Byline: Andrea M. Grossman

NEW YORK — There’s nothing like the real thing, baby. At least that’s the approach marketers are taking to relaunch the Breck hair care brand. Golden formulas, clear containers, retro copy fonts and a classic fragrance have all been revisited to woo the consumer group that initially drove Breck to its retail heyday more than 30 years ago. “The most logical consumers to target are those who were brought up with the brand,” said Jeffrey Himmel, chairman and chief executive of The Himmel Group, which owns the rights to license and market Breck. “So initially, we are talking to women 30 and older.”
As reported in these pages on July 20, Himmel Hair Care Products, a division of the New York-based company, purchased the licensing and marketing rights for Breck in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia from the Dial Corp. on June 26. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
Breck’s marketing potential, however, only begins with retro packaging and a classic formula. Arguably, the brand’s equity lies mainly in its past advertising campaign: the Breck girl. Breck, a century-old brand, gained a glamour image in the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies by way of its pastel illustrations of beautiful women — Breck girls — in advertisements. Past Breck girls include Kim Basinger, Brooke Shields and Christie Brinkley.
Himmel’s opinion on the importance of the Breck girl ad campaign has changed from when he acquired Breck last year. In July, Himmel said the Breck girl was “the most” valuable piece of Breck’s brand equity. Now, Himmel sees great value in the brand’s classic lightly perfumed fragrance. He does believe, however, there is a role for the Breck girl, “but we must first be successful in creating brand awareness and giving women a reason to buy Breck.”
One may choose to respect Himmel’s decision not to jump the gun on the Breck girl campaign. Himmel Nutrition, another division, is credited with bringing several brands back from the dead, such as Ovaltine, Topol, Gold Bond, Lavoris and Doan’s Pills.
“Our hallmark and cornerstone over the past 40 years has been heavy investment in advertising 365 days a year,” Himmel added. To bring Breck to the forefront of consumers minds, Himmel said, “we will do what we do best: repetitive TV and radio ads.”
Breck is scheduled to ship to food, drug and mass retailers in June. Himmel would not comment on sales expectations. Industry sources, however, expect the brand to garner approximately $10 million in first-year sales. Breck will retail for $3, a middle-of-the-road price point for the mass hair care category. Himmel believes midpriced is the best way to position Breck since it failed as a value brand and as a premium brand under past owners. Breck, Himmel said, has suffered “quite a disenfranchising.”
Breck was created in 1898 by Dr. John H. Breck, but didn’t gain a retail presence until 1929. In 1963, John H. Breck Inc. became a wholly owned subsidiary of American Cyanamid, run by the company’s Schulton division, headquartered in Wayne, N.J. Breck girl ads pushed the brand to the height of its success, but in 1978, American Cyanamid discontinued them. Breck was bought by Dial in 1990.
According to Himmel, when Dial bought Breck in 1990 from Schulton, Breck was marketed as a value brand, priced at 99 cents. “Despite having been the number-one selling shampoo, it disintegrated to a bottom-shelf brand,” Himmel said.
Dial, however, reintroduced Breck as a premium brand in 1991. Breck became Breck with Vitasomes and was priced at $3.49. New formulas packaged in peach-frosted containers replaced the original.
But Dial seemed to want to keep Breck up to hair care trends and, in 1995, relaunched Breck as Breck Salon Essentials. Packaged in an amber container, the new Breck retailed for $1.49.
In 1997, Himmel continued, Dial again attempted to re-create the brand. Playing off the naturals trend, Breck became Breck Salon Naturals.
Finally, in December 2000, Dial pulled the plug on all Breck products — except for its oddly successful hotel and Mexico business.
“When we bought the rights, Breck had zero in consumer sales and zero distribution. But consumers still had fond memories of Breck. To them, it still stands for beautiful hair,” Himmel said.
Himmel likens Breck to Herbal Essences, a brand that after realizing relative success in the Seventies, as Herbal Essence, faded in the Eighties. Herbal Essences, however, was elevated to megabrand status in the Nineties due mainly to successful advertisements and an innovative fragrance. Herbal Essences is now a $700 million global brand.
Breck, it seems, has halfway met Herbal Essences’ recipe for success: It has a classic fragrance. Whether a rekindling of the Breck girl campaign can take it to megabrand level, however, remains to be seen.

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