Alberto-Culver Styles VO5 Line With Young Trendsetters in Mind

Marketer Integrates 50-Year-Old Value Brand in VH1's 'America's Most Smartest Model'

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NEW YORK -- Alberto-Culver is taking an entertainment-fueled approach to reposition its traditional value brand, Alberto VO5, as a brand for young trendsetters.

Using TV, music and online platforms, the Melrose Park, Ill., personal-care-products maker has launched a radical play for its new line of styling products, aptly dubbed Extreme Style.
VO5, best known as a value brand, has been transformed into a hipper product for young trendsetters. To target the appropriate demographic, the brand is being integrated into a VH1 series.
VO5, best known as a value brand, has been transformed into a hipper product for young trendsetters. To target the appropriate demographic, the brand is being integrated into a VH1 series.
The push includes the 50-year-old brand's first brand integration. (The other sub-brands are VO5's shampoo/ conditioner and hair-treatment lines, which, apart from packaging tweaks and product introductions, have more or less stayed the same for years.)

This is Alberto-Culver's second attempt to make inroads with young beauty consumers, and at the outset it seems stronger than the first. That was about two years ago, for the now-defunct Red styling line, a larger line of products.

This time around the marketer has pared down, trotting out only seven styling products (such as hairsprays, gel, putty and mousse), and narrowed its focus, deciding to target not just a younger demo but consumers of a different mind-set.

Stand out in a crowd
"We are targeting young men and women who use their hairstyles to assert individuality, stand out in a crowd and evoke self-expression," Rob Keen, VO5 marketing director, said in an e-mail. The target set are folks who are up-to-the-minute on the latest style trends, read Us Weekly and comb celebrity blogs, Mr. Keen said.

The brand's first foray into integration could be considered a coup: VO5 landed a partnership with VH1 to become the official hairstyling product of "America's Most Smartest Model," the network's geeked-out spin on Tyra Banks' successful reality series "America's Next Top Model."

In VH1's version, 16 aspiring models compete to break the age-old beauty mold and prove that being smart and being pretty aren't mutually exclusive. VO5 will pony up $100,000 for the winner -- who will be revealed in December at a party hosted by VO5 at Los Angeles nightclub LAX -- and sponsor branded challenges (from spelling bees to science fairs) for the show, which is co-hosted by the famously monotoned Ben Stein and celebrity stylist Mary Alice Stephenson.

Music scene
To help the new product line take off, the marketer set its sights on the music scene, too, landing a sponsorship for MySpace.com's first concert tour, which features rockers Say Anything and Hellogoodbye. It's on the move across the country through the end of this month, and concertgoers at each show can visit VO5 styling stations where professionals will grant them new 'dos.

To back it all up, VO5 gave its website a facelift and added some interactive components, including a virtual salon where visitors can upload photos of themselves or their friends to virtually try on new hairstyles.

"It's all about individuality, connectivity and fun. ... This combination truly engages the consumer," Mr. Keen said.
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