The Almay Intense i-Color collection promises to make eye color pop.

NEW YORK— Almay thinks women could use a little therapy. No, not the kind that requires a visit to the doctor’s office or even a trip to the local designer boutique. Almay is talking about color therapy. <BR><BR>The company’s new eye...

NEW YORK— Almay thinks women could use a little therapy. No, not the kind that requires a visit to the doctor’s office or even a trip to the local designer boutique. Almay is talking about color therapy.

The company’s new eye collection, Intense i-Color, slated to debut in early-2005, aims to take the guesswork out of selecting the most flattering eye shadow shades — ones that promise to make eye color pop.

There’s a reason why a bronze, summer tan makes blue eyes sparkle, or a plum-colored sweater enhances brown eyes, said Kevin Kells, vice president of marketing for Almay. “The theory underneath it is called ‘color therapy,’” explained Kells, adding that a precise combination of contrasting colors — those that sit opposite from each other on the color wheel, and complementary hues, will intensify eye color.

Kells said in the past women would have had to ask a department store beauty adviser for a tutorial on the concept. However, just as sister brand Revlon has strived to do through its recent advertising campaign, Almay’s new collection aims to pilot prestige thinking into the mass retail channel.

In fact, one of the driving forces behind the collection, aside from adding a little drama to the eyes, is to make mass market cosmetics easier to shop, said Kells.

Prestige cosmetics sales, which hinge on customer service, have maintained healthy growth, while mass cosmetics sales continue to drag.

Prestige makeup sales within U.S. department stores rose 4 percent to $2.6 billion in 2003, according to NPD Beauty, a division of The NPD Group, a market information company.

Total cosmetics sales in the mass retail channel, excluding Wal-Mart, slid 2.4 percent to $2.8 billion during the current period, according to Information Resources Inc.

Drugstores, well aware they are losing consumers to department stores because of the confusion of shopping mass cosmetics, have fixated on facilitating conversion in the cosmetics aisle.

“We know there are things we can do to make the shopping experience easier,” said Kells.

Now, as far as Almay is concerned, selecting the most appropriate eye shadow shades will be as simple as walking into a drugstore, navigating the cosmetics wall and stopping at Almay’s display space. There, the consumer will find simple, colorful signs that read, “Bring Out the Blue,” “Bring Out the Brown,” “Bring Out the Hazel” and “Bring Out the Green.”

This story first appeared in the September 24, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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To simplify product selection, Almay has organized Intense i-Color into four color families: blue, brown, hazel and green. Each family consists of three items: a palette of three powder shadows and an eyeliner for $6.99 each, and a mascara said to lengthen lashes up to 50 percent, for $7.49.

“The beauty of this collection is that it all works together in three steps. We took a complicated notion and made it simple,” noted Kells, adding, “You don’t have to use all three products, but you’d get the bluest blue or brownest brown if you did.”

The hope is that by emphasizing that particular marketing message, Almay will encourage beauty shoppers to place all three items in their basket. The brand is gearing up for its largest marketing campaign in a decade, said Kells. While he declined to talk about the brand’s ad budget, he did say spending would be up “significantly.” Television ads featuring Almay spokesmodel Elaine Irwin-Mellencamp, who has blue eyes, will begin in January, followed by print ads, Internet and in-store promotion.

While Almay declined to comment, industry sources project the collection will generate $20 million to $30 million in retail sales its first year. “If [Intense i-Color] meets our expectations, it will be one of our biggest franchises in the Almay family,” declared Kells.

Almay’s Bright Eyes collection — which during the last few years has grown to include a liner, two cream shadows, mascara and waterproof mascara — could reach $28 million.

Retailers will merchandise Intense i-Color along the beauty wall and on promotional countertop displays until planograms are reset in the spring. “All of our top customers have got it in their planogram for first quarter 2005,” noted Kells.

The colors that make up the collection — blue sapphire and copper for blue eyes; brown topaz and pink for brown eyes; beige and lilac for hazel eyes; and sage and raisin for green eyes — mimic the same color palette touted by prestige brands.

The application techniques, featured on product packaging and on Almay’s Web site, also borrow from prestige.

“The application is key when you apply the entire collection on your eye,” emphasized Sharon Naioti, senior product manager for Revlon. She explained women ought to apply the contrasting shade — which in the “Bring Out the Blue” collection is copper — on the eyelid, the midtone complementing shade in the crease of the eye, and the lightest complementing shade on the brow bone for luminosity. Eyeliner, also a contrasting shade, should rim the eye. Mascara, a complementary hue, should coat the lashes.

The eye collection is in line with the runway makeup looks showcased at the spring fashion shows: bold eyes, offset by a bare pout. It also seeks to bolster Almay’s standing in the eye category, where the Maybelline and Cover Girl brands dominate.