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Carrie Underwood: Olay’s Secret Weapon

Carrie Underwood ads are "all about reaching women like her, ages 25 to 35."

Olay is clamoring for younger women to be as enamored with its products as women 35 and over. So it is aiming to sweeten the appeal of its cleansing business — the foundation of good skin care, Olay executives said — by showcasing newly minted global ambassador Carrie Underwood in their advertisements.

“The partnership with Carrie Underwood is all about reaching women like her, ages 25 to 35, who are not currently using Olay now, or really any other skin care brand, because they think the products are very focused on antiaging. We believe this campaign will bring these women into the brand for the first time by giving them ‘uncomplicated skin care’ — simply a regimen of cleansing and daily facial moisturizer with UV,” said Joe Arcuri, vice president, North America Female Beauty, Procter & Gamble Co.

Olay is on a tear as it expands geographically and by product assortment. Olay’s parent, P&G, said in the firm’s first-quarter conference call last week that Olay’s unit volume had experienced a double-digit increase in the three-month period, and value share increased almost half a point. Shipments of Olay within the Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and African regions increased more than 50 percent compared with the prior year, said P&G. Arcuri said that for the past five to six years Olay has been steadily launching into more than 30 new countries, including markets like Greece, Indonesia, Mexico, Turkey, India, Argentina, Ukraine, Romania, the Philippines and Colombia. Most recent are the Korean and Brazilian markets, where Olay is now being introduced.

“We are very happy with how it continues to evolve. It is one of the most recognized brands, reaching 60 million women worldwide,” Arcuri said. He believes the brand’s appeal, despite the economic climate, is its ability to evolve with women’s needs.

He cited Olay Pro-X with its clinically proven antiaging range; Olay’s ability to add antiaging technology to cleansing, such as with Olay Total Effects Anti-Aging Body Wash, and how Olay’s Eye Roller and Micro-Sculpting Serum address eye- and face-aging needs. Due out this December is a Pro-X Advanced Cleansing System, which is a battery-operated face-cleansing device, one that Arcuri said cleans skin six times better than higher-priced items. Olay’s face wand will sell for $30 versus some of the industry’s $200 items.

“There’s great value in all of our boutiques,” Arcuri said.

According to data from SymphonyIRI Group, Olay is the leader in facial antiaging, with 38.7 percent dollar share, for the most recent 52-week period ended Sept. 5. P&G also leads in body antiaging sales, with 24.44 percent dollar share. Data includes sales at food, drug and mass chains and excludes sales at Wal-Mart.

“Our strategy of filling our categories up and down is working,” chairman, president and chief executive officer Bob McDonald told analysts during the company’s quarterly earnings call.

Last month, P&G announced it signed Underwood to a two-year deal to be the face of new Olay products slated to be launched over the course of next year. The country-music star will first represent the brand’s cleansing products, a category “we are really pushing out,” said Arcuri, adding that items will continue to receive Olay’s skin care technology, à la Total Effects Anti-Aging Body Wash.

Underwood, who rose to fame as a contestant — and winner — on “American Idol,” “embraces the philosophy of Olay and talking to younger women with cleansing and UV protection. That was her personal message,” Arcuri said.

The country singer’s national TV ad will make its debut November 10 during the County Music Awards. Print ads featuring Underwood will appear in February beauty magazines.

Said one consultant on the success of Olay: “The resources behind this brand appear to be endless…the advertising campaign has been outstanding. Consumers can grasp the benefits promised very easily from their marketing, and everyone seems to appreciate and understand the comparison statements to other higher-priced brands.”