HUNT VALLEY, Md. — Like the girl next door, Cover Girl is fresh, clean and fun. Once in a while she exhibits a bit of sassiness but she is never bad. And her parent of 14 years, Procter & Gamble, intends to keep raising her that way.
Since the consumer products behemoth took over the brand in the Noxell acquisition in 1989, the building process has been slow and steady but with continuing momentum. Cover Girl’s sales have more than doubled and profits at least tripled. Today the brand has global net sales of $600 million, according to Marc Pritchard, president of P&G cosmetics and personal care. While the brand is in 25 countries, North America remains its strongest region.
Time and care were taken to get the brand on track before building, noted Pritchard, at a meeting at P&G’s cosmetics headquarters here. Pritchard, along with Anne Martin, vice president, global cosmetics and marketing for P&G, have been overseeing the brand’s development for some eight years.
P&G might have a reputation as a consumer products giant, but color cosmetics required something of a learning curve. Whereas once P&G would switch managers from brand to brand, working on Pampers one day and Tide the next, now it is nurturing a beauty staff that stays in place, Susan Arnold, president of global beauty and feminine care at P&G, noted.
Under Pritchard, the first action was to modernize the Cover Girl image. Shade promotions were introduced beginning with themed statements, like Ice Creams, for spring, and Silver Bells for winter. The brand was given a beat when popular young musicians such as Salt ’N’ Pepa and Ziggy Marley were tapped to spice up commercials. And along the way, Brandy, Faith Hill, Queen Latifah, Kiara, Angela Lindvall and Molly Sims were among the talented women to join its diverse roster of spokesmodels.
At the same time, P&G worked on improving inventory controls with retailers, and made the shopping experience easier for women by focusing on the in-store display.
By 2000 the brand was steadied and it was time to “bring innovation to the category,” said Pritchard. The first major mark was the introduction of Smoothers, a flanker brand to Cover Girl. The collection emphasized moisturizing benefits and included All Day Hydrating Make-up, Hydrating Lipstick, a tinted moisturizer and a gel eye-color pencil. With the rollout came a new fixture — internally dubbed Brave New World.
Smoothers helped Cover Girl firm up its dominance in the foundation category, where it had been the longtime leader thanks to its Clean makeup. Cover Girl further strengthened that business in 2002 with AquaSmooth, a compact makeup that is applied wet and dries to a smooth, powdery finish. Today, the brand’s facial cosmetics sales are $217.2 million, minus Wal-Mart, according to IRI. Add Wal-Mart in and the brand’s U.S. face makeup retail sales are probably closer to $270 million — or more.
Coming in February, Cover Girl will unleash another technological breakthrough with the unveiling of TruBlend makeup. Like a similar product in P&G’s Max Factor line, TruBlend has been developed to match skin tones. P&G marketers expect its sales to exceed AquaSmooth, currently the market’s best-selling compact makeup.
TruBlend is designed to provide natural-looking coverage. The company said that advanced skin-matching pigments adjust to the underlying skin tones. Silicone elastomers in the formula leave subtle gaps in coverage allowing natural skin to show through while concealing imperfections. A 15-shade palette is said to match 97 percent of all skin tones. The packaging introduces a futuristic plastic bottle in silver with a pump dispenser. A 1-oz. bottle is $8.50.
But Cover Girl has broken ground in other categories, too. While Revlon took the market by storm in the mid-Nineties with ColorStay lip color, P&G was first out with the two-step approach using a liquid lip color in Max Factor Lipfinity and Cover Girl Outlast, which took it to a leadership position in the lip color category.
For next year, Cover Girl will continue to motivate its Outlast franchise and is also revamping its classic lipstick Continuous Color with the addition of vitamin A and more vitamin E. The palette includes 26 new shades, plus 22 classic shades for a total of 48, and the tubes will be a sleek, new translucent blue.
The brand is also introducing a new volume-building mascara — Fantastic Lash, packaged in a burgundy red tube with subtle sparkles. The $6 mascara is said to lift and separate lashes and resist clumping while keeping lashes soft and flexible.
As Martin likes to say, Cover Girl is a favorite of both teens and moms. Its customers are evenly split among those over 35 and under 35.
“What defines her is her attitude to makeup. Life is complicated. She is the clean and easy beauty seeker. She is more suburban than downtown big city,” said Martin. “The brand strategy is to provide the look and make it easy for her to get the look. The character of Cover Girl is a good girl with a wink.”
Cover Girl adheres to its “Easy, Breezy, Beautiful” jingle. It has also been increasingly addressing messages to distinct target markets including teens, Hispanics and African-Americans. An essay contest launched in April encourages Hispanic teens to stay in school. It is a demographic with a higher than average dropout rate.
As the brand moves forward with its latest introductions, it is also expected to update its fixture next year. Martin said, “We will continue to refresh in unexpected ways — never think that you are done.” Pritchard added, “It is about constant refreshment. Women are expecting more and more from their makeup.”
To make sure its customers get what they want when they want it, Pritchard pointed out that improvements have been made at the company’s plant here in the last three years, so that it can produce and ship in smaller batches, making it more nimble.