Procter & Gamble Co. introduced its Lilt Home Permanent about the same time, with advertising from Biow Co. Another leading brand name in the field was Richard Hudnut.
But those trends were largely a prologue to the force that truly drove the haircare market, beginning in the mid-1950s. The revolution began with a single phrase: "Does she or doesn't she?"
Does she . . . ?
FCB copywriter Shirley Polykoff wrote a simple ad for Miss Clairol Hair Color Bath. The headline questioned, provocatively, "Does she . . . or doesn't she?" The answer: "Only her hairdresser knows for sure." With the appearance of that ad, the market for hair coloring took off: 50% of American women started coloring their hair, and sales of hair coloring products jumped 413% in six years.
FCB and Ms. Polykoff followed up in 1957 with a campaign that used the slogan, "Is it true blondes have more fun?" Clairol's next hit came with Loving Care, a new hair color designed to cover gray hair. The tagline, "Makes your husband feel younger, too, just to look at you," suggested that it was all right for women to color their hair to please their partners—and also that men liked being associated with newly rejuvenated wives.
Clairol had the U.S. business virtually to itself until 1970, when Paris-based L'Oreal ventured into the market with L'Oreal Preference, which used the tagline, "Because I'm worth it." McCann-Erickson created the memorable Preference tag and ad campaign. L'Oreal has featured celebrities such as actresses Cybill Shepherd and Heather Locklear as spokeswomen; Clairol has countered with its own stable of stars, including Linda Evans, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Debra Messing.
Men came out of the hair-coloring closet in the mid-1980s, but Combe Inc. invented the men's hair color category in 1962 with its Grecian Formula. For a decade, Grecian Formula ads showed men how easily they could cover their gray hair. Combe did it all with a minuscule advertising budget and ads created in-house.
While modern haircare advertising got its start with hair coloring products, shampoos opened their own marketing wars in the 1970s. Marketers had a challenge: Women were abandoning traditional personal grooming products in favor of more natural, botanical-based preparations. Once again, Clairol led the way in 1971 with a product that capitalized on a "natural" positioning, Clairol Herbal Essence shampoo.
Young & Rubicam created an animated image of an innocent blonde sauntering through a fictional garden of earthly delights. She wore flowers in her hair and was featured in packaging on a clear bottle that showed the green color of the shampoo. The message was health, nature and freshness—a change from the use of sex to sell shampoo.
Faberge Organics, a Clairol rival, was known for a creative campaign by Nadler & Larimer. A TV spot showed one woman telling another about Faberge. That friend told two friends, and she told two friends and so on. The image on the screen broke into multiple faces to convey the point.
Gillette Co.'s Silkience campaign, via agency Advertising to Women, showed that the shampoo could treat hair where it needed help the most. An electronic image showed different hair strands getting different "amounts" of cleaning.
P&G successfully created a market for dandruff-control shampoos with its Head & Shoulders line. Prior to the campaign by Tatham-Laird, dandruff had been a taboo subject. P&G also had a hit with Prell, which was touted for its rich formula, demonstrated by showing a pearl slowly sinking to the bottom of the Prell bottle. Benton & Bowles handled that effort.
Designers also started making inroads into the haircare market in the early 1980s. Vidal Sassoon assured customers, "If you don't look good, we don't look good." Another successful salon entrepreneur was Jherri Redding, who co-founded several successful brands such as Redken, Jherri Redding and Nexxus.
Helene Curtis ushered in a line called Salon Selectives that was marketed as a salon product available through mass merchandisers. The company pumped $14 million into advertising via J. Walter Thompson Co. and $26 million into promotion. In addition, Curtis had a niche in the value segment of haircare with Suave, which it pitched as a "smart" buy.
Marketers also began to persuade women that they needed both shampoo and conditioner to achieve healthy locks. Revlon's Flex, handled by in-house Tarlow Advertising, was particularly adept at pitching the two-product punch. This trend continued until the late 1980s, when P&G took an existing brand, Pert and conjured up Pert Plus, a shampoo with conditioner, to rival Flex. Advertising targeted harried consumers, who learned that they no longer needed to use both a shampoo and a conditioner—a single product could do both.
In the early 1980s, mousse and other styling products became an important subsector of the haircare business. Working with McCann-Erickson, L'Oreal spent about $14 million to introduce American consumers to Studio Mousse in 1983. Other marketers followed, among them Alberto-Culver Co., Sassoon and Revlon. Mousse sales quickly swelled from zero to more than $200 million in less than one year.
Meanwhile, in the slow-growing regular shampoo segment, Clairol's Herbal Essence sales declined and the brand almost disappeared from retailers' shelves. Clairol decided to revive the brand in the 1980s. Sensing renewed consumer interest in natural and organic products, Clairol relaunched it as Herbal Essences. The ads, by Kaplan Thaler Group, played off the similarity of the words organic and orgasmic. The tagline was, "A totally organic experience."
By 1999, Clairol parent Bristol-Myers Co. was spending $30 million—via Kaplan Thaler—on Herbal Essences shampoo. Despite its success in haircare, Bristol-Myers put Clairol on the market in 2000. P&G, looking to round out its beauty arsenal, snapped up the company in April 2001 for $4.9 billion.
Trying to counter Clairol's hold on the market, Unilever's Helene Curtis unit repositioned a languishing brand called Thermasilk in the late 1990s. An $82 million blitz from JWT helped convince women that blow-drying—which had been believed to damage hair—could actually help hair if used in tandem with Thermasilk shampoo.
Value and global brands shaped the category at the dawn of the 21st century. Unilever’s Suave, acquired in the Helene Curtis deal, gained steady ground despite relatively light ad support from WPP Group’s Ogilvy & Mather, Chicago, eventually crossing the 10% share threshold in 2001. In response, P&G reconfigured some of the flagging brands in its portfolio, such as Pert, and lesser brands picked up in the Clairol deal, such as Daily Defense and Renewal 5x, as value brands, stopping Suave’s share march in 2003.
Meanwhile, Unilever launched Dove shampoo and conditioner in the U.S. in 2003, making the U.S. the last major market for Dove haircare even though the soap brand started here. Simultaneously, L’Oreal launched Garnier Fructis, originally introduced in Europe and Canada, aiming in the U.S. at the same young, hip, multi-ethnic crowd Herbal Essences had successfully courted. Each brand reached a roughly 4% share of the U.S. haircare market in its first year, but both were short of their 8% target.
Still, the dual $100 million launches made for what P&G Chairman-CEO A.G. Lafley called the most competitive U.S. haircare category in three decades, and one in which P&G’s brands collectively surrendered about four share points.