Revamped Natural Instincts features new packaging and new formulas.

NEW YORK — There’s nothing like ringing in the new year with a new look. And it appears Clairol’s Natural Instincts hair color is the latest beauty brand ready for a nip and a tuck. <BR><BR>Natural Instincts, which created the...

NEW YORK — There’s nothing like ringing in the new year with a new look. And it appears Clairol’s Natural Instincts hair color is the latest beauty brand ready for a nip and a tuck.

Natural Instincts, which created the demi-permanent category in 1994, was the first hair color designed to gradually fade from hair over a period of 28 shampoos. Semipermanent hair colors, on the other hand, only last six shampoos, and permanent numbers are, well, permanent.

But despite a strong sales history and a firm grip on a 6 percent dollar share, recent figures show the brand’s sales are sliding. For the 52-week period ended Nov. 30, sales fell 4 percent to $54.1 million, excluding Wal-Mart, while the brand’s sales increased 2.2 percent and 1 percent in 2002 and 2001, respectively, according to Information Resources Inc. Overall, Clairol’s retail hair color sales fell 10 percent for the 12-month period, to $296.6 million, underperforming the category, which fell 2.3 percent in sales.

So as the leading demi-permanent brand, Natural Instincts is expected to refresh and restage itself in order to keep the performance bar high, according to Charlene Sawyer, marketing director for Clairol, North America. Subsequently, the entire line is headed for a change, including new formulations and repackaging.

Formula tweaks follow a “less risk, more reward” rule, meaning they’re gentle to hair, but just as efficacious in enhancing natural color, Sawyer said, due to a new neutralizing formula. Just as it did when it was introduced in 1994, Natural Instincts contains pure aloe and low levels of peroxide. It does not contain ammonia.

According to Jane Anders, associate director for Clairol Color research and development, formulas immobilize damage-causing metals, making it safer to color hair than before the reformulation. “We have improved the color itself, but we haven’t changed that it is demi-permanent.”

Six new shades, ranging from blond to blackberry, bow with the restage, bringing Natural Instincts’ total stockkeeping-unit count to 31, not including nine shades for men. A star fruit/mango fragrance has been added, too.

An after-color conditioner, which is included in each box of Natural Instincts to provide maximum moisturization following coloring, has been doubled in amount, lasting now for four weeks.

This story first appeared in the January 9, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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The brand’s sub-line, Natural Instincts Exotic, is being discontinued, as announced last August.

The restage, according to sources, expects to drive sales of Natural Instincts 10 to 15 percent in the first year. New items begin appearing in food, drug and mass stores during the last week of January.

Anders added that in addition to maintaining a strong dollar share, prices will rise to $7.99 from $6.99. Advertising will commence in March and will include both print and TV campaigns. Integrative promotions featuring Mariel Hemingway — a yoga enthusiast — are planned, tying together the parallel between the balance of yoga and the great color/no damage positioning of Natural Instincts.