Friday, January 23, 2009

CK One new campaign: Musings on an All-Inclusive Marketing Culture

The emblematic fragrance of the 90s, the unisex CK One by Calvin Klein is relaunching with a new television and print ad campaign (shot by the legendary Steven Meisel), a beautiful song written by British musician and model Jamie Burke and a special, limited edition fragrance bottle packaged with an mP3 speaker.
The idea behind relaunch of the CK One fragrance is about bringing people together, regardless of their differences in age, culture, race or gender. It's about coming together, through the common and universal language of music.
From WWD by Julie Naughton (issue 01/09/2009):
"Calvin Klein plans to bring new attention to its CK One franchise with a new TV campaign to be launched Jan. 20. [...]"The CK One ‘We are one’ campaign is inspired by a social movement of people coming together in the spirit of unity,” said Catherine Walsh, senior vice president of American fragrances for Coty Prestige, noting the campaign’s centerpiece is a song commissioned from British musician Jamie Burke — who appears in the print and TV ads for this campaign, as well as two Calvin Klein Jeans spots. “There is such a natural synergy between the message of the campaign and the essence of our new president’s platform that it seemed the ideal moment to share the TV spot. The campaign — and its original song — give voice to an optimistic new generation, that certainly made its voice heard in the latest election. This is a celebration of the power of coming together as one.” Charlotta Perlangeli, vice president of global marketing for Calvin Klein Fragrances, added that the song will be available as a free iTunes download and on “We believe it will help consumers relate more personally to the campaign,” she said. A print ad, featuring Burke with models of all shapes, sizes and skin tones, will begin running in February fashion, beauty, lifestyle and music magazines in the U.S. The campaign will also be online at Both campaigns were created with Laird and Partners; Francis Lawrence filmed the TV spot, which includes 30- and 60-second cuts. Steven Meisel shot the print ad.
Coty is reinforcing the music ties with a limited edition version of CK One. The bottle, which is emblazoned with the words “We are one” in a number of languages, is set into a base which includes a removable MP3 speaker. In addition, Coty will launch an all-over body spray in the CK One franchise. It is intended to be a lighter version of the CK One scent and is dispensed with an oversize pump, said Walsh. It will retail for $26. While Walsh wouldn’t discuss projected spending or sales figures, industry sources estimated the total media spend globally could top $25 million. Sources also estimated that the two limited edition products and the campaign’s effects could add $30 million to the franchise’s bottom line in the next year. More than 90 million scented impressions are planned globally".

Not coincidentally this relaunch coincides with the optimistic, all-inclusive spirit that has been instilled at the inaugauration of the new US president Barack Obama and his speech. The time is therefore prime for anthropological marketing that takes into consideration the very sensitive sensibilities of a culture founded on the principles of inclusion of all races, all religions and all sexual preferences. Unfortunately for many, the "One Drop Rule" seems to have been a custom in the United States for a long time, ie. "a historical colloquial term in the United States that holds that a person with any trace of African ancestry is considered black unless having an alternative non-white ancestry which he or she can claim, such as Native American, Asian, Arab, or Australian aboriginal. It developed most strongly out of the binary culture of long years of institutionalized slavery.[...]The one-drop rule was a tactic in the U.S. South that codified and strengthened segregation and the disfranchisement of most blacks and many poor whites from 1890-1910[..]Legislatures sought to prevent interracial relationships to keep the white race "pure", long after slaveholders and overseers took advantage of enslaved women and produced the many mixed-race children". (The following article is interesting to peruse).

In the historic times we're living, when the president himself is of black ancestry, it makes sense that such customs are better being left behind. Although it is no doubt of great importance to honour one's roots, an individual's human right is to feel however he/she wants to feel about them and not being dictated on how to, the right of self-definition becoming of paramount gravity; choosing to wear a label by ones'self or not choosing to. Subtler and more voluntary than hereditary traits such as religious choices should follow, naturally. And as to whether someone self-defines in the issue of gender, this is something that although still quite controversial is curiously often regarded with more lenience than religious or racial differences, perhaps due to the comparatively much smaller scale of those deviating from what is considered "average". Still, in a time when a transexual man gives birth to a baby, everything seems possible!
So even such a small thing as an advertising campaign that encompasses people of mixed races is a good thing! Nevertheless, I am looking forward to Coty Prestige choosing to show people of all ages in their advertisements, as the concept, placement and execution of the relaunch is clearly geared towards quite young people. As to the tyranny of beauty in advertisng (all the faces and bodies I see on the current advertisements are simply gorgeous) this is a general phenomenon in the market for fragrances and cosmetics. Due to my classical education and ancestry I personally embrace beauty for the ethical value that it definitely is in my own mind; yet I wouldn't be happy considering less than beautiful people excluded from such a thing as an all-encompassing campaign. Food for thought, dear advertisers!

For more information about CK One, you can visit the official ck one Facebook page, as well as the CK One YouTube channel.
The limited edition of CKone packaged with an mP3 speaker is available at Macy's retailing for for 50$US.

News & pics via press release, commentary my own.


  1. Anonymous13:15

    Hmm....Brad Pitt and company have been doing this for a few years now (see and for strictly humanitarian reasons - NOT a marketing scheme. So while the concept is admirable, CK's intentions are the same business as usual.

    And as a "woman of a certain age", I agree that the youth bias needs to change, although congrats to Dove for using real women of all ages and color in their marketing.

    Have a great weekend.

  2. The questions you raise here about what should and shouldn't be "left behind" (assuming that is even a choice) are really too thorny for me to tackle in the midst of my perfume reading, Helg. But I can't help pointing out that the CK One TV ad I just saw leaves a pretty young white man, the British musician/model who wrote the song, firmly in the middle of the scene, while all the other pretty young people of various colors flow around him. I don't expect much from marketing, and CK hasn't changed that. I would be very interested were they to really use models models "of all shapes, sizes and skin tones" but I'm betting they will simply use gorgeous, thin young people in a variety of skin shades, as usual.


  3. Anonymous00:14

    Somehow when it's real -- and it felt real, with Obama's inaguration -- it's right. But when it's marketing, especially Calvin Klein, it's cheese and sleaze, as in: more of the same.

    As in, aren't we hip? Aren't we inclusive? Because they're not.

    IMHO The Gap did this better, and they did it years ago.

    Like Cal's clothes though.

  4. D,

    I have no doubt that it's taken from a business perspective! They don't keep it a secret. Perhaps the Dove example (which is amazingly successful in convincing and very beautifully done) is showing the way?

    Applaud & respect for the humanitarian efforts naturally: no comparison.

  5. A,

    thanks for stopping by and commenting! I assume your place of abode has some bearing in your whole thorny problematics concerning these issues and it would be interesting if we sat and discussed this sometime.

    The TV ad sounds like something I would expect, I guess... Perhaps it has been so ingrained to the consumer's mind that there is a certain way for "models" for a commercial product to look like that the companies are afraid to break the mould. Or yet again, perhaps there is a very specific aesthetic at play in the companies and the creative field acting for them (why?) which perpetuates this pehnomenon.
    It certainly keeps a peripheral industry quite busy: that of plastic surgeons, dieticians and physical instructors, cosmetics, dermatologists, etc etc.

  6. P,

    it's certainly not on the same league, I agree. But it was a perfect chance from a marketing point of view to make the two incidents coincide.

    In a world of glossies with pics of people so hip it hurts I think the all inclusive attitude needs more fine-tuning in general!
    As a personal observation and aside: It's rather funny that in an era that embraces individuality in styling and in carrying one's frame we are feeling left out sometimes or striving for an unrealistic ideal; while in former periods which were pretty excluding in themselves (such as the 50s or the 60s) we always notice -and secretly or not so secretly- admire the uniformity of the looks (ie. all people looked as if they came out of a movie set or something). Isn't it?
    I find the optical representations of periods of time rather telling on many levels.


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