NEW YORK -- Lancome is preparing to launch a moisturizer projected to sell more units than any other single item in the company's lineup.
Pierre Rogers, president and general manager of the Lancome division of Cosmair Inc., said he expects to sell 1.2 million units of the product, called Bienfait Total, from April through December. With a price point of $30 for a 1.7-oz. bottle, retail sales could total $36 million.
Bienfait Total is expected to surpass Renergie, the company's current top product, which sells about 600,000 units of the 1.7-oz. size at $50, for a total of $30 million, according to industry estimates.
Renergie, though, also comes in two other forms -- a 2.5-oz. size for $62.50 and a 0.5-oz. eye formula for $35 -- so its overall volume will probably exceed Bienfait Total's.
Lancome executives say they are so confident in Bienfait Total's potential that the company is launching the product nationwide on April 24 and worldwide throughout the month.
Typically, Lancome launches a product in Europe before bringing it to the U.S. and other markets. The closest Lancome has come to launching a product simultaneously was Niosome, which arrived in Europe in late 1986 and in the U.S. in early 1987.
Lancome is owned by the Paris-based L'Oreal.
"When we do all the stores like this in a very big launch and show we believe in it with big spending, we make a much greater impact doing it all in the same week," Rogers said.
Rogers said spending on Bienfait Total will exceed Niosome's launch budget -- which holds Lancome's record -- by 40 to 50 percent.
He declined to break out figures, but industry sources said Bienfait Total's advertising and promotion budget for 1994 will come close to $12 million, a high figure for a single stockkeeping unit in the treatment category.
The ad campaign, which will feature Lancome model Isabella Rossellini, will hit 60 markets and encompass TV, radio, newspaper, magazines and direct mail, according to Lynne Greene, senior vice president of sales. Bienfait Total will be the first Lancome treatment product to have its own TV launch campaign, Greene said.In the cities where two major accounts plan to participate in the launch, Greene said the stores will split the media. In Chicago, for example, Carson, Pirie Scott & Co. will run TV spots while Marshall Field's will run radio and newspaper ads.
All 2,000 Lancome doors will get the merchandise the same week, but among the media break accounts are Bloomingdale's, New York; Bullocks, Los Angeles; Filene's and Jordan Marsh, Boston; Hecht's, Washington; Burdines, Miami; Rich's, Atlanta; Foley's, Houston, and Macy's West, San Francisco.
With Bienfait Total -- French for "total well-being" -- Lancome intends to claim a bigger piece of the important liquid moisturizer market. In the U.S., that market is larger than the cream market, while in Europe the reverse is true.
"It is the first time we'll have a total-performance liquid product," said Margaret Sharkey, deputy general manager and senior vice president of marketing. "We've had a marginal business in the liquid category."
Sharkey said Lancome's efforts in moisturizers have been stronger in the cream entries, such as this winter's Nutriforce for dry skin.
Bienfait Total will be targeted at women with normal-to-oily or normal-to-dry skin, an audience that includes 70 to 80 percent of treatment customers, Sharkey said.
The product's $30 price point is another factor executives cited as giving it the potential for high volume. Nutriforce, for example, retails for $35.
"When the product has broad appeal, we try to push the price down as low as possible," Rogers said.
Lancome is positioning the new moisturizer as "one product, one application, once a day," she said. Sharkey added that it promises total, or progressive, hydration, total skin radiance and environmental protection.
Lancome is basing its hydration claims on new technology the company calls physio-conversion, in which the skin's enzymes change the product's molecules into substances that continuously hydrate the skin.
John Penicnak, senior vice president for corporate scientific, explained that many moisturizers contain glycerin, which provides instant hydration.
"But how long does glycerin last? The effect of glycerin goes down during the course of the day," he said.Bienfait Total, on the other hand, contains beta glycerophosphate. The skin's enzymes help those molecules break into glycerin and phosphate, the way the right key opens a lock. Since there are more glycerophosphate molecules than matching enzymes present on the skin, Penicnak said, this process takes place throughout the day, continually rehydrating the skin.
The company's radiance claims come from a low concentration of alpha-hydroxy acid combined with vitamin C and Provitamin B5.
Lancome executives said, however, that Bienfait Total is not going to be positioned as an alpha-hydoxy exfoliating product, but rather as a high-performance moisturizer.
"As opposed to putting it in a very high concentration, we've made it a part of the total good look, the radiant look," Penicnak said.
For environmental protection, the new product contains SPF 15 and vitamin E, an antioxidant the company says is released progressively through physio-conversion.
Because of Bienfait Total's expected wide appeal, Sharkey said some cannibalization of other Lancome moisturizers is likely, but she also anticipates attracting new customers.
In hopes of getting those added customers on a full Lancome regimen, the company will offer a bonus during the launch period at stores participating in its media plans.
When a shopper buys a bottle of Bienfait Total, she will receive a 2-oz. Clarifiance cleanser and a bottle of Clarifiance toner if she has oily skin, or Galatee Douceur cleanser and Tonique Douceur toner if she has dry skin.
The company will run the offer again in June in some accounts and will feature Bienfait Total in its summer and autumn gift-with-purchase promotions, Greene said.
Lancome is working with two specialty stores on prelaunch sampling programs. At the end of March, 20,000 Neiman Marcus customers will get boxed 10-ml. samples of Bienfait Total, and 200,000 Nordstrom customers will receive mailers inviting them to the store's Lancome counters for the samples.
"The Lancome business has been extremely good," said John Stabenau, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for cosmetics at Neiman's. "Between the sampling and the entire approach, there's no way this product will not be successful."
Although Lancome executives say they are not emphasizing the alpha-hydroxy component of Bienfait Total, retailers say the moisturizer should soothe the sting Lancome has felt from competing acid products from other companies.Nancy Schmidt, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for cosmetics at Carson's, said, "They've been left behind a little bit by not getting into the ring earlier."
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