Aramis line plays to men's makeup needs

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Estee Lauder Cos. this fall will take a bold step into the final frontier of men's grooming -- makeup.

Lauder's Aramis USA unit will introduce a line of "self-improvement tools" for men designed to disguise skin imperfections, diminish the appearance of wrinkles and correct shiny, oily skin. The line, called Surface, will appear in department stores including Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue in mid-October.

"We were very careful not to use the `M' word and scare off consumers," said Terry Darland, VP-marketing at Aramis USA, New York. Still, Aramis' market research found men wanted products to address their skin-correction needs, but had to head to the women's aisle to find them.

"We really felt it was time . . . that men woke up to the fact that you can get up in the morning, put this on your face, and look and feel better," said Ms. Darland.

SPENDING SPIKES

Marketers are openly targeting men in personal-care categories not traditionally male-oriented, such as skincare and hair color (AA, April 17). According to Competitive Media Reporting, marketers spent 111.8% more dollars in magazine ads for men's fragrance, haircare and other toiletries during the first quarter of 2000 than they did in the same time period in 1999.

"We know there's a changing attitude and behavior out there," said Lisa Hawkins, executive director of marketing at Aramis USA. Men are paying more attention to their appearance because they see it as an edge in an increasingly competitive world, she explained.

"It's still about winning. There's a lot more competition out there," she said.

The launch will be backed by a small print effort in Men's Health, tagged "Surface. In an instant." Ads, breaking in the October issue, will feature photographs demonstrating how the products work to improve men's complexions. Media spending for the ads, created in-house, is an estimated $3 million.

TESTING MAKES BELIEVERS

But the bulk of the marketing effort will be devoted to in-store promotion, events and direct mail to encourage sampling, said Ms. Hawkins. Men are more resistant than women to spending money on grooming products they haven't tested, so sampling becomes a key factor in making a sale, said Ms. Hawkins.

To reach men where they live, Aramis will send off-site sampling teams to non-traditional locations such as New York's Wall Street at lunchtime or a golf course in Seattle, said Ms. Hawkins. Aramis also plans a strong direct mail push in cooperation with the catalogs from retailers such as Bloomingdale's, Neiman Marcus and Macy's West.

Surface products are not adaptations of women's products, but were developed especially for men's thicker, ruddier skin, said Matt Teri, VP of product development worldwide for Aramis. They use substances such as "blue reflectors," which tone down red skin tones; and "mirror spheres," which diffuse light reflected off the skin to soften the look of lines and wrinkles.

Prices start at $15 for Instant Correcting Stick, a concealer to hide spots and breakouts, and range up to $35 for Optimizing Skin Cream, a facial treatment that diminishes the look of lines and enlarged pores. Other products include Healthy Look Gel, a lightly colored facial lotion to correct pale skin; Cooling Therapy Kit gel patches to soothe irritated skin; and Shine Erasing Gel for the face.

LAB SERIES

Aramis first entered the men's grooming segment in 1987 with Lab Series for Men, a line of skincare and grooming products that has shown a respectable 5% to 10% growth in sales every year since. In the past year, Lab Series added products including an eye gel, facial wash, a face lotion to fight the effects of frequent air travel, and Super Lift Off face and body lotions.

The experience with Lab Series was useful in developing Surface, said Ms. Darland. The corrective products were a natural extension, she said.

Aramis has the name recognition and experience in developing and marketing men's products to create this new market, said Mr. Teri.

"If this was going to be done, it would be done by us and it would be done right," he said.

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