ShampYou by Aspire Brands

In its first major initiative since selling Bonne Bell and Lip Smackers to Markwins International last year, Aspire Brands has launched customizable hair care brand ShampYou at Ulta Beauty.

Initially conceived by Alex Epstein, as Concoction, in the U.K., ShampYou is a test of Aspire Brand’s new business model licensing international brands to distribute in North America. The brand’s 13 stockkeeping units can be put together in 144 different combinations, as consumers pick and choose scents and benefits that best suit their preferences and hair types.

“We’re able to customize almost everything in our lives right now. Why shouldn’t you be able to do that with shampoo?” asked Chris Drozdz, general manager at Aspire Brands. “Customization is key to ShampYou. It allows customers to create their own personal concoction.”

ShampYou’s assortment contains four varieties of shampoo — ylang-ylang and bergamot; lemon and verbena; mimosa and jasmine; and juniper and mint — and eight SuperSerum shots designed to enhance the shampoos by addressing moisture, heat damage, curl, volume, root and scalp health, and color protection for brunettes, blondes and red-heads. In addition, there is a conditioner that can’t be personalized now, but might be in the future.

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In modifying Concoction for North America, Aspire Brands cut prices in half to bring ShampYou’s shampoos down to $10 and the SuperSerums to $3.50. The affordability means customization, primarily the province of the prestige-beauty segment with skin-care brands such as MyBlend and Skin Inc, and fragrance brands such as The Blend by Fred Segal and Biography Scents of Self, can reach a large audience. “You just don’t see products like this in the hair-care market currently,” asserted Drozdz, who noted ShampYou’s target demographic is 16- to 30-year-old consumers.

Customization tends to be difficult to communicate to consumers within stores, and Drozdz acknowledged that getting shoppers to understand ShampYou’s specialization concept is the brand’s biggest challenge. To help convey its format, setups at Ulta outline four steps to achieving the individualized ShampYou experience. “People at Ulta have been trained on the brand, and displays communicate what the brand does and how to use it,” said Drozdz. “You don’t really see a lot of this in Ulta. Mostly, it is bottles on shelves, but our display really explains ShampYou to the consumer.”

Aspire Brands broached a licensing model two years ago with Anatomicals, a bath-and-body-care brand also sold at Ulta that, like ShampYou, originated in the U.K. Drozdz forecast the company would add one to two licensed properties annually, and said it is evaluating brands within the hair, bath and body, and skin-care categories to strike deals with North America. Licenses remain a small fraction of Aspire Brands’ beauty business, as its skin-care brand Formula 10.0.6 accounts for a majority of the sales.

“We are attending international [beauty trade] shows and finding all these brands that want to get into the U.S. market, but they are afraid to. There is a lot of potential here, but there is a lot of risk, too. They really don’t want to make a mistake coming to the market,” said Drozdz. “In talks with retailers, they say working with international brands is difficult for them because they may want a brand, but that brand may not be ready to make the jump to the U.S. market. So they tell us we’re doing something that is needed.”