power Jabot backers see in the link to the soap. Ms. Bregman will make appearances on HSN in July, bringing with her tales of using the goods on set and how they hold up under harsh lights, said Bill Brand, exec VP-programming, marketing and business development at the cable outlet.
One person familiar with the operation suggested sales could reach $10 million within a year’s time, while another person suggested Jabot could be "a $50 million brand" within three years.
Not enough to rattle Revlon, but maybe enough to make it blush.