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Sassoon Regroups For Added Punch

NEW YORK -- For years, Procter & Gamble's Vidal Sassoon hair care brand was known for the slogan, "If you don't look good, we don't look good." Now, P&G is taking a more direct course of action by giving the brand a complete...

NEW YORK — For years, Procter & Gamble’s Vidal Sassoon hair care brand was known for the slogan, “If you don’t look good, we don’t look good.” Now, P&G is taking a more direct course of action by giving the brand a complete overhaul.

In May, P&G will nationally launch The Vidal Sassoon International Hair Care System, which will supplant the company’s existing styling products — shampoos, conditioners, finishing rinses and combination shampoos under the Sassoon name.

The repackaged, reformulated and refragranced line will consist of four shampoos, four conditioners, a deep conditioning treatment, three versions of a product that combines shampoo, conditioner and finishing rinse and 12 styling products, including gels, sprays and mousses.

According to Kimberly Stewart, beauty care manager at P&G, the launch is a global one. The new Sassoon line debuted in the Far East last year, where it is already the number one line there, realizing $100 million in sales in six months.

The revised Sassoon will launch in the U.S. and Canada this year. It is scheduled to roll out worldwide by summer 1995.

“We took this tactic with Pantene Pro-V,” she said, referring to P&G’s top-selling hair care brand that was relaunched in 1992. “It has been very successful for us.”

The old Sassoon brands already have some international penetration in various markets, including Taiwan, Japan, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, the U.S. and Canada. The new Sassoon products will be distributed in these markets as well as 16 new markets, including China, Korea, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Holland, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.

“All of the formulas will be tweaked slightly to better accommodate the regional differences of hair type,” said Vidal Sassoon. “For example, people in the Orient have much thicker hair than Americans do, so they need somewhat of a different formula.”

Procter & Gamble acquired the brand from Richardson-Vicks in 1985 as a line of three shampoos, conditioners, a finishing rinse and 16 styling products. The line was positioned as a three-step regimen: cleanse, condition and protect.

In 1990, P&G introduced three versions of Sassoon Ultra Care, a product that combined the three steps into one product.

According to industry sources, both the original Sassoon line and Ultra Care have been losing momentum in recent years.

Last year, total sales of all products in both lines were around $74 million at retail, compared with about $100 million in 1992, sources said.

“I think they lost a lot of sales to Pantene Pro-V,” said Andrew Shore, a securities analyst with PaineWebber. “It’s been somewhat of a trade-off for them. Both lines have an upscale salon heritage. But I see no reason why they can’t pull themselves up.”

According to sources, Pantene is now ranked as the number one hair care brand worldwide. Last year it commanded 8.4 percent of the $1.5 billion shampoo market, or $126 million in retail sales.

In 1992, before the relaunch, the brand had a mere 3.4 percent of the $1.5 billion market, or $51 million in retail sales.

P&G is reportedly expecting the Sassoon restage to generate $90 million to $100 million in sales in the U.S. in the first year, sources said. “In the last year we have lowered the price of the line dramatically,” said Stewart, who declined to comment on sales or advertising figures. “So we are planning to significantly increase our case shipments to make up the sales volume.” said Stewart.

According to Stewart, in the last year the Sassoon line has been lowered from $3.99 to $3.29 to $2.99. Each product in the new line will be priced at $2.99, but the product has been upsized by an average of 18 percent, Stewart said.

To support the U.S. launch, P&G is backing the brand with roughly $25 million in advertising, sources said.

Teaser television spots will run in April in major markets, Stewart said. The national TV commercial will kick off in May. Print advertising will break in June.

The company is also sampling foil packets of shampoos and conditioners during the month of July through direct mail. According to Stewart, P&G is targeting 25 percent of U.S. households for the sampling effort, or 23 million homes.

The new line, like the original, will be marketed as a system of three products to shampoo, condition and protect the hair. “Our objective is to meet everyone’s different hair care needs, but Sassoon has always felt that all people need to do these three things,” Stewart said, noting that the intensive hair conditioner will replace the finishing rinse as the protecting product.

A special display will be installed in mass market outlets, which will have pull-out charts with hair tips and the appropriate products for individual hair types.

“It is our way of providing more service in the mass market,” Stewart said.

In addition to modified formulations, all of the products, except for the conditioners, will be packaged in red to reinforce the system positioning. The system will be packaged in pink with red accents. Before, the original Sassoon line was packaged in shades of brown, while the Ultra Care brand had melon-colored bottles.

All products have all been refragranced to a fruity-floral scent. Sassoon’s signature had been a cherry/almond.

“When we first launched the original line, brown was very current and stood out, since everyone else was doing pink or purple,” Sassoon said. “But there comes a time when you need to update things. Red seems more contemporary now.

“We changed the fragrance because we wanted to have one with universal appeal,” he added. “Almond didn’t test as well in some parts of the world.”