From Chanel No. 5 to Britney No. 11

December 5th, 2012

Tina Fineberg for The New York Times

Nicole Polizzi at a Perfumania store in New York last month to promote her latest fragrance, Snooki Couture by Nicole Polizzi.

AS consumers enter the high season of perfume shopping, the array of personalities, A-list and non-, with scents on the market — from Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Taylor Swift to the tattoo artist Kat Von D and Nicole Polizzi (Snooki from “Jersey Shore”) — might be overwhelming. These items are not White Diamonds, the Elizabeth Taylor perfume, so much as Cubic Zirconias.

“That’s what I would call the cheapening of celebrity,” said Catherine Walsh, who, as senior vice president of global marketing at Coty, has worked on fragrances from Jennifer Lopez, Sarah Jessica Parker and Gwen Stefani.

The first celebrities were big A-listers, she said. “Now, pretty much any celebrity, whether they be an actress, a performer, a musical artist, whatever — anybody who’s had some sort of even minimal career highlight in their life — the next thing they say is, ‘I need a fragrance,’ because it’s part of brand-building.”

The degrees of fame may differ, but the marketing of celebrity fragrances tends to be consistent, typically focused on strategic personal appearances, social media, news coverage and advertising. Often, other product releases are timed simultaneously, as with Rihanna’s latest album, “Unapologetic,” and her third and newest fragrance, Nude by Rihanna (she has some catching up to do: Britney Spears has 11 scents on her C. V.; Ms. Lopez, 18).

Last month, about 75 young fans showed up on a brisk afternoon at a narrow Perfumania boutique around the corner from Macy’s in Herald Square to see Ms. Polizzi promoting her second fragrance, Snooki Couture by Nicole Polizzi.

Most attendees at the subdued event, who waited quietly in a steadily flowing line, seemed more interested in having their picture taken with her than actually buying anything, though Luzmarie Rosario, 20, a medical administrative assistant from Albany and a “Jersey Shore” fan, bought a pink-and-purple leopard-print bottle of Snooki by Nicole Polizzi, the star’s first fragrance, for $ 45. “It smells really good,” she said. “It has to smell good for me to buy it.” (A reporter detected notes of red strawberry Twizzlers.)

The event ended earlier than planned, though Ms. Polizzi stayed briefly to buy two men’s fragrances for her fianc?, Jionni LaValle. She said her new scent has notes like apple blossom and so-called cashmere woods, “which I thought sounded classy.”

Both Snooki and Snooki Couture sold out when Ms. Pilozzi first promoted them on a set of appearances on HSN, the home-shopping channel, where she has also offered a crocodile-shaped stuffed animal and bulbous bedroom slippers in shiny lime green or purple or zebra print.

This is prime season for fragrance of any stripe: November and December typically make up about 40 percent of the category’s annual sales, according to NPD, the market-research group, with department-store sales of celebrity scents at $ 55 million from January through August this year.

Even lesser-wattage stars can make big numbers, like the actress Kate Walsh, from the ABC series “Private Practice” and “Grey’s Anatomy” (no relation to Ms. Walsh of Coty). After making its debut on HSN in 2010, her first scent, Boyfriend, began selling at Sephora in 2011 and sold on a par there with scents by names like Herm?s and Prada, said Jessica Hanson, vice president of merchandising for fragrances at Sephora. She declined to give figures.

The actress discussed the industry. “There are certainly people like Lady Gaga and others that are megastars that have the model that they put it out, it makes a gazillion dollars and then there’s drop-off and that’s it,” she said.“It’s kind of a tortoise-and-hare thing, and I would definitely be the tortoise, or Boyfriend is.”

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