NEW YORK--When it comes to fishing for treatment sales, many companies have been using what are called "star" products as bait. While in the past a firm may have pushed its full skin care regimen, these days single standout items, which generally incorporate the latest advances in technology and make strong claims of efficacy, are benefiting from the bulk of the advertising and promotional support. But while the emphasis may have shifted, with alpha-hydroxy acid-based products like EstÄe Lauder's Fruition and Elizabeth Arden's Alpha-Ceramide often getting top billing, most manufacturers claim that they are not neglecting the remainder of their skin care lineup. In fact, they say, the star products serve to introduce new people to the rest of a brand's range, which is an important step because treatment consumers generally are considered to be loyal ones. "They definitely drive the business," said Margaret Sharkey, senior vice president and deputy general manager of Lancome, referring to star items. "I really think they are pivotal in enhancing the total brand image in store." Lancome's roster includes what it considers two stars: the Renergie anti-aging lineup and Bienfait Total, the company's new all-purpose moisturizer. To be a star, Sharkey said, a product has to "not necessarily be broad, but it has to be innovative." Although the star products may garner the bulk of the treatment ad dollars, Sharkey said their powerful images boost overall sales. Since Bienfait Total's April launch, Sharkey said, "We're starting to see some spillover into our basic cleansers and into the eye treatment category." Karen Rae Flinn, assistant vice president for treatment and fragrance marketing, added that following the launch of Renergie for the face in 1992, sales of Lancome's eye creams jumped 14 percent. While it has maintained its basic Visible Difference line of cleansers, toners and moisturizers, Elizabeth Arden's four-item Ceramide line has been what the company calls its "star franchise" since its inception in 1990. "These products have been the standouts for us since they came out," said Mark Loomis, vice president of retail marketing at Arden. He noted that Alpha-Ceramide, the most recent launch under the Ceramide name, was introduced in February and has already shipped 250,000 units through the end of June. In its first year, the product is projected to top $50 million in worldwide wholesale volume, according to industry estimates. Loomis said Alpha-Ceramide has benefited from a strong in-store presentation, along with a special offer called the "starter system": With a purchase of the first step of the four-item regimen, consumers received the other three for free. "We went at this with the commitment of a fragrance launch," Loomis said, noting Arden has spent more than $1 million in collateral and store presentations, along with $2 million on a network TV campaign that started in May." "The success of any company depends on coming out with new items that are based on advances in technology," he said. "Today's consumer is not fixated on imagery anymore--she's looking for innovation." Prescriptives has perhaps taken the star concept the furthest of anyone. The company was so sure of its standout products that earlier this year it started phasing out 14 items from its existing 35-product line. The company is now focusing on a three-phase regimen called Prescriptives Daily. The first step is cleansing and toning, which is accomplished with one of three different All Clean Cleansers. The second step, moisturizing and exfoliating, is achieved through All You Need. The last step, protecting and improving, is done with Line Preventor 3. The total cost for the three items is $98.50. According to Jane Hertzmark, vice president of marketing for the company, previously these tasks were accomplished by roughly six separate items based on five different skin conditions at a price tag of about $150. "Our star items are our basic business," Hertzmark said. "But instead of focusing on one product, we focus on a concept that is spearheaded by Prescriptives Daily." Hertzmark acknowledged that the company has taken a risk by so drastically reducing its treatment line, but she noted that skin care sales are expected to increase by 20 to 25 percent this year. When Chanel launched Lift Serum ExtrÅme in March, the alpha-hydroxy acid-based product immediately became the company's top treatment item, alongside the original eight-year-old Lift Serum. "We focus on a major skin care effort for each half [of the year]," said Jean Hoehn Zimmerman, senior vice president of marketing and sales. "In the first half this year, [ExtrÅme] got the lion's share of the attention." According to sources, ExtrÅme could top $6 million at wholesale this year. Zimmerman stressed that once a customer has been lured to a Chanel counter by a star item, the basic regimen is also pitched. "Chanel has a core product approach," she said. "If you come to our counter, you're going to be presented with preventative, corrective and day and night products. We're into long-term investment." When Avon launched Anew Perfecting Complex in February 1992, alpha-hydroxy acid was not yet a household word within the industry. For that reason, the company had to make a special effort with the introduction, according to M. Bolyard, senior director of skin care and personal care. "We had to make sure the information got across," she said. "Anew has very much played the starring role from the beginning. As it turned out, the newsworthiness has drawn people in." Bolyard noted that Avon's advertising for Anew was one of the strongest product-specific efforts the company had undertaken in years, as opposed to Avon's typically corporate-oriented ads. The efforts, she said, have paid off. According to industry estimates, the first Anew did $20 million in sales in its first 10 weeks. Since then, the brand has been expanded with many new items, including products for men. "For the past couple of years, Anew has been a major part of our growth, but that doesn't mean the basic [skin care] products have dropped off," Bolyard said, noting that Daily Revival, Avon's line of cleansers, toners and moisturizers, has been repackaged; the new look shipped for the first time last month. Tana Wright, marketing director at Parfums Givenchy, said Lifting Double Sequence, an anti-aging regimen launched in February, has served to lure new consumers to the Givenchy skin care line. According to industry sources, Givenchy has sold more than 1,200 of the new item, at $100 apiece, in its small distribution of 50 doors. Retail volume should top $200,000 this year. "Americans are always looking for new technology and innovations," Wright said. "And a star product has to be really good--it has to live up to expectations. It's a bit early to say, but I think it's had a positive impact on the rest of our line. Of course, that's the desired effect, because you don't want to lose your day-to-day business." While Turnaround Cream is Clinique's acknowledged star product, it still takes a back seat to the regimen on which the company was founded. The routine, called Clinique Three Step program, consists of cleansing with one of two bar soaps, toning with one of four Clarifying Lotions and moisturizing with Dramatically Different Moisture Lotion. "All of the new products we introduce are used in conjunction with the regimen," said Eunice Valdivia, executive vice president of marketing and finance at Clinique. The company currently spends 36 percent of its ad budget on Turnaround Cream, Valdivia said, but Three Step is promoted heavily at store counters. EstÄe Lauder has been an adherent of the star system for more than a decade, said Muriel Gonzalez, senior vice president of marketing. "We started that actually with Night Repair back in 1982, then Advanced Night Repair in 1990 and Fruition in 1993," she said. "When you have a product that is universal because it is applicable to all skin types, you have the first criterion," Gonzalez said, adding that the product should also "offer the consumer new technology." The second step to creating a star product, Gonzalez said, is marketing it "in a very aggressive manor," using national print and TV ads and heavy sampling. Lauder's two star products claim roughly 60 percent of the company's treatment ad budget, she said. Lauder has devised promotions to tie its stars to some of its lesser-known items. In the fall, for example, the company will run the "Power of Three" promotion--a customer will receive deluxe samples of Fruition and Advanced Night Repair with the purchase of any moisturizer. In the Erno Laszlo line, it's more important for a star product to fit into the full Laszlo regimen than for it to have broad appeal, according to Debra McDonough, vice president and general manager. AHa Revitalizing Complex, Laszlo's recent acid launch, is applicable to each of the company's seven "clocks," or skin care programs. McDonough said the item has garnered more than 20 percent of the line's sales, working to bring new customers to the counter and "to reacquaint Laszlo users with the full regimen." While many of the industry's major players have stars on their rosters, some companies are holding back for fear of putting too many eggs in one basket. Shiseido, for one, puts its major emphasis on a three-part regimen that includes cleansing, toning and moisturizing. The company has three different lines, targeting different groups of consumers and emphasizing different treatment tasks. "Having a star product is not mutually exclusive to tending to basic skin care business," agreed Sherry Baker, president of Halston Borghese, North America. Instead of pushing one item, Borghese has been pitching its full line, which is broken out into three general categories of treatment targeted to various skin types: cleansing, toning and moisturizing. The line of about 25 items also contains specialty products geared toward extra care, such as moisturizer intensifiers, eye creams and night creams. The company will launch its first alpha-hydroxy acid product this fall, Cura Notte. While Baker said the new product will be the subject of the bulk of the company's advertising, Borghese beauty advisers at store counters will stress the importance of cleansing and toning before applying Cura Notte. "A company can lose sight of its bread and butter treatment if it has a particularly successful item," Baker stressed. "It is seductive to ring up tons of sales on one product."
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