NEW YORK — Premium isn’t exactly the first word that pops to mind when considering the Andrew Jergens, Ban and Bioré brands. But that could change.
In an effort to overhaul the image of its star brands, the Kao Corp. has made the word “premium” its new mantra, and is currently following up that incantation with bold, sexy advertising campaigns, product makeovers and new and improved formulas.
Japan-based Kao is also looking to make its mark in the U.S. Beginning in August, the Andrew Jergens Co., which was acquired by Kao in 1988, and John Frieda Professional Hair Care, which was acquired in 2002, will officially operate under the corporate banner of Kao Brands Co. The name change aims to show Kao’s commitment to all eight of its U.S. brands, which include Jergens, Ban, Bioré, Curel, Frizz-Ease, Sheer Blonde, Beach Blonde and Brilliant Brunette. About 70 percent of the company’s estimated $400 million U.S. sales are derived from skin care.
Prior to the John Frieda acquisition, sales from the Andrew Jergens Co. was more than $300 million.?In 2003, a full year after John Frieda was acquired and made part of Kao’s U.S. business, overall group sales were more than $400 million.?Today, the combined businesses are more than $600 million globally.
Innovation is at the core of Kao’s premium evolution, which reflects the company’s commitment to research and development: Kao spends a higher percentage of sales on R&D than many other beauty companies, with between 4 and 5 percent of the company’s $8 billion in annual sales dedicated to developing new products. As a benchmark, L’Oréal, which is often said to have the strongest R&D program in the industry, spent approximately 3 percent of sales, or roughly $360 million.
In another effort to create a premium image, Kao tapped Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners in July 2003 to help create ads that paint it as sexy, smart and savvy, rather than simply effective.
Kao has been on a steady premium track in the U.S. in recent years. The launch of the Brilliant Brunette hair care line this year, one that’s specially formulated for darker locks, has boosted sales of Kao’s U.S. hair care sales 21 percent versus last year, according to the company.
Ban, which Kao bought from Chattem Inc. in 2000, has experienced new packaging, and recently, a new lavender scent. The Jergens brand, which is more than 100 years old and has typically appealed to a mainstream consumer, began flirting with a sexy side several years ago when it launched Jergens Skin Firming Moisturizer, a $6-plus cream, along with racy ads of a woman’s perfect derriere to promote it.
“Jergens has been about ‘Body Beautiful’ for 100 years so we are putting our fingerprint on that and extending it, which certainly has a lot to do with the body-baring ads, showing skin and accentuating the value-added parts of the brand,” said Brad Kirk, vice president, marketing and sales, for Kao brands, stressing that Kao is not walking away from Jergens’ therapeutic focus. “But we are certainly bringing the cosmetics part into play.”
The debut of Firming started an evolution into $6-and-up products, which was followed by Soft Shimmer Skin Radiance Moisturizer, then Jergens Naturally Smooth Shave Minimizing Moisturizer, a cream formulated to slow hair growth.
Future products won’t depart from this vision.
“Now it’s about creating enviable skin. There is lots of new product development focused on that direction,” Kirk said.
Jergens, a brand that has been around for four generations, has a user base that, while more mainstream, seems open to a few modernizations.
“They have given us permission to move up to a premium brand. They want us to transform them and we have been continually trying to push out on that. We have had unusual success with that,” Kirk said.
Ostracizing users is always a concern when evolving a brand, but, Kirk said, “We very carefully walked that edge. We didn’t want to stretch them to where they didn’t think the brand could go.”
New Jergens print ads will begin appearing in June beauty magazines and are scheduled to air on TV May 3.
Ban, the brand that became part of the Kao family in 2000, has also matured — some might even say it has become a Gen-Xer. The antiperspirant category, a fairly conventional one, according to Kirk, has received an infusion of self-expression and personal control with Ban’s new ads. Now appearing in May beauty magazines, ads feature several blurbs advising readers to “Ban self-doubt,” “Ban excuses” and “Ban stereotypes.” A tag line at the bottom of ads says that Ban will take care of sweat and odor but “the rest is up to you.”
Bioré, in short, is out to prove that it can succeed outside the pore-strip world, one it invented in 1998. Its name has even changed, to Bioré Pore Perfect.
Industry insiders agree that the brand warranted some updates.
“To survive in the severe personal care market in the U.S., Bioré needs some kind of freshness,” said Atsumi Miura, senior analyst of UFJ Tsubasa Research Institute in Tokyo.
And Kirk confirmed that’s just what Bioré is getting.
“This is beyond a relaunch,” Kirk said of Bioré Pore Perfect. “We are completely reintroducing the brand with dramatically better performance, fragrance and efficacy.”
Pore strips remain available, in an upgraded form, with slits to help them fit better “and get more gunk out” Kirk said, but there are 13 other stockkeeping units, too, including a Triple Action Astringent, a Blemish Fighting Ice Cleanser and a Shine Control Foaming Cleanser. The new products, which ship to retailers in July, aim to communicate that clean pores are the foundation of good, healthy skin. Bioré Pore Perfect ads will appear in October beauty magazines and TV spots will begin airing in August.
Part of Kao’s premium evolution has been integrating John Frieda’s in-house creative and marketing department, complete with copywriters and production artists, to work on all of Kao’s brands. The team is responsible for Bioré Pore Perfect’s new packaging.
“Even though we have kept two offices we have been able to operate as one company,” Kirk said, explaining that skin care operates out of Cincinnati and hair care is based in Stamford, Conn.
In celebration of its new brand image, Jergens will be one of the many beauty companies sponsoring New York’s Fashion Week for spring 2005. Also, Jergens will host a sweepstakes inviting consumers to log on to jergens.com to win tickets to the event, as well as to win designer shoes by Christian Loubitan, Manolo Blahnik, Delman and Sergio Rossi. To make consumers aware of Jergens’ sponsorship, stickers stating “Official Moisturizer of Fashion Week, www.jergens.com” will be placed on beauty-driven Jergens sku’s beginning in May.
— With contributions from Koji Hirano