By  on March 11, 2011

When Sephora USA ramped up its natural skin care assortment some four years ago, then vice president and general merchandise manager Mary Beth Peterson came across Jurlique and thought the brand’s formula, purity, packaging and effectiveness made it worthy of space at the specialty beauty retailer.

Fast forward to 2010, and those same qualities convinced Peterson that Jurlique had established a firm foundation to further build its U.S. business. The problem was the brand didn’t have a clear, resonant marketing message and had a disjointed distribution plan — both of which she considered fixable enough to feel comfortable accepting the job as Jurlique’s president for the Americas and Europe.

“There is something about this brand that has incredible legs,” said Peterson, who is based at the Santa Monica, Calif., offices that Jurlique recently relocated to from Irvington, N.Y. The caveat, she added, is that Jurlique needs to become “approachable” and “speak like a skin care brand.”

Jurlique is fine-tuning marketing to emphasize it is an advanced skin care brand with the requisite results and technology, and concentrating less heavily on its natural positioning. The recession’s tug on consumers who are unlikely to splurge on natural products that don’t perform and the executive move at Jurlique to Peterson from former president and chief executive officer Eli Halliwell, for whom communicating Jurlique’s sustainable biodynamic farming methods was of the utmost importance, are driving the marketing shift.

Peterson remarked that sifting through various natural brands each adhering to different green philosophies and claims had confused skin care customers. “The U.S. consumer is more interested in how the product works,” she said. “The opportunity is to break through in that regard and draw from the technology.” In order to convince customers Jurlique does indeed work, it is conducting clinical studies on significant product launches designed to be on par or better than the ones by major skin care brands, and is spotlighting its sophisticated ingredients such as natural retinols, glycolic acids and peptides.

Jurlique is also charging ahead into the spa arena and developing professional spa services to help cement the brand’s reputation as a skin problem solver. When the 25-year-old Australian brand first hit the U.S. market about a decade ago, it focused on spas, but that changed when opening its own stores — Jurlique at one time had up to 12 units in the U.S., but now has three flagship locations — and turning to other retailers. Jurlique is reversing course in the hopes of increasing its network of spa doors from 250 today to 1,000 by the middle of next year.

“It is great to have an aesthetician who is very picky be the ambassador for the brand,” said Jurlique marketing director Janice Lee.

Still, the brand isn’t ignoring its retail partners, which include Pharmaca, Whole Foods, Barneys New York, and Sephora. Of Sephora, which carries Jurlique in about 75 doors, Peterson said, “We are looking to make that a more strategic retailer.” To attract more customers at the store level, Jurlique is reevaluating its retail prices on key items and will likely be lowering prices. “We are going to be similarly priced to our competitors,” said Peterson.

Peterson’s mission is to double Jurlique’s U.S. business, currently 20 percent of the brand’s $250 million global revenues, by the end of 2012. She wants to make Jurlique’s Web site, which is being relaunched next month, a bigger part of that business as well and is aiming for it to be 20 percent of the U.S. total. “We are working on focusing on what really drives the business: the key sku’s and really relevant product,” said Peterson.

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