By  on April 3, 2009

ColorMetrics is offering a new weapon to combat gray roots for women who have been forced to stretch the time between salon visits to save money.

TouchBack by ColorMark has been designed to distribute temporary hair dye through a marker for touch-ups. The product, priced at $24.95 for .27 oz. and available in eight shades, will launch for a month-long exclusive on QVC in June before being sold via television commercials.

“Everyone who tries the product says, ‘Oh, my God, where has this been? You’ve really solved a problem,’ ” said Joan Lasker, founder and chief executive officer of Santa Fe, N.M.-based ColorMetrics. “Women, especially working women, want their hair to look perfect all the time. Now, it’s especially important because it could be for job interviews.”

Lasker, formerly vice president of corporate public relations at L’Oréal and a beauty editor at Vogue, has been perfecting the TouchBack by ColorMark marker for some 10 years. Getting the angle, size and fiber content of the marker, which has a half-inch tip that’s four times larger than a conventional marker, just right to properly deliver the correct dose of color was the breakthrough. “We could now run a Magic Marker factory,” Lasker joked.

In 2003, while Lasker was still revising the marker, ColorMetrics released ColorMark, priced at $21.95 for .15 oz., with a soft-tip applicator for temporary hair dye (a similar product called HairMarker is sold at Sally Beauty,) and Streekers, priced at $10.95 for .34 oz., with temporary bright colors that are easily washed out. ColorMark and Streekers are carried in roughly 5,000 and 1,000 salon and specialty retail doors, respectively, including Ulta, PureBeauty and BeautyFirst.

Recent ColorMark accomplishments have convinced Lasker of the mounting demand for temporary hair-color solutions. “It is turning into a recession product,” she said, pointing out that wholesale sales of ColorMark were up 28 percent in the first quarter over the same period a year ago, and 5,000 ColorMark pieces sold during a recent six-minute stint on QVC. Although the results from ColorMark and TouchBack by ColorMark are comparable, Lasker said women with more gray preferring wetter application methods would likely choose ColorMark.

TouchBack by ColorMark’s initial distribution distinguishes it from ColorMark. A 60-second television commercial that directs viewers to TouchBack by ColorMark’s Web site, touchbackgray.com, is slated to air in major cities starting July 1. Created by Barbara Wadkins Productions, the commercial features five people offering testimonials about the product. Lasker appears in a two-minute commercial that may air if the sixty-second version succeeds.

“We recognized the potential of TV advertising because it’s so easy to demonstrate,” explained Lasker, referring to TouchBack by ColorMark. She estimated first-year sales of the product would be from $5 million to $6 million and said broader retail distribution could be an option once TouchBack by ColorMark has been “on the market for a little bit.” ColorMetrics, owned by Lasker and her husband, ColorMetrics chairman and chief financial officer Robert Sobel, former chairman of Emery Roth & Sons Architects, has reached annual sales of nearly $10 million, according to Lasker.

ColorMark and TouchBack by ColorMark have four patents, which are indicative of ColorMetrics’ drive to innovate in order to carve out a differentiated niche in the hair color space. “I can’t compete with the L’Oréals and Clairols on products for colored hair if they are the usual,” said Lasker. “After six years, we continue to have the only temporary touch-up made with real hair color. Our patents are holding.…The other products, because they are not real hair color, they don’t bond to hair. Because ours is real hair color, it is actually bonding to the hair.”

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