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EXCLUSIVE: Shiseido Targets Young Millennials With Waso Brand

The new skin-care line is due out starting in July.

PARIS — Shiseido is targeting young Millennials with its new skin-care brand Waso, which launches in July.

“The whole market environment is changing,” especially with the rise of social media, Yoshiaki Okabe, Shiseido brand director of the global prestige brand division, told WWD. “As a result, the touch points with consumers are getting widely varied.”

So a new line, with big play on e-commerce and social media, rather than just in traditional brick-and-mortar stores and print advertising, was necessary.

Specifically, with Waso, Shiseido is going after people in their 20s and 30s, and a core demographic of 20- to 24-year-olds “who believe beauty is equal to being one’s self,” Okabe said.

This is not Shiseido’s first move to lasso Millennials’ interest. In 2013, the Japanese beauty giant launched Ibuki. “But as time has passed, the values and lifestyle of [the age group] have also changed,” reasoned Okabe, who said the core Ibuki customer base is today older than that of Waso’s, generally ages 25 to 34.

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Also in the Shiseido portfolio is Ultimune, which can be easily used by a young consumer but has a broader reach age-wise, and Pureness — sold in Europe — that provides skin-care solutions for oily and combination skin with acne.

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The name Waso is a mix of the Japanese words “Wa,” meaning “peacefulness and harmony,” and “So,” which can be translated as “inspiration, idea and thoughtfulness.”

Young Millennials, Shiseido found, are concerned with keeping their skin in good condition. The company’s idea is to offer products combining a high-tech and natural approach for all skin types that can be used for skin health according to its ever-changing needs.

The number five played a pivotal role in the conception of Waso.

“In order to tackle all the various skin concerns, we decided to focus on five ingredients,” said Okabe, referring to elements found in a traditional Japanese cuisine called Washoku. These include carrots, loquat — or Japanese plum — leaves, honey, tofu and white jelly mushroom, all believed to promote health and beauty.

Waso products contain the PhytoResist System+, technology using botanicals’ power to target and bring back to health unstable skin with recurring issues. Four of the line’s formulas employ the Whole Cell Release System W, technology that separates entire botanical cells individually and then formulates them while still fresh to maximize their natural ingredient balance. Aromachology science was used for Waso products, which have no parabens, mineral oils or plastic microbeads.

The brand’s packaging comes in colors to visually designate different product categories and highlight the key ingredient in the formula. The Clear Mega-Hydrating Cream, for instance, has orange packaging to reflect carrots and a loop on its lid for easy handling or hanging. The product is billed to give 24-hour intense moisturizing benefits.

Also with carrot and a loop is the Color-Smart Day Moisturizer. This product has a smart formula, which adapts to skin tone and is said to bring out a glow.

With a green, loquat theme is the oil-free Quick Matte Moisturizer with a claim of 24-hour hydration. In this family is the Color-Smart Day Moisturizer that’s oil-free with an SPF 30.

The Quick Gentle Cleanser, containing honey and with a shade of outer packaging to match, is meant to remove makeup and impurities while protecting skin’s moisture balance.

The blue-tinted Fresh Jelly Lotion contains white jelly mushroom. It has a jelly texture that transforms into a lotion and is said to plump and ready skin for other products’ use.

The Soft+ Cushy Polisher, in a white tube, has formulation including soybean curd.

Waso is positioned as the entry point in the Shiseido skin-care portfolio. In Europe, product prices range from 33 euros, or $37.10 at current exchange, for the 150-ml. Quick Gentle Cleanser to 44 euros, or $49.50, for the 50-ml. Clear Mega-Hydrating Cream.

The range was created in Shiseido’s Tokyo-based laboratories.

Its print advertising, lensed by Viviane Sassen, takes a natural, brand-centric approach with portraits of young people of various ethnicities in a natural setting juxtaposed with product and ingredient shots. The message meant to be relayed by the images, according to Okabe, is ”whoever you are, you are beautiful when you are true to yourself, because you are also part of nature.”

An image from a Waso ad
An image from a Waso ad. Courtesy Photo

There will also be online storytelling videos to support the brand.

While Waso’s introduction is global, it will have a major push in Europe — Shiseido’s largest zone sales-wise. (In Italy and Germany, it is the number-one premium women’s skin-care brand; in Spain, it’s ranked sixth, and in France, ninth.)

Louis Desazars, president and chief executive officer of Shiseido Group EMEA, said when his team conducted some market studies they found that while brand awareness existed, there was not enough engagement with it.

“There was also a feeling of sometimes a little bit of confusion within the offer,” he said. “So over the past two years we decided to really refocus on some key franchises in order to build the brand awareness and to be more clear on what Shiseido stands for.”

Crucial was communicating the label’s Japanese heritage, so Shiseido recently developed regional campaigns in Europe for the Bio-Performance and Ultimune lines.

“The brand equity improved,” Desazars said. “Waso was also a way for us to rejuvenate and reinforce the brand equity. I think [its assets bring] a new modernity,” he continued, emphasizing that the label builds a new customer base as well.

In Europe, for Waso’s launch, Shiseido executives are working with social networks – influencers and the company web site.

“The key to this launch is storytelling. It’s about being authentic, speaking about our brand and also what you can bring to the Millennial,” said Lindsay Azpitarte, regional marketing director of Shiseido, adding that an Instagram page is being created especially for Waso.

The international launch plan for the brand includes a July introduction in the U.S. and parts of Asia. There will a prelaunch at Nocibé in France on Aug. 7, then a countrywide rollout on Sept. 4. In Austria, the prelaunch is set for Douglas on Aug. 14, followed by a national introduction on Sept. 1.

Italy will get the line on Aug. 23 and the U.K. on Aug. 31. The official rollout date for the rest of the Europe, Middle East and Africa is slated for Sept. 1.

Shiseido executives said they expect that Waso will generate about 5 percent of the company’s women’s skin-care sales by 2020. Meanwhile, industry sources estimate Waso should ring up $50 million in first-year retail sales worldwide.

The skin-care range is to be expanded with new products, and Waso could be extended into different product categories in the future, depending on consumer insights.