NEW YORK — It was no marriage of convenience, this coupling between John Frieda Professional Hair Care and Kao Corp. Already it is bearing fruit, only eight months after tying the knot.

Beginning this summer, the company will unveil a slew of new print and TV advertising campaigns to support the company’s global hair care business, which includes the Frizz-Ease, Sheer Blonde, Beach Blonde and Relax brands. And, the company plans to continue its stepped-up global execution, which already has showed signs of growing sales in France and Germany.

The advertising outreach is a big one for John Frieda, since the brand’s ad budget barely reached $5 million in 2002, less than 5 percent of wholesale sales, before it was purchased by Japan-based Kao Corp. But for 2003 and 2004, John Frieda’s new parent, which domestically is Andrew Jergens, plans to build the brand’s awareness with an ad budget that globally could reach $30 million.

Bill Gentner, Andrew Jergens’ president and chief executive, said building an ad budget that was 20 percent of John Frieda’s wholesale sales wasn’t an unreasonable near-term goal.

Brigitte King, assistant vice president of marketing for John Frieda, heads up the business in the U.S. She reports to Andrew Jergens’ executive vice president Brad Kirk.

Taking the company from cult status to mass appeal appears to be at the heart of the company’s growth strategy. King said each of John Frieda’s brands will be touched by the ad blitz, and that one brand, Ready to Wear, will be phased out by yearend to accommodate a new brand the company is working on.

Frizz-Ease, the largest brand in the John Frieda business with $60 million in retail sales, is at the core of the company’s growth plans. New research and development from Kao will serve as a deep resource for future Frizz-Ease products, which would "help us upgrade and develop new products," King said. A new face for the Frizz-Ease brand, Alyssa Sutherland, will debut in summer TV and print ads, which will have a "new, modern level and will talk about the story beyond the [Frizz-Ease] serum."The Sheer Blonde brand, which, according to King, "doesn’t have the brand awareness" it should, will continue to benefit from celebrity hairstylist Sally Hershberger, as well as new ads, which will promote the Sheer Blonde Volume Enhancing range, a line that speaks to fine-haired blond consumers.

Beach Blonde, a brand that targets younger consumers, is planning summer ads, too, and Relax, the company’s ethnic hair care brand, has a new spokesperson, who will appear in ads in July beauty magazines.

Ready to Wear, one of John Frieda’s first lines to launch in the U.S., will be discontinued at the end of the year, but will be replaced with a new launch in the product pipeline. The new line will launch at NACDS Marketplace in June for distribution in January 2004.

And there is also John Frieda’s personal appearances to consider in growing the brand. He remains closely linked with the company he founded.

"In many respects, my job is very much the same as it was before we sold John Frieda, except without the responsibility — it’s quite nice," he said. "The things I am doing at the company are the same as before, a lot of promotional activities, press launches. I work very closely with testing and help with the development of products. I don’t own the company anymore, but I still feel the same. I am just as passionate about the products."

On the European front, it’s all systems go for John Frieda.

Swiftly following its purchase by Jergens, structural changes were instigated at Frieda’s European arm. Most significantly, country managers were put in place in the U.K., Germany, France, Holland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

Julie Edinborough, managing director of John Frieda Europe, explained such executives are charged with marketing the brand’s products on a country-by-country basis. Before, the management was centralized.

"It’s how the John Frieda brand is going to win locally," she said of the new strategy.

Europe currently generates 39 percent of John Frieda’s total sales — with one-third coming from the U.S. and the rest coming from Australia — but Edinborough believes that within two years, Europe could ring up to 50 percent of the company’s total sales.The brand’s largest European market to date is the U.K., where John Frieda ranks third in hair care, not including hair colorants.

"We have some very aggressive growth plans," continued Edinborough.

France and Germany are receiving much of the company’s focus in 2003, where John Frieda is expected to obtain some 5 percent market share within the next two years.

In terms of new markets, Italy and Spain will possibly start selling the brand following analysis there.

To grow its European presence, John Frieda is maintaining its traditional strategy of launching in mid- to high-end retailers, then expanding its distribution into more mass channels, such as grocery stores, explained Arnaud Meysselle, John Frieda’s managing director, France.

In that country, for instance, John Frieda debuted in specialty retailer Colette and department stores, then was introduced in Monoprix and Sephora, followed by Carrefour hypermarkets.

"As [the retail scene] changes in Europe, the grocery sector is very important for building volume," added Edinborough. For the first three months of this year, John Frieda’s sales were up 108 percent in France and 120 percent in Germany compared with last year, said Edinborough.

She added, "For 2003, our goal is to gain market share, increase awareness of the Frizz-Ease and Sheer Blonde brands…and make sure the infrastructure is solid to underpin the future growth of John Frieda in Europe."

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