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Shiseido to Unveil Brand Refresh With Essential Energy Collection

The line marks the brand's biggest skin-care launch since 2014.

Shiseido’s long-awaited — and much-needed — brand refresh will kick off early next year with the introduction of Essential Energy, a new skin-care range.

The Japanese-based company is banking on a confluence of neuroscience-based, proprietary ReNeura Technology and fresh marketing to regain a once dominant position in the skin-care category. Shiseido’s brand positioning has dwindled in the last several years amid advancements from existing players and an onslaught of hot young labels that leading beauty firms are clamoring to acquire.

But Shiseido aims to take all of that on with Essential Energy.

Science is at the forefront of the franchise, which will begin a global rollout in January. The line is composed of three products, to start, all variations of a hero ReNeura-charged moisturizer that retail for $48 each. These include an Essential Energy Moisturizing Gel Cream, an Essential Energy Day Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 20 and an Essential Oil Moisturizing Cream.

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It’s Shiseido’s biggest skin-care launch since 2014, which saw the introduction of the Ultimune collection, currently the best-selling skin-care franchise globally (Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate is the single best-selling skin-care product brand-wide). Thirty percent of Shiseido’s overall marketing budget for the year will be dedicated to getting the word out about Essential Energy, a similar spend, percentage-wise, to Ultimune’s rollout four years ago.

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“Three years ago when I took charge of the brand…our business was kind of stagnant. That’s because we were focused on line-centric marketing,” Yoshiaki Okabe, Shiseido brand director of the Global Prestige Division, told WWD, adding that one of the first orders of business was to transform the brand’s marketing approach from line to brand-centric.

“We really wanted to show who we are and what our benefits are…[as well as] our strengths and point of difference. In order to do that, we launched a star product, Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate, in 2014, and yet at the time our brand image wasn’t consistent enough. Our brand image was disconnected.…Because we carried out line-centric marketing, no consumers remembered who we were as a brand,” Okabe continued.

He pulled the trigger on Shiseido’s makeover in 2016, starting with a new brand code consisting of a single red line and updated logo visible on all products and packaging.

According to Okabe, the line will be the first formulated with ReNeura Technology, a innovation rooted in neuroscience that’s purported to “reawaken the skin’s ability to respond to skin care.” This is only made possible by the malleable spheres, or Active Response Powder, that are infused into the formula to help sensory nerves detect what’s happening in the outside world. Hopefully, mitochondria maintain the cellular energy necessary for “efficient nerve transmission.”

In layman’s terms, ReNeura’s intended result is heightening the skin’s “responsive power” so it can react to any outside stimulus or environmental stressor, and thus prevent any damage before it starts to take hold on the complexion.

Essential Energy was designed to specifically address the appearance of fine lines and increase smoothness and radiance of “non-responsive” skin, according to Okabe, who called “prevention” the key word.

“What’s different between conventional skin care and this…is that in the past, all normal skin-care items tried to tackle regular skin concerns and correct. But what ReNeura can do for consumers is enhance the detective capability of the skin so the skin itself can detect what’s causing the skin concerns. It’s driven by a technology,” said Kayoko Nakajima, Shiseido director of skin-care product development, pointing out that term “Beauty reboots the energy inside you” will be used in marketing materials to convey the message to consumers.

A lot is riding on this collection for Shiseido, whose executives are acutely aware that a reinvigoration of the brand is critical. The team doubled down on science and adopted a customer-centric approach that led to many, many hours of focus groups and research to figure out concerns and exactly what type of skin-care product consumers are seeking.

The key learning Okabe and Nakajima gleaned was that the consumer mind-set is different than it was in the past, even as recent as a decade ago. Previously, correcting the skin was the priority, with people seeking remedies and treatments to undo damage that had already occurred. But now, this group is concerned or even anxious, about the uncertainty of the future.

“They really want to tackle some potential skin concerns from a holistic manner so they can rule our root causes in advance,” Nakajima said.

“We figured out this insight is felt everywhere regardless of the country or the location. All over the world, consumers are feeling that their products are not effective…[and] as long as they feel existing skin care isn’t effective anymore we can deliver a consistent message to consumers about the effective claims [of Essential Energy],” Okabe added.

Research also showed that consumers have different preferences in terms of moisturizer texture. For instance, because Europeans preferred a slightly heavier cream and people in Asia gravitated toward lighter formulas, Shiseido developed a cream and a gel (the third is the cream plus sun protection).

The target demographic for Essential Energy fills a hole in Shiseido’s comprehensive skin-care lineup, which, to date, addresses Millennials, brightening and antiaging concerns for those in the 40s, 50s and up. But noticeably absent was a franchise for “older Millennials” (individuals in their 30s) to really spry Gen-Xers who are starting to see the first signs of aging. Okabe said those suffering from more serious skin issues can also pair the ReNeura infused products with their existing Shiseido regiment.

While this range contains only three products — all with the same function — to start, the impact of this innovation could be significant on the company.

A financial source in the beauty sector estimated that sales from Essential Energy could comprise 10 percent of Shiseido’s overall skin-care business in its first year. In three years’ time — taking expansion of the range into account — this could jump to 25 percent of the entire skin-care category.

The technology won’t be limited to Essential Energy, though. Over the next three years, Shiseido will incorporate ReNeura into new skin care that will be launched going forward, as well as begin to reformulate existing skin-care franchises to include the innovation.

Currently, there the six skin-care collections include Ultimune, two products that enhance the benefits of skin-care routines; Benefiance, 13 products that address dryness and wrinkles for consumers in their late 30s to early 50s; White Lucent, 14 products with brightening benefits that target dark spots; Bio-Performance, 12 products for those in their 40s and over with antiaging concerns; Future Solution, a 12-product premium range for mature skin, and Waso, seven products for teens and young Millennials that hit counters in September.

Shiseido was unable to give a breakdown of what percent of the brand’s global business is driven by skin, versus color.

When asked how the messaging and education surrounding the ReNeura Technology will be communicated to consumers at a global level, Okabe said a series of 360-degree consumer touch points — from point of sale to TV to digital — will be instrumental to the launch. He made sure to point out that Shiseido’s upping the presence of digital with this marketing strategy, inclusive of a global influencer program with a “dual approach.”

Sonoya Mizuno, a Japanese-born British actress and model, is the face of the Essential Energy across every market. Regionally, micro and midtier influencers will be tapped to create content that spans lifestyle, how-to videos, product reviews and more across their social platforms to amplify Essential Energy’s messaging. Local influencer events and experiences designed to generate buzz will also be part of the program.

“We want to allow the range to take root in the consumer’s mind over the next three years,” Okabe said. “We want to establish our brand…[and] Essential Energy will be one of the important pillar products.”

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