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Men Get 10-Minute Salon Color Service With Flash Back

John Paul Mitchell Systems is taking aim at the other half.

John Paul Mitchell Systems is taking aim at the other half.

The professional hair care company is introducing Flash Back in January, a demi-permanent range that is its first hair color offering designed specifically for men. A 2-oz. bottle of Flash Back is priced at $3.95 for salons, and is available in light, medium and dark shades for warm natural, cool natural and neutral tones.

“The men’s hair category has been on our radar for a while,” said Kim Donovan, who handles marketing for John Paul Mitchell Systems’ color lines. “We felt that now is the right time because of the demographics. The population is getting older, and men are more interested in their appearance.”

Virtually untouched territory for the company, the growth of the male market is tantalizing to John Paul Mitchell Systems, which has unisex products such Tea Tree Lemon Sage shampoos and conditioners that draw male audiences. The company cited a 46 percent jump in men’s hair color retail sales for the first half of this year compared with last year, and the increasing shelf space given to male-oriented personal care at stores as examples of the male sector’s relevance.

Flash Back certainly will have rivals in men’s hair coloring. There are choices at retail — Combe Inc.’s Just for Men and Clairol’s Natural Instincts for Men being two of the most prominent — although less at salons targeted directly at male customers. Redken has Color Camo meant for men in professional settings and L’Oréal has L’Oréal Professionnel Homme Cover 5, but salons largely don’t segregate hair color by sex.

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Still, John Paul Mitchell Systems believes men aren’t satisfied with existing hair color options. “The number-one complaint is the obviousness of the color,” said Donovan. She explained Flash Back’s formulation subtly hides grays — a horror for many women, a few grays peaking out after a coloring is often fine with men — and lasts four to six weeks for men who don’t want to be stuck with the look.

But getting men, who account for around one-third of the professional salon industry’s sales, into salons for color remains a challenge. Stephanie Kocielski, artistic director for John Paul Mitchell Systems, said Flash Back eases men into color by making the process short (only 10 minutes) and the color tolerable (it is scented with a hint of mint and is a liquid-gel consistency for easy application.) “It can be put on as quickly as you can shampoo your hair,” she said. “There is no embarrassment where a guy has to sit [for long with foils] at the salon.”

For several months, Kocielski tested Flash Back on around 24 men, including some pretty macho firemen, to determine if men could be professional hair color converts. “It was just amazing to see how we turned these roughhouse firemen into salon-friendly guests. They said there was no smell, no harshness. It was a simple, easy procedure that made them feel really good,” she said. “They have all kept up their hair color.”

Once men get in the habit of visiting salons for color, John Paul Mitchell Systems envisions them becoming well-rounded consumers of the brand’s products. After all, men are typically loyal to their salon and will return regularly to maintain their style, perhaps with a spate of styling agents. “What is great about hair color in the service side is that once we get guys using the hair color, then there are always care products they can purchase,” said Donovan.

Ultimately, Donovan hopes that Flash Back will enter the roughly 45,000 U.S. salon doors John Paul Mitchell Systems is in and boost the company’s color business, now about 25 percent of the estimated $600 million in revenues John Paul Mitchell Systems pulled in last year. Industry sources project Flash Black will generate in excess of $3 million in sales for its first year.