By  on August 31, 2007

In a bid to nail down the number-two position in mascara, and to steal the coveted spot from the L'Oréal Paris brand — once and for all — Procter & Gamble Co. is expanding its rapidly growing Cover Girl mascara franchise with LashBlast, an item that incorporates new brush and component technology, in partnership with a sleek and sophisticated ad campaign featuring the firm's newest spokeswoman, Drew Barrymore.

"We are committed to mascara. So, we are committed to being the number-two player," said Esi Eggleston-Bracey, general manager, Cosmetics North America, Procter & Gamble.

With the number-one slot largely out of reach — Maybelline, which is also owned by French beauty giant L'Oréal, has a firm grip on the top spot with nearly double its leading competitors' sales at $180 million in revenue for the latest 12 months — Cover Girl executives have said second place is good enough.

Cover Girl's recent history in the mascara segment has been fairly unexciting: It has hovered in third place since 2004. For the 52-week period ended Aug. 17, P&G tallied up $90 million in mascara sales in food, drug and mass stores, excluding Wal-Mart, according to Information Resources Inc. But while still ranking third, the brand has gotten much closer to second place over the past three years. VolumeExact and LashExact, which were launched in 2007 and 2006, respectively, have helped push Cover Girl to achieve an 18 percent sales gain in the mascara category in the past year. And, LashExact is already ranked the fourth best-selling mascara overall, according to IRI data. L'Oréal Paris holds onto second place — in terms of mascara sales — with $95 million in sales.

Volume is what has been driving the mascara business, explained Eggleston-Bracey. It basically accounts for half of all mascara sales, she said, which IRI has at $450 million, up 4.6 percent in the past 12 months. But tapping into that consumer, who seems quite complex, is a challenge.

"The volume seeker doesn't only just want to be noticed, she is pretty subdued. But she's the sophisticated consumer in the room who is wishing the thing that gets noticed about her is her eyes," said Eggleston-Bracey.LashBlast takes volumizing to the next level, she added, due in part to a much bigger brush and "many, many, many" more bristles, which help create "a more 'wow' lash look." LashBlast's bright orange packaging also helps "speak to the consumer," since she's a bit of an introvert.

Moldtrusion technology in LashBlast helps it realize big results, said Eggleston-Bracey.

"Traditional mascara uses a wire brush and the mascara sticks to it. A woman will even take pins to her lashes to separate them out. The moldtrusion brush does not stick or clump on the lashes," she said, adding that P&G is the first company to have such a brush, which is patented. "There are some look-alikes and applications of the technology that don't offer the same benefits. There are colored brushes that look similar," she said, but none are equal. Max Factor, owned by P&G, also uses a moldtrusion brush, which was launched with the brand's Lash Perfection in 2005. Cover Girl's LashExact also uses the technology.

While it appears LashExact, VolumeExact and LashBlast are similar in nature, Eggleston-Bracey assured they are not.

"They absolutely speak to a different consumer. LashExact is more precise, for someone who wants to define and lengthen. It doesn't even go after volume. VolumeExact gives more of a precise, voluminous look. LashBlast gets you that 'wow' look. It's like mascara that can give you a false lash look," she said.

Dr. Sarah Vickery, senior scientist for Cover Girl Cosmetics and LashExact, said formulas target consumers' unmet needs regarding separation and clumping.

"As we looked back at these issues, it came down to brush technology. It had been stagnant for four years. Those brushes didn't penetrate the lashes, so why even have bristles? We said we should start with a new brush, a better brush."

The new model has a 25 percent bigger core, which allows it to hold more mascara and create more surface area contact.

"Most mascaras dump a lot of product at the base and then you try to fix it. We call that a dump-and-fix model. Now there's more of a uniform definition right away, because of 67 percent more bristles. There's more touch points and even coverage on contact. All of the lashes are volumized in concert. 'Spherical wax' particles act as spacers so they lightly protrude out of the mascara film to help create a beauty fan of lashes," she said.The new brush is part of P&G's rapid prototype program, developed a year and a half ago, which allows the company to get new mascara brushes for consumer and lab testing in less than a week and for a fraction of the cost of older programs. Previously, getting a prototype required up to six months at $100,000 apiece.

In addition to new technology, P&G will unveil Cover Girl spokeswoman Drew Barrymore in print and TV ads.

Barrymore, who served as co-creative director on the ads, is quite excited about her latest role.

"I love it," she said of being a Cover Girl. "The product, the message, it has always said, 'Be true to yourself,' instead of fitting into a mold. It's about being the best version of what you are. That's important, especially with beauty and women."

P&G announced in April it had signed the 32-year-old actress to a multiyear deal to be the face of its cosmetics brand. Barrymore is not completely unfamiliar with representing beauty. She appeared in ads for pal Gucci Westman when the makeup artist launched a makeup collection for Lancôme in 2005.

But the LashBlast campaign marks her American debut as a glamour girl, a role she said she takes very seriously.

"I gave [the deal with P&G] a lot of consideration and after weeks and months of discussions, I still felt very passionately about it. I'm very grateful they are so willing to collaborate because as a producer and director, by nature, I love the collaborative aspect on projects. I'm not one of those people that can just stand there and smile with lipstick on. I am completely incapable of not being myself."

Makeup, it turns out, plays a key role in the natural beauty's life. She loves, for instance, interchanging lipstick for blush or blush for eye shadow or eye shadow for concealer — breaking the rules, some would say. But when it comes to mascara, Barrymore said there is no replacement.

"Nothing can substitute a good mascara." Especially one that can help create a sexy image."Lovely, long, spidery, beautiful lashes are alluring and sexy," she said. "Like a finger extending out," drawing someone in.

The campaign, which was shot earlier this month in Los Angeles, is scheduled to appear in the November editions of beauty magazines. TV ads are slated for October, coinciding with LashBlast's entry into select retailers. The mascara will be available nationwide in January. Noted fashion photographer Michael Thompson shot the black-and-white LashBlast print ad, Linda Cantello did the makeup and Orlando Pita styled the hair.

LashBlast is available in four colors and will retail for $7.49. P&G would not comment on projected sales, but industry sources estimate LashBlast could generate as much as $35 million in first-year sales.

In-store visuals, such as headers to accompany promotions, will appear in stores as early as October and will feature Barrymore, too.

"Customer feedback has led us to starting with promotions in October," said Eggleston-Bracey, about three months earlier than the firm had originally planned. LashBlast will be Cover Girl's sole mascara launch for 2008. And while it aims to take L'Oréal Paris' number-two spot in mascara, it will come against tough competition in the first half of 2008, sources said, when leader L'Oréal launches two new mascaras of its own.

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