By  on December 10, 2004

NEW YORK — Since Dove expanded beyond the confines of the personal cleansing aisle nearly five years ago, the Unilever brand has found a welcome home in each new category where it has gained shelf space — namely, hair care, skin care and deodorants.

Its new real estate holdings and fattened product portfolio have doubled Dove’s U.S. sales within the last five years, pushing them to the $1 billion mark. Dove plans to augment its growth in the first half of 2005 with an aggressive new product lineup. 

While research and development increasingly play a role in Dove products, executives say they do not use technology for technology’s sake. Rather, they let the consumer decide how far to push the envelope.

Dove’s U.S. brand director Philippe Harousseau explained, “We launched a [beauty] bar almost 50 years ago based on a single promise — that it would not dry out your skin like other bars. And it didn’t. It truly set the stage for the contribution of research and development for our brand. Since the Fifties, science has evolved and accelerated, and the position we’ve taken is that these brands are going to deliver a noticeable difference. We take a very careful and responsible approach to science to make sure we’ve leveraged our resources without creating unnecessary products.”

He added that each new product must reflect Dove’s brand position by delivering a clear benefit in a simple, straightforward way. Dove realized its positioning had legs beyond cleansing when it began developing its hair care collection for the U.S. market. That insight paved the way for a facial care collection, which bowed in June 2003.

Two years after launching Dove Hair Care, the Unilever brand has identified hair styling as the next frontier to penetrate.

Its new 12-stockkeeping-unit styling collection will use technology found in Dove’s shampoos and conditioners: Weightless Moisturizers, ingredients designed to style and condition hair simultaneously.

Delivering on the line’s claim of “style with natural feel and movement” was a tall order. “All of the styling products have undergone three years of development to find the right balance of long-lasting hold and volume control — which are key elements of styling — and natural movement,” said Joanne Crudele, senior development manager, global technology center, Dove.“These products dispel stereotypes that if you want hold, you have to deal with the negative, stiff feel [of styling products],” declared Sarah Jensen, newly appointed brand development director of Dove Hair, who previously oversaw Dove’s deodorant business.

Dove Styling includes five hair sprays and seven styling aids, including two mousses, two gels, a pomade, an antifrizz cream and a straightening cream, priced at $3.50 each. Industry sources estimate the hair styling line could reap $75 million in first-year retail sales.

Dove executives point to Precision Volume Lift & Hold Hairspray as the star product. Its patented nozzle, bent at an angle, was designed to target the root of the hair to achieve volume. What separates this delivery system from similar offerings on the market, said Crudele, is its uniform spray, as opposed to a concentrated stream of product.

The company’s consumer research indicates that, as women become more adept at hair styling, they are moving away from hair spray as their sole styling aid. And, as the products in the category broaden, so does the competitive landscape. In early 2003, Dove and L’Oréal’s Garnier Fructis both brought their hair care offerings stateside. While Dove was busy launching its facial care line later that year, Garnier Fructis staked out room in a crowded segment for its 13-sku hair-styling line, which bowed at the start of 2004. Garnier Fructis has a handful of launches slated for this spring, as well.

The flood of newness has left some retailers frustrated as they try to figure out how to clear space for these products in an overcrowded category. A buyer from one of the top three drugstore chains said that, rather than growing the category, the new launches simply swap consumer dollars among brands.

While it’s a new player in hair care, Dove maintains it is committed to the category. “We are very responsible in the way we grow categories. And we are also responsible in the way we focus on what consumers want and in the way we bring products to retail customers,” noted Harousseau.

Dove will aggressively promote its new styling line in-store, creating styling stations where shoppers can receive hair makeovers, styling tips and free samples.To bolster its credibility in the category, Dove has recruited hair and makeup artist Eva Scrivo, whose eclectic celebrity clientele ranges from Carmen Electra to Hillary Clinton. Dove signed Scrivo, owner of an eponymous salon in New York City’s West Village, last January to develop styling tips and act as a liaison to the consumer press.

“Aside from the fact that she is a great expert, Eva also embodies Dove’s beauty philosophy, and she has a similar attitude and mind-set about helping women feel more beautiful every day,” commented Jensen.

Dove also will expand its facial care line, Essential Nutrients, with a three-item antiaging regimen called Fresh Radiance.

Each product in the line, scheduled to bow in January, is designed to enhance skin’s radiance and is formulated with natural illuminators such as milk peptides and conjugated linoleic acid, a patented antiaging ingredient said to increase the rate of cell turnover. The complexity of antiaging products available on the mass market prompted the company to create a “simple, Dove-like” offering, said Harousseau, consisting of a daytime moisturizer with SPF 15; an eye cream with SPF 8, said to brighten the eye area, and a night cream designed to replenish skin lipids and nutrients.

Fresh Radiance’s reliance on technology and patented ingredients has allowed Dove to push the price point to $11 each, up from $7 for products in its original skin care line. Marketing support will begin in January and will rely on more targeted initiatives such as direct mail.

Other launches planned for the first half include Cool Moisture beauty bar and body wash and Radiant Silk Anti-Perspirant.

“Cool Moisture is the most radically different Dove bar we’ve ever launched,” said Craig Slavtcheff, director of skin-cleansing development, global technology center, Dove. He added, “The objective of Cool Moisture was to formulate something that was as mild and moisturizing as the current bar, but that also gave a fresh, cool sensory experience that consumers were looking for.”

According to Dove, consumers interested in “freshness” had to make a trade-off. “What they are currently offered on the market is an active sense of invigoration — almost like a slap in the face,” said Harousseau. Cool Moisture is designed to take a more feminine approach. Advertising, which will break at the end of January, will highlight Cool Moisture’s dual attributes of freshness and moisture. Dove spent the better part of two years formulating Cool Moisture, testing the bar and body wash in several global markets, including Latin America, Asia and Europe.Dove’s cleansing business generated $282.5 million (excluding Wal-Mart) for the year ended Oct. 31, according to Information Resources Inc.

The company will continue to build its five-year-old deodorant business with Radiant Silk Dove Anti-Perspirant in a new floral and fruity Oriental scent.

“Dove was the first brand to talk about skin care in a category that was all about odor and wetness protection,” said Jensen. “Radiant Silk includes silk powders to improve the condition of skin after shaving.”

All of Dove’s new initiatives will happen against the backdrop of Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty, a global branding campaign that broke in October.

The campaign is designed to broaden the world’s definition of beauty beyond physical attractiveness with print advertisements featuring nonmodels, ranging from a plus-size woman to a wrinkle-faced 96-year-old.

Harousseau declared, “We see Campaign for Real Beauty as a long-term initiative. I would argue that the campaign started when we launched the brand 50 years ago, because Dove has always had a special relationship with women.”

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