NEW YORK — Procter & Gamble Beauty has signed a licensing deal with supermodel-turned-cosmetics queen Iman in a bid to give P&G a bold entrée into the burgeoning ethnic beauty market, setting the stage for a showdown with archrival L’Oréal.

From Iman’s Seventh Avenue offices Thursday afternoon, Marc Pritchard, president of P&G global cosmetics and hair colorants, and Iman announced that P&G and Impala — the company that makes Iman and I-Iman Cosmetics — have entered into a multiyear licensing deal to design and distribute both Impala brands.

The deal marks the most significant event in the $367 million ethnic beauty category since L’Oréal acquired Soft-Sheen and Carson in 2000 — consolidating the two businesses into Soft-Sheen/Carson.

Pritchard explained the deal is structured much like P&G’s prestige fragrance deals with brands such as Hugo Boss and Lacoste, and gives the company the trademark rights to the Iman brands across all categories — cosmetics, skin care, fragrance and hair care.

Iman, who owns 51 percent of Impala and is the sole active owner, said she will retain her current role there. “Iman and her team are the inspiration for this brand,” said Pritchard, adding that that’s what attracted P&G to Iman beauty brands.

Iman added that her strength, aside from injecting glamour into the ethnic cosmetics category, is knowing how to speak to women of color. “My staff and I are all those women. We know exactly what their specific needs are,” she said. “Over 50 percent of our business is foundations and powders, which shows we are experts in cosmetics for skin of color.”

Iman and Pritchard met a year ago during a panel discussion on multicultural marketing hosted by Fashion Group International, just prior to her decision to take the Iman cosmetics brand into mass retail.

Iman said that her beauty brands now will be able to leverage P&G’s research and development technology, marketing power and global distribution network. For P&G, Iman gives the consumer products giant a strong foothold in the ethnic cosmetics business. Iman indicated that at this point she intends on further developing her existing brands into all product categories and across all distribution channels.

This story first appeared in the October 15, 2004 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

She noted that her brands cater to all women of color, naming African-American, Hispanic, Asian and Indian women in particular.

Iman stepped off the runway in the late Eighties and into the beauty business 10 years ago, launching her Iman collection — the first of two beauty brands she created — on QVC and in J.C. Penney stores. J.C. Penney bowed out of its beauty business several years ago, retaining only select Iman gift sets and skin care items. In the late Nineties, Iman designed her second beauty collection called I-Iman — positioned as her “couture” version, which is currently carried at Sephora and other specialty retailers.

Last fall, she revisited her retail strategy for Iman cosmetics, announcing she would widen distribution to mass retailers and chain drugstores.

Over the year, she staked out valuable real estate in 200 mass retail doors, testing Iman cosmetics in select Wal-Mart and Target stores, in Walgreens and on walgreens.com. In September, the line rolled out to 23 Duane Reade stores in the metro New York area. Last week, the beauty brand and Duane Reade hosted “Iman Week,” during which a team of makeup artists traveled to the 23 store locations and gave free makeovers to customers.

Neither Iman nor Pritchard would comment on distribution plans for 2005, saying they needed to review the results of the brand’s yearlong test in the mass retail channel first. “We want to grow these brands very thoughtfully and very slowly,” said Iman. She did not break out numbers, but industry sources estimate that Iman’s beauty business now generates in excess of $25 million annually in sales.

In the last several years, players have attempted to tap into the exploding multicultural marketplace. After catching a glimpse of 2000 U.S. Census numbers, mass retailers finally cozied up to the concept of micromarketing. Their newfound awareness prompted players such as Milani and Markwins’ Tropez brand to vie for more space along the beauty wall. Other companies, once known for their general market offerings, are now shopping multicultural cosmetics lines to mass retailers. Prestige Cosmetics is repositioning its entire line as a multicultural brand. Founder of Cosmetics 2K Stanley Acker, known for creating Wet ‘n’ Wild and Black Radiance, has created Uptown Visions.

By positioning their cosmetics lines as multicultural, these brands are really going after the burgeoning Hispanic population.

In recent years, major mass market beauty companies have refrained from introducing spin-off brands targeting African-American women after failed and costly attempts from Maybelline’s Shades of You and Revlon’s Polished Ambers, which signed Iman as its spokeswoman.

Instead, beauty brands such as L’Oréal Paris and Procter & Gamble’s Cover Girl have chosen to court African-American women through their marketing visuals.

Industry consultant Allan Mottus noted that L’Oréal Paris has used spokeswoman Beyoncé Knowles effectively to let African-American women know the brand has makeup shades for all skin tones. Formulation suitable for all skin types is another matter entirely. As Iman will attest, African-American women have unique skin concerns.

Carol H. Williams, an advertising agency that specializes in marketing to African-Americans and whose client list includes P&G, said that Cover Girl TV spots featuring Queen Latifah — who recently renewed her contract with Cover Girl — score higher among African-American consumers than any other ad in P&G’s entire brand portfolio. The agency refers to Queen Latifah’s ability to score points with both African-American and Caucasian consumers “the power of Queen.”

In addition to specific outreach to women of color, Cover Girl last fall signed Matiki Anoff, an African-American makeup artist, to offer shade recommendations and application techniques for women with darker skin tones.

In hair care, L’Oréal — through its Soft-Sheen/Carson division — is putting its research and development money to work by developing a product performance differential that the company can aggressively advertise and market, Mottus noted.

For the most part, cosmetics companies have yet to accomplish such a feat. Ethnic marketing experts stress that a cosmetics company’s products — particularly its face foundations — need to deliver on the visuals presented in advertisements.

Despite the efforts by big cosmetics firms to cast a wider net, a debate continues among retailers and beauty marketers about whether women of color want to shop general market brands or whether they’d rather give their dollars to a beauty brand specifically developed and marketed for them.

Procter & Gamble believes it can satisfy both sides, with a general market brand such as Cover Girl that aims for broad appeal, and supplemental brands such as Iman. Pritchard noted that Cover Girl has the highest share of Hispanic beauty shoppers.

As the discourse continues, several industry experts are quick to point out that many African-American shoppers still don’t feel that mass retailers and drugstores are doing enough to meet their beauty needs. In the meantime, while players in the mass retail channel map out strategies to be more relevant to ethnic consumers, many women of color are buying their cosmetics at the MAC counter of their local department store.

“The general market has included a handful of shades for darker skin tones, but four shades don’t cover the entire group,” said Iman, adding that the success of her own foundations and powders shows there’s a gap in the marketplace. Iman added that the intention to expand her brand is about giving women of color more options.

Given that African-American women spent $367 million on ethnic cosmetics in 2003, there is ample opportunity for retailers to grow their business by catering to a broader consumer group. Retail sales of ethnic cosmetics continue to grow and are expected to reach $493 million in 2008, according to Packaged Facts, a publishing division of Marketresearch.com.

In total, African-American consumers wielded an annual spending power of $7.5 billion across all personal care categories in 2003, according to Packaged Facts.

When asked if she plans to break through the ceiling many retailers have imposed on ethnic beauty, Iman replied, “I’m not going to break through. I’m going to create something totally new that we haven’t seen in the marketplace.”

load comments
blog comments powered by Disqus