Byline: Andrea M. Grossman

NEW YORK — The adage “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” can aptly be applied to the strategy L’Oreal took to make and market its new hair color line, Open. Open, which begins shipping May 1, focuses on a woman interested in the arts, who has been brought up to be open to her multiethnic world, and who is open to new ideas. According to L’Oreal executives, by focusing on the psychographics of a customer base, rather than simply demographics, Open will casually, yet sincerely, appeal to a woman’s emotions.
Carol Hamilton, L’Oreal’s senior vice president and general manager, said, “We are seeing that psychographics are a real driver in the category. The psychographics speak to the emotional value.”
Open, a more “casual and laid-back” brand, is a lot less in-your-face than other brands, including L’Oreal’s own Feria.
Feria, which launched in 1998, made waves in the hair color category because it was the first hair color to get younger consumers to think of luxurious style in a drugstore. “People see Feria and think Vogue,” said Michael Tanguy, vice president of marketing. However, that message does not communicate to all hair color consumers.
“We realized that there was a consumer who wasn’t reached with Feria. We learned that hair color should also be inspirational, and we had not approached it that way,” Tanguy said.
Open was created to fit the psychographics reflected in L’Oreal’s focus groups. Many characteristics among the women polled turned out to be consistently present.
“This group was doing something through the arts. This group accepts that the world is ethnically diverse. The psychographic of the brand is designed to reach them with the codes and social values they have grown up with,” Tanguy said.
Open also had to provide vibrant color that enhances beauty — not change the way a woman looks. “We kept hearing that she didn’t want to look different,” Hamilton said.
Open’s technology allows the hair to be permanently colored, but with a very low level of ammonia. These low levels, Tanguy explained, make the formula’s fragrance much lighter and fresher and leaves hair softer than any other hair color.
“We had to find a technology that would satisfy what tone-on-tone had done in the past, but also give her hair that is super soft,” he said.
While Open is strong enough to color hair with low levels of ammonia, it is formulated so that it will simply lift existing hair color, not change it. Tanguy said “the formula’s low ammonia level is so innovative it actually creates a new category” in hair color: soft permanent.
Open offers 24 shades from light blonde to deep black. Colors are paired with names such as celestial, horizon, oxygen and Venus, to further push Open’s, well — openness.
Open will retail for $9.99.
Bright blue boxes were key to marketing the new hair color line. “The play on color is important. The bright blue background gives off an atmospheric feel, but you don’t know what it is behind her, water or the sky,” said Hamilton.
Hamilton expects Open to generate $100 million in first-year sales. It will be supported by $30 million in advertising, which does not include in-store or consumer promotions. According to Hamilton, choosing one specific spokesmodel does not fit with Open’s go-to-market strategy. Instead, models reflecting a broad range of looks will be used in print and TV ads, which break in June and July, respectively.
Also, L’Oreal is not removing any hair color lines from its current portfolio. Competitors Revlon and Garnier both removed existing hair color lines to make room for their new offerings, High Dimension and Lumia.
“Each L’Oreal line is carefully designed for different users. They do not overlap,” says Hamilton.