Byline: Julie L. Belcove

NEW YORK — Lancome is launching a new gel moisturizer that it hopes will corner the market on treatment for oily skin.
The new product, called HydraControle Oil-Free Fresh Gel, is one of four key launches slated by Lancome for introduction within the next few months. The others are:
Bienfait Total Day Creme, a followup to last spring’s Bienfait Total liquid moisturizer, its major introduction in that category. Bienfait Total and HydraControle will be launched at the end of the month.
Reflexe Minceur Cellulite Refining Gel, an anti-cellulite product that will compete against ThighZone, a new entry from Estee Lauder USA, as well as Christian Dior’s Svelte, last year’s blockbuster in the category. Reflexe Minceur will be on counter in March.
Gel Autobronzant Rapide, a self-tanner the firm claims dries in three minutes, will hit stores in April.
In an unusual move, HydraControle was developed in Asia, not in the company’s Paris headquarters, where most of its products are created.
Margaret Sharkey, deputy general manager and senior vice president of marketing, said that in terms of units, the gel has become Lancome’s best-selling product in Asia, where women whose skins are oily make up a bigger segment of the market than they do in Europe.
Sharkey said she expects Bienfait Total to remain the company’s number-one product in the U.S., with HydraControle coming in a “close second.”
“We don’t think anyone’s really a leader when it comes to oil control,” added Karen Rae Flinn, assistant vice president of treatment and fragrance marketing. “We’re going to dominate.”
Lynne Greene, deputy general manager and senior vice president of sales, estimated that the liquid and cream versions of HydraControle and Bienfait Total will account for a combined 10 percent of Lancome’s total sales this year.
Lancome executives declined to discuss dollar figures, but industry sources estimate that the company does between $450 million and $475 million in wholesale volume annually, making the moisturizers’ share at least $45 million.
Flinn said HydraControle is a breakthrough in oil-control moisturization because of its “micro-sponges” of highly absorbent polymers, which the company claims give a long-lasting matte appearance. HydraControle also contains anti-bacterial agents to battle breakouts, as well as free-radical scavengers and low-level sunscreen protection.
Its oily skin positioning is meant to attract younger customers, according to company executives.
“Her primary concern is oil control,” Flinn said of the typical oily skinned woman. “She doesn’t want [the oil] to break through her makeup. She doesn’t want a shiny face by 11 a.m. [HydraControle] is going to give her all-day matte, which is the number-one priority for oily skinned women.”
The $30 price point for a 1.7-oz. bottle is the same as Bienfait Total liquid. Sharkey said HydraControle is “strategically priced to get a new, younger customer.”
With the addition of HydraControle, Lancôme will begin phasing out its Clarifiance moisturizer, which was launched in the early Eighties. Flinn said the company will keep the product in inventory but will no longer display it on counter. Sharkey added that she expects HydraControle to sell three times as much as Clarifiance.
Bienfait Total Creme, the company’s second major moisturizer launch this spring, is a more emollient version of the liquid, which, after being launched last April, sold close to two million units through the rest of the year. While the liquid is targeted at women with normal-to-oily and normal-to-dry skins, the cream was developed for normal-to-dry and dry skins.
A 1.7-oz. jar of the cream will retail for $32.50.
In an effort to boost its basic treatment business, particularly these three daytime moisturizer products, Lancome has designed a promotion called “The Art of Skin Care” that emphasizes the company’s French heritage, the very trait that scares off many American women.
“The concept for ‘The Art of Skin Care’ came from the idea that the technology of skin care is an art,” Sharkey explained. “It’s going to take a lot of mystery out of Lancome. Being a French company can be confusing with all the French names.”
During the week-long promotion, after a beauty consultant selects the proper moisturizer for a customer, she will determine the correct cleanser and toner. The customer will receive a “Daytimer’s Bonus” of a travel-size cleanser, toner and moisturizer with the purchase of the moisturizer.
The bonus gifts will be packaged in clear tubes, enabling their bright colors to pop against Lancome’s white and gray color scheme.
“This is the first time we’ve used a themed platform to introduce a major new product,” Flinn said, adding that it will take advantage of the fact that 70 percent of women come to Lancome’s counters looking for moisturizers.
To back the two launches and the promotion, Lancôme will run co-op radio and newspaper ads as well as a national magazine campaign.
The HydraControle ad, featuring Isabella Rossellini and the headline “Shine no more,” is in color, a departure for Lancome’s treatment campaigns.
“It’s going to make people sit up and take notice because they’ve come to know us one way — black, white and gray,” Sharkey said, noting that the color emphasizes the product’s green hue.
In addition to the major fashion and beauty magazines, the campaign will run in Seventeen, YM and Mademoiselle in an effort to skew a little younger.
Although Lancome executives declined to break out advertising budgets, industry sources estimated the company will spend $5 million this spring for its treatment ads and promotions.
Lancome is also focusing on the body this spring with the launch of Reflexe Minceur in March.
It is actually the company’s second attempt to reduce the appearance of cellulite. Reflexe Minceur replaces Durable Minceur, which was introduced in 1991 but was phased out beginning in 1993, when Lancome decided to relaunch its body line without it and develop a new formula.
As with many anti-cellulite products, sales reportedly enjoyed an initial burst, followed by a dropoff as women failed to make repeat purchases.
The new anti-cellulite treatment is a pink gel that contains caffeine, a common ingredient in such products. It also has ginkgo and ivy extracts, which the company claims give Reflexe Minceur a better texture than the first generation of thigh creams in the Eighties and early Nineties.
Flinn said Reflexe Minceur will give body skin a smoother, more refined appearance, but will not reduce fat or shave inches.
“We’re being very careful not to overpromise; that way women won’t be disappointed,” Flinn said. “We are reinforcing that it’s for daily use.”
The company maintains that most women will see results in two to four weeks. A 6.8-oz. bottle will retail for $40.
Reflexe Minceur’s print ad depicts a woman from the waist down, standing and bending over slightly, her legs crossed. Lancome is using the same image in its co-op ads in 15 cities.
The company’s fourth launch is Gel Autobronzant Rapide, a clear gel self-tanner that Lancome claims dries in three minutes. It joins a fast-drying spray, a product launched last year that is said to dry within five minutes. Most self-tanners on the market take 10 to 15 minutes to absorb.
A 4.2-oz. bottle of the new self-tanner will retail for $20.
Because the rapidly growing category of self-tanners is lifestyle-driven, Sharkey said Lancome is repositioning its line into two categories: “the ready-to-wear tan” for quick driers and “the self-indulgent tan” for the slower, more benefit-driven products.
The ad for the rtw group reads, “Are you ready for the self-tan that dries faster than you can decide what to wear?”