By  on November 10, 2011

NEW YORK — Dr. Miracle’s chief executive officer, Randy Zeno, is exuberant about the prospects for growth of his firm and the ethnic hair care category. He’s even uttering the return of a hairstyle not mentioned for 20 years — the Jheri curl — or at least, curly styles.

While the ethnic hair care category exploded into the mass market scene with products to maintain curls in the early Eighties, relaxers and straighteners are what have supplanted those items. But now, curls are making a comeback, in addition to straightening and smooth styles, meaning more opportunity for retailers to serve varying hair needs. That’s welcome news as industry data shows relaxer sales declined 5 percent last year.

Zeno, 49, who took over the top spot at Dr. Miracle’s in July, has spent that time revamping the entire collection to make it easier for shoppers to understand.

“I’ve been waiting to use this line: We are the miracle on 34th street,” said Zeno from his lower Midtown office just blocks from where the famous movie was set. Indeed, Dr. Miracle’s has been somewhat of a “miracle,” competing against major brands with ethnic hair care lines at a time when retailers are cutting duplicate stockkeeping units. It is now stocked at major doors including Target, Wal-Mart, Sally’s Beauty, CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid. A newly launched Web site also has an e-commerce capability.

Only seven years old, Dr. Miracle’s bucked the trend and attracted a healthy following because of its formulations known for a “tingle” that signals to users the items are working. Dr. Miracle’s was ready for the next step when Zeno entered the executive office, bringing a suitcase full of consumer product goods ammunition honed at Reynolds Consumer Products. He quickly assembled consumer focus groups to determine what they liked and wanted to see from Dr. Miracle’s.

The results of those studies are seen in a full line relaunch with updated formulas, packaging and advertising.

Research found Dr. Miracle’s was associated with repairing hair. “So, she knows firsthand that our products work,” Zeno said. “Our new direction will build on these findings to show her that in addition to helping her get healthy hair, Dr. Miracle’s can help her keep it healthy and beautiful.”

Admitting that in a mass market environment the category can get confusing, new packaging was designed to increase shopability. The new look highlights product benefits, attributes and key ingredients. There’s also an updated brand logo and a new milder aroma. What’s not changed, however, is the signature tingly sensation consumers said they love.

Among the newest product developments are an Edge Holding Gel for conditioning shine, an Acai Thermal Protection Styler, a new conditioning shampoo and two conditioners and an oil sheen spray. Prices range from $3.99 for a 6-oz. daily moisturizing lotion to $8.99 for No-Lye Relaxer.

Borrowing from the conventional market, natural ingredients are getting more attention in ethnic beauty and Dr. Miracle’s responded with reformulations highlighting vitamins and ingredients like shea butter, aloe, coconut, jojoba and olive oil. Zeno also said he hopes to broaden the reach of Dr. Miracle’s by marketing to biracial and Hispanic consumers who have special hair needs.

With all of the packaging and ingredients in check, Dr. Miracle’s is kicking off a new advertising campaign, an outreach campaign and digital programs. Mobile applications will furnish solutions for specific needs. At the helm of those initiatives is a new vice president of marketing, Arnisha Hallett-Jones.

Zeno also knows his firm is on the right track, no matter what the economic situation. “It will always be all about the hair,” he chuckled. “We’re going to stay on top of trends to make sure we give our customers what they want.”

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