By  on December 5, 2013

In a move to enhance the Herbal Essences portfolio, Procter & Gamble Co. is introducing the brand’s first premium line, the Naked Collection, in January. While some may remember a similar attempt to upgrade P&G’s mass channel hair offerings in 2000 with the ill-fated Physique range, P&G executives say today’s retail climate is better suited for a successful higher-priced launch initiative.

“The Physique launch was a new brand entry into, at the time, a nascent masstige FDM [food drug and mass market] segment,” stated Walter Geiger, P&G’s vice president of Hair Care & Color for North America. “Over the past decade, the hair-care category has undergone a massive evolution with the establishment of new price tiers and entry of salon-to-mass brands.”

The new range, priced from $4.99 to $8.99, represents a 30 percent price elevation from the existing lineup, according to April Anslinger, associate marketing director for Herbal Essences and Aussie. At the core of the increase, Anslinger said, is an updated mint-infused scent and new tapioca pudding-based dry shampoo technology. “It’s a higher price point than the base business [shampoos currently go for $2.99] because we are investing in the fragrance experience,” said Anslinger. “For the dry shampoo, the natural tapioca pudding base [allows for] such a fine mist that it doesn’t leave a concentrated white circle on your head.” Added Geiger, “The technology and innovation support the pricing strategy.”

Comprised of three sublines — Volume, Moisture and Shine — the 11-piece collection includes shampoos and conditioners across each, as well as styling aids and additional “cleansing moments” like a cleansing conditioner. The scent, which P&G principal perfumer Stacy Hertenstein said is built on a “central mint note,” is meant to play off the brand’s classic sensorial approach. “Herbal Essences has always celebrated nature,” said Hertenstein. “This is really about creating this central story of mint in a way that’s complex, sophisticated and multifaceted, whether it’s in the bottle, during the lather or after the wash.”

For the collection, Hertenstein paired mint with citrus, herbs or white tea and pear, to impart different emotions. “It’s an analogous approach to how we design fine fragrances,” she said.

The Naked launch comes at a time when Herbal Essences is experiencing an upswing after years of stalled sales, growth that’s attributed to the reintroduction of the Classics Collection, launched in January.

According to Symphony IRI, while unit sales were down about 0.4 percent for the year ended Nov. 3, dollar sales across mass retailers were $381.1 million, an increase of 0.9 percent from the same time last year. The discrepancy between units sold and sales increases is attributed to the slightly higher price point of the Classics range ($3.99 for a shampoo).

Before the Classics relaunch, sales across the Herbal Essences brand, not including Wal-Mart, had been stalled for a few years, declining 5.4 percent for the year ending 2011 and 1.94 percent the year before. Although P&G would not break out numbers, industry sources estimate the Naked Collection could help P&G build on Herbal’s current momentum and generate upwards of $20 million in its first year at retail.

“We believe Naked will bolster the business around the world,” said Anslinger, adding while the range will begin as a North America launch, plans call for it to roll out to additional countries in the next year.

P&G will introduce the collection’s national television commercial Saturday during the “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show” on CBS and print ads will roll out soon thereafter. In addition, Herbal Essences will serve as the official sponsor of the Grammy Awards for the second year in a row, with a focus on the Naked Collection. Social media conversations will be encouraged by the brand during both televised broadcasts. On Tuesday, the range will be available via presale on Amazon.com, walmart.com, Drugstore.com, target.com and Diapers.com.

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