Byline: Chantal Tode

NEW YORK — Herbal Essences is sprouting springtime growth.
Spurred on by the strength of its Herbal Essences brand, Clairol will expand outside the hair care arena for the first time in years when it launches Herbal Essences body wash next month.
Clairol predicts sales for the Herbal Essences hair line will top $150 million in 1997. Figures from sales-tracking firm Information Resources Inc. indicate that last year the brand’s sales increased 44 percent in shampoos, 43 percent in conditioners and 28 percent in hair spray, making it the country’s fastest-growing hair care brand.
William Ecker, who was named president of Clairol’s U.S. retail division in March, said he wants to keep Clairol on its recent growth path and new products are an important way to make that happen.
Body washes, Ecker continued, are the fastest-growing segment of the bath category, with annual sales of around $400 million. He expects that by December, the Herbal Essences body wash will be competing with major players like Dove and Caress for market share, which would mean the new brand should have sales of nearly $50 million in 1998.
According to IRI, Dove had a 14 percent body wash category share with sales of $50 million in 1996, while Caress had a 11 percent share with sales of $39 million. The number one name is Oil of Olay, which had sales of $90 million in 1996.
The Herbal Essences body wash line consists of a starter kit — a 7-oz. bottle and exfoliating body sponge for $3.50 — and a 12-oz. bottle that will have a suggested retail of $4.50. Each comes in dry skin and a normal skin formulas.
Clairol is aiming for complete mass market distribution for Herbal Essences body wash, or 60,000 doors, before the end of the year.
The company will use the same marketing strategy that worked well for Herbal Essences hair care to give the body washes an unusual positioning, Ecker claimed.
Other mass market body washes are extensions of bar soap brands and limit their marketing message to one of personal cleansing, he explained. By making Herbal Essences body wash more “glamorous” and luxury-oriented, Clairol hopes to pick up sales from consumers who have been buying body wash in specialty chains such as Bath & Body Works.
Packaging is one way Herbal Essences hair care has successfully communicated its natural positioning, said Ecker. The body washes will have the same translucent formulas in clear plastic bottles as the shampoos. The new items will have illustrated labels depicting the herbs and flowers that are used as ingredients.
Another important element in the Herbal Essences success, said Ecker, is advertising. One Clairol TV ad for Herbal Essences, which he said made an impact in the industry, shows a woman going into an airplane bathroom to wash her hair in the sink. Her loudly expressed enjoyment is heard by the other passengers on the plane — apparent from their shocked expressions — as they try to figure out what’s going on behind the closed door.
Ecker said Clairol will use advertising to introduce Herbal Essences body wash with a similar “experiential” theme — showcasing an enjoyable experience, rather than focusing purely on the product.
TV and print advertising as well as sampling and cross promotions with the hair care line are all elements of the not-yet-final marketing of Herbal Essences body wash, which is scheduled to begin in the fourth quarter.
Clairol’s advertising budget for Herbal Essences body wash “will be on par with the leaders in the category, who spend between $10 million and $30 million,” said Ecker.
Developing the formula for Herbal Essences body wash was no easy task, said Ecker. Clairol wanted its entry to have a clear formula, as well as the same moisturizing benefits of the leading brands in the category.
Oil of Olay, which has an opaque formula, uses its purported moisturizing benefits as a selling point. No other body wash besides Herbal Essences is both clear and moisturizing, said Ecker.
This isn’t the first time Clairol has branched out of hair care, though it hasn’t done so in a while. When Herbal Essences was introduced in the Seventies and became a popular brand, Clairol expanded it to talcum powder and cosmetics.
Then sales started to tumble, and everything but the shampoo was phased out. In 1994, before Clairol relaunched the renamed Herbal Essences, sales had bottomed out at $1 million, said Ecker.
With Herbal Essences’ renewed popularity, some stores in New York City have taken leftover bottles of the old Herbal Essences shampoo off bottom shelves and placed them next to the repackaged bottles.
The old version’s dark-green formula and illustration of a woman with very long and wavy blond hair on the label may have an appeal for Seventies retro buffs, retailers reason.

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