VENERABLE POSNER REJUVENATES IMAGE

Byline: Laura Klepacki

NEW YORK — Posner Cosmetics has a new owner and a new attitude.
The 40-year-old brand is one of the oldest ethnic lines in the mass market, with a devoted following among mothers and grandmothers who favor its pressed powders and moisturizing lipsticks.
But as the brand gears up for the 21st century, it wants to expand its family-brand image with products and packaging that will bring more of their daughters into the fold.
“It is very much a generational brand,” remarked Erica Edwards, brand manager for the line, now a part of the Dermablend Cosmetics division of Carson Products. While it doesn’t want to alienate its mature clientele, “We want to make the brand more appealing to younger women.”
On Monday evening, marketers took Posner to Studio 54 as a sponsor of Vibe Women, a fashion and music event for young urban women created by Vibe magazine. Besides setting up product displays and showcasing pages from its new print advertising campaign, female performers and fashion models were made up using Posner products. Attendees were also given the opportunity to sample items, with some 40 getting makeovers by Posner’s five makeup artists.
The print campaign, using the tag line, “Are You Ready?” meaning both ready for the moment and prepared for the future, has already broken and will continue at least throughout the year. “We are absolutely spending more on advertising,” said Tim Hogan, president and chief executive of Dermablend. Advertising spending in 1999 was negligible, he said. The brand is also exploring some radio spots for later in the year, and the brand will be cross-promoted with some of Carson’s hair care brands.
To catch the eye of 18- to 24-year-olds, the packaging has been updated. Previously, product cards showed the face of a brown-skinned woman with Posner in white letters. Now the background is a midnight blue, with a new wavy logo in bronze letters. Components that were once black, pink or gray, depending upon the product, are now bronze, with the letter P in blue. Some also offer see-through windows, so women can see the shades. “It is a lot more contemporary,” said Edwards. A new in-store display has been created to complement the packaging. Posner held several focus groups to ensure its new look met with the approval of existing customers as well as younger consumers. “We didn’t want to alienate the old or young audience,” said Patricia Neglia, vice president of marketing at Dermablend.
Walgreens will be the first retailer to have the new display this August when it makes over its cosmetics departments. Most other retailers will bring on the fixture next spring, when departments are traditionally reset.
The line has also been expanded from 83 products to 103, including 12 new lipstick colors, two additional mascara shades and a new cream stick foundation.
In addition to the core line, six promotions will be offered this year including Temptress, a back-to-school color collection. In addition to adding new shades, the entire color palette was updated, said Edwards. “Now we have everything for daywear to eveningwear. Women can do natural looks to outrageous looks,” she said.
Edwards said while many general market brands have expanded shade ranges to offer products for women of color, Posner’s formulations meet needs of African-American skin tones that the others don’t. The lipsticks and eye shadows, for instance, contain more pigment than typical general market brands, and the foundation products do not contain titanium dioxide, which can make skin look ashy.
Hogan expects the brand’s retail sales to be about $12 million by yearend, exceeding the company’s earlier projections of $10 million. By next year, he anticipates volume to climb to $14 million to $15 million.
Helping with that is an increase in distribution to 4,800 doors, from 3,700 in 1998. Hogan’s team has also worked to eliminate out-of-stocks which caused sales to slip in 1999. Additionally, international retailers, including some in Brazil and Argentina, have begun to express interest in the brand, added Hogan. Hogan said retailers have always carried ethnic lines in stores serving a high population of African Americans. But better data is now available showing that a brand like Posner is a good fit in the product mixes of more stores than previously thought.
With items priced from about $1.99 to $5.95 for a foundation, it is in line with other popular ethnic lines currently available, such as Black Opal and Black Radiance. Posner claimed 17 percent of ethnic cosmetics sales last year, according to Information Resources Inc. data provided by Posner. Black Radiance led the category with a 32 percent share, followed by Black Opal with 24 percent and Tropez at 20 percent. A handful of smaller brands rounded out the category.
Like a dedicated marketer, Hogan said Posner, “should be the number-one brand,” a goal the company is working toward. Besides capturing the highest sales volume, Posner executives want to become the category captain for ethnic cosmetics. That means that retailers would look to the brand as the category leader and seek its assistance in merchandising the department.