By and  on January 14, 2008

Procter & Gamble is bent on making home hair coloring fun.

P&G is on the verge of launching Perfect 10, a kit designed and formulated to address many consumer issues with coloring hair at home, such as timeliness (Perfect 10 is designed to work in 10 minutes); odor (a reformulation has yielded a lightening system that smells not unlike a shampoo), and quality (lower pH levels in the lightening system means less damage to hair, said P&G officials).

The impetus behind Procter & Gamble's latest hair color launch may have come from uberconsumer Susan Arnold, who also serves as P&G vice chairman, Beauty & Health. Arnold once commented about the difficulty of coloring hair during a visit to WWD's offices soon after P&G's acquisition of Clairol in May 2001. Arnold was so exasperated with coloring kits then on the market that she consulted her mom for some advice on how to best use one.

Fast-forward to 2008, when Perfect 10 is poised to address many of Arnold's issues.

According to Patrice Louvet, P&G vice president, Global Hair Colorants, Perfect 10 represents the first real change to hair color technology since 1956, when Clairol first launched at-home hair color.

"To change the fundamental lightening system, we had to start all over again with hair color. We had to reshade all of the colors. Just for this launch, it took us 10,000 shade iterations to come up with 15 shades," said Louvet.

Changing the lightening system currently used in at-home hair color kits was the key to stomping out the trade-offs that usually come with coloring hair at home, said Louise Scott, director, research and development, P&G Beauty.

"We learned that [the current lightening system] was creating trade-offs, like smell and not always the best color and leaving hair not always feeling great."

To address trade-offs, P&G created amino glycine, a combination of ammonium carbonate, hydrogen peroxide and glycine. "It is a big innovation," she explained.

Louvet and Scott stressed that the technology in Perfect 10 is completely new, and even though Revlon launched a 10-minute hair color several years ago (High Dimension, which has since been discontinued), Perfect 10 was designed to address more than the time-consuming factor of coloring hair at home, which on average can take up to 45 minutes.

Scott admitted a bit of luck played a role in reaching the 10-minute mark, but that cutting back on the time it took to dye hair was indeed always a goal.

Scott said P&G's fabric care business helped contribute dying technology to Perfect 10's formula, while Wella (also owned by P&G) helped with developing a cream that stayed in place after application, and Clairol helped show how to formulate shades. P&G, Louvet explained, began working on this technology back in 1999, prior to its acquisition of Clairol, knowing that, at some point, it would get into the hair color world. P&G did not purchase or partner with another outside company to create the technology, which will eventually enter salons, according to a company spokesperson.

"It is launching in the mass market first, mainly because, for the professional colorist and that channel, there has to be breadth of shades, at least 200 for a global palette," said Louvet, compared with the 15 for the mass market version. The launch into mass "is not an issue" for P&G's professional business, said Louvet. "As we look at who shops in retail and in salons, you'll find you are looking at different women."

Perfect 10 will launch under P&G's Nice 'n Easy brand to 30,000 retailers in February and will sell for $13.99. Industry sources estimate Perfect 10 could grow Nice 'n Easy sales by 10 to 15 percent, or $70 million to $80 million in the first year.

One category manager for a national retailer said she hopes Perfect 10 is well received — despite its high price point — because the category needs a success.

"This is the first time P&G has gone over the $9.99 mark. With the way the economy is and the price of a gallon of gas, people don't need to spend more than they have to," said the retailer.

While P&G has revamped all of Clairol's different hair color brands (Natural Instincts, Herbal Essences) since it acquired the business almost seven years ago, Nice 'n Easy has been the most successful, even doubling sales over the past four years, said Louvet. Root Touch Up, launched in 2006, was an overnight hit with many of the 66 percent of women who now color their hair. Innovations with copper blocking technology helped Nice 'n Easy achieve certain color goals, and its ColorSeal Gloss stockkeeping unit answered requests by consumers who wanted more of the special conditioner packaged within Clairol hair color boxes.As of June, Nice 'n Easy became the market leader in the U.S., said Louvet, surpassing L'Oréal's Preference brand, marking the first time in decades Nice 'n Easy has led the category. L'Oréal, overall, still leads in hair color sales with $412.9 million in sales versus P&G's $290 million in sales for the 52-week period ended Dec. 2, according to Information Resources Inc. Sales exclude Wal-Mart.

Perfect 10 looks to bring new users to a category that is flat and hasn't seen new users in several years.

"There are not as many new users to the category — that was six or seven years ago when the tail end of the Baby Boomers were entering the category and sales took off. With this property, I am expecting that consumers will color more often. We saw that there is even a change of behavior with Perfect 10," Louvet said, referring to a test market. "Consumers were coloring their hair before work. Imagine that."  

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