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L’Oreal Aims to Bring Excellence to the Masses

NEW YORK -- The L'Oreal hair care division is hoping that the dominant type of hair-coloring product in salons will also take root in the mass market.

This July, the company will launch Excellence Creme Permanent Hair color, a cream version of...

NEW YORK — The L’Oreal hair care division is hoping that the dominant type of hair-coloring product in salons will also take root in the mass market.

This July, the company will launch Excellence Creme Permanent Hair color, a cream version of Excellence Color Reliance liquid hair color, its 30-year-old mass market brand.

According to L’Oreal executives, it will be the first cream hair color available in the mass market, where most dyes are liquids.

Carol Hamilton, senior vice president of marketing for the L’Oreal hair care division, said nearly 80 percent of hair color applications in salons are made with cream formulas, rather than liquids.

“Cream hair color has always been considered the gold standard of performance in salons, but [the products] had to be applied with a brush because of their thick consistency. This has made them nearly impossible to use at home.

“We wanted to create a gentle retail product with the characteristic of a cream — a very rich, very thick, no-drip formula — that spreads through the hair effortlessly, that could be easily applied from a bottle,” she continued. “This is the way consumers are used to coloring their hair at home.”

Hamilton maintains that cream formulas deliver a higher concentration of dyes that adhere to each strand of hair better than liquid formulas.

“The end result is a color delivery system that is richer, offers superior coverage of gray and doesn’t fade the way traditional shampoo-in coloring systems can.”

The product also contains conditioners, which the company claims will protect and strengthen the hair as it is colored.

Excellence Creme will be distributed in 25,000 drugstores, food outlets and mass merchandisers. Each of the 26 shades, which are the same as the shades of the original Excellence product, will have a suggested retail price of $6.99, which is about $1 higher than the liquid version.

“The only thing we have kept the same is the brand name, all of the names of the colors and the same shades,” said Joe Campinell, senior vice president and general manager of the division. “The product is completely different. We could have launched another line, but we didn’t want to take up more shelf space in an already crowded market. There is already an enormous amount of proliferation in the category.”

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Campinell noted that the original Excellence line has a user base of around one million women and a 6 percent share of the $650 million mass hair color market, or $39 million in sales.

He projected that the new version would double its market share to 12 percent in the first year.

To support the launch, L’Oreal will spend $15 million in print and TV advertising in the first 12 months, Hamilton said. A print campaign will break in September issues of women’s magazines and run through next year. TV will air in the first quarter.

The company is also planning to target the Hispanic community, using ads in Hispanic publications and on Hispanic stations. The boxes will have a brief description in Spanish on the outside and a complete set of instructions in Spanish on the inside.

“Cremes are the largest-selling hair color forms in Latin America,” Hamilton said. “Spanish hair is typically thicker and more coarse than Anglo hair and so benefits from a thicker formulation.”

She added that L’Oreal would do Spanish point-of-purchase promotion in stores that have more than a 50 percent Hispanic consumer group.

Excellence will be merchandised in a freestanding unit with mirrors that divide the line into four separate sections: blond, red, medium brown and dark brown.

Each quadrant of the unit will contain a 12-page booklet that instructs consumers on the appropriate shade selection for their skin and hair coloring.

Excellence Creme represents L’Oreal’s second major hair color introduction in 18 months. Last March, the company pioneered tone-on-tone coloring with its Casting brand of hair dye.

Casting contains a no-ammonia, low-peroxide formula. Instead of stripping the hair of its natural color and then adding new color — as traditional permanent hair colors do — Casting is designed to enhance natural tones by adding complementary hues to the hair.