HELENE CURTIS: OFFERING SOME ONLINE HAIR DO’S

Byline: Julie Naughton

NEW YORK — There’s at least one woman on the Internet who’s always having a good hair day — Helene Curtis.
Or so the marketing team at Unilever would have you believe.
Helene Curtis, the mass market hair care company that Unilever acquired in 1996, launched helenecurtis.com this week and is attempting to set itself apart from its mass competitors on the Web by focusing on an eponymous fictional character.
While Helene Curtis has been on the Internet since 1996, when yoursalon.com was launched for the Salon Selectives brand, this effort marks the first time that all of the Curtis hair care brands — Salon Selectives, Finesse and ThermaSilk — will be brought together on one Web site. The company also has two other brand-specific sites — one for Finesse and one for ThermaSilk. All of the brand-specific Web sites will be taken down in early June.
“The other sites had great components, but they were very brand-centric,” said Leslie Geissler, director of marketing for Helene Curtis. “Our goal with this new site is to promote Helene Curtis as a company. We want to, in effect, create an online community of girlfriends who have strong emotional ties to their hair. We believe they want an educational hair care experience without being bombarded by commercial messages or e-commerce tools.”
The site is currently at 80 percent of its functionality, according to Geissler, and should be 100 percent live by June 1.
Although the site will soon activate sections devoted to each of the three Helene Curtis brands that will include product-specific hair care information, the major emphasis is on nonbrand-specific, interactive features like “Hair-O-Meter,” said Geissler.
That feature gives consumers the opportunity to enter their hair type and location in the U.S. and instantly receive a three-day weather forecast — and accompanying hair advice from “Helene.” Other interactive features include “What ‘Do Works for You?” which asks consumers for their hair texture, hair length and face shape and offers hair style suggestions, and “Salons Around the World,” a feature that goes live on May 15 and asks consumers to rate and give comments on their favorite salons.
And, though it isn’t the primary aim, e-commerce will be part of helenecurtis.com.
According to Geissler, it will be a two-pronged strategy and will be added to the site sometime in June. Helene Curtis executives are now talking with the company’s major retailers with Web sites — including CVS. The aim is to create links to these online retailers from the Helene Curtis Web site.
These links are slated to be activated by June 1, Geissler said. “Our plans aren’t to compete with our retailer partners, especially since six or seven of them already have successful Web sites of their own. As a company, we’re not planning on going heavily into e-commerce.”
Helene Curtis will dabble in the strategy, however, by creating kits that will be sold directly to consumers. They will only be available on the Web site and will retail for about $10 each. “We envision them as gifts that consumers can send to friends or buy for themselves, and we will keep them reasonably priced so that they’re an ideal impulse purchase,” said Geissler. Exact makeups for the kits have not yet been finalized, although the aim is to have as many as 10 in production by yearend.
Will Helene Curtis be the most popular girl on the Internet? Her creators certainly hope so. “In its first year, we expect the site to generate more than 250 million impressions,” said Douglas Rozen, director of interactive services for J. Walter Thompson, which helped Unilever to create the helenecurtis.com Web site.