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NEW YORK — Clairol wants to touch up fading category sales by taking the risk out of at-home hair color. The Procter & Gamble division, which spent the last two years focusing squarely on color through its multimillion-dollar ad campaign, “Colorwonderful,” is now broadening its message to emphasize hair health.

Nearly 60 percent of women color their hair, and nearly half of them would dye their tresses more often if they weren’t concerned about damage, according to P&G research. Of those who steer clear of color, 30 percent cite damage as their primary reason for abstaining.

“If we can take the risk out of at-home hair color, we can grow the category,” said Charlene Sawyers, director of marketing, North America, for Clairol Retail Haircolor. In the mass channel, hair color sales slid 5 percent in 2004 to $1 billion, according to Information Resources Inc.

In an attempt to bolster sales, Clairol has revisited three brands in its portfolio — including Nice ’n Easy, Hydrience and Herbal Essences — updating each to appeal to women’s universal desire for healthy, shiny locks (without gray strands). Guiding each of these changes, explained Sawyers, is the underlying theme of “color confidence,” an internal phrase used by the Clairol team. In the company’s view, the more confidence consumers have with at-home hair color, the more they will experiment, fueling demand for Clairol products.

Beginning this March, Nice ’n Easy boxes will include ColorSeal Gloss, a weekly treatment said to retain 20 percent more color over a six-week period. The silicone-based conditioner borrows “long-lasting color technology” — a resin that attaches to the hair fiber — from Max Factor’s Lipfinity. Nice ’n Easy will remain at its current price point of $6.99.

For consumers plagued by gray roots, Clairol is introducing Nice ’n Easy Root Touch-Up. The kit, which is designed to cover roots in 10 minutes no matter which brand of color you use, could potentially bring salon goers to the hair color aisle of chain drugstores. Root Touch-Up will make its debut in March for a suggested retail price of $6.99.

P&G has ramped up its cobranding efforts across its beauty and personal care brand portfolio, as evidenced by the recent introduction of Secret Platinum & Olay Conditioners, a deodorant featuring skin care technology. The influx of cobranded products will soon extend to the hair care category. This spring, Clairol will roll out Hydrience hair color with Pantene IntensivMoisture After-Color Therapy, a six-week supply of conditioner designed to moisturize newly colored hair to enhance shine. The new Hydrience product will sell for a suggested retail price of $7.99.

This story first appeared in the January 21, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Herbal Essences, now billed as Bold ’n Brilliant Color, will come out with its new makeover in March. The formula has been tweaked to include pure color extracts. Shade selections have been updated to 21 new bold hues, including eight blonding and highlighting options. Packaging, accented with a hologram logo, seeks to ease concerns about damage with phrases such as “permanent color that won’t trash your hair!”

Clairol also has added a six-week supply of conditioning treatment, called Continuous Conditioning Gloss, to the box; it is designed to impart 42 percent more shine. Sawyers explained the levels of conditioners in the after-color treatments are calibrated for each hair color. The revamped Herbal Essences hair color will sell for a suggested retail price of $9.99.

Advertising for the launches breaks in late March and includes print and TV efforts as well as ads on the Internet and direct marketing. Sawyers said Clairol will offer more point-of-sale promotions over the next year to 18 months.

Industry sources forecast these changes will pad Clairol’s brand sales by $35 million this year. For the 52-week period ended Dec. 26, Clairol brand sales totaled $318 million, according to IRI.

The brand updates follow last year’s revamp of Clairol Natural Instincts, the first makeover since the brand carved out the semipermanent category in 1994. Natural Instincts expanded its shade selection, emphasized its “less risk, more reward” positioning and tossed an after-color conditioning treatment into the box. The changes succeeded in reversing a sales decline and fueled double-digit growth. For the 52-week period ended Dec. 26, Natural Instincts sales rose 10 percent to $68.5 million, excluding Wal-Mart, while the brand had declined 4 percent in 2003, according to IRI. Factoring in Wal-Mart, industry sources estimate that over the last three-month period, dollar share has increased 15 percent on unit sales growth of 18 percent over the same period last year.

This year’s expanded effort intends to jump-start the beleaguered hair color category. The Baby Boomers who propelled category sales throughout the Nineties have become disenchanted with the lack of newness in the category, noted Sawyers. Under the leadership of A.G. Lafley, chief executive officer of P&G, the company has ramped up innovation across its beauty brands to ignite sales.

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