Bumpit Lifts Locks, Not Hair-Care Category Overall

Why Marketers Can't Count on Hair-Raising Accessory to Raise Industry Sales

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- If hair-care marketers are counting on big hair to lift them out of recession, they may be in for a tall disappointment: The Bumpit Effect appears to be turning this into a mousse-less recovery.

Bumpits, for the uninitiated, are like falsies for hair, sitting underneath and propping up coifs, doing the heavy lifting that once required mousses, teasing and volumizing shampoos or conditioners. And while they were launched by a former salon stylist who dubbed her company Big Happie Hair, they're being marketed by Allstar Products Group, the force behind the Snuggie, which seems to be getting the big-hair aids some of the same breakthrough into pop culture.

According to Scott Boilen, president of Allstar, more than 8 million Bumpits have been sold through direct and retail outlets since their launch in late 2008, and SymphonyIRI reported 2 million units sold in the 52 weeks ended June 13 just through retailers excluding Walmart, drug and dollar stores -- topping $20 million in sales.

That's no match for the more than 20 million Snuggies sold so far. But Snuggies never posed a threat to a big established business like hair care or the likes of Procter & Gamble Co., L'Oreal and Unilever.

While other mass beauty categories -- particularly cosmetics and body wash -- have been rebounding or growing nicely this year, hair-care sales have been the slowest to bounce back, particularly styling products.

Volume of hair-styling products was down 1.8% in the second quarter and 6.5% in the first quarter, continuing a decline of 8% in 2009, according to IRI data from Deutsche Bank. Those numbers were worse than those of shampoo and conditioner -- with volume up 3.2% and 2.7%, respectively, last quarter -- and worse still than other beauty categories.

Mr. Boilen isn't readily willing to shoulder blame for those other hair-care numbers, though his company's ads clearly offer the Bumpits "Hair Revolution" as an alternative to hair spray and salon visits. Asked whether Bumpits are taking sales from other hair products, Mr. Boilen responded via email, "That's really hard to know. We believe that Bumpits brought something truly revolutionary to the hair-care category [which] may actually be driving sales of other related hair-product lines."

At any rate, Sarah Palin may be due much of the blame. She was the original inspiration for the poufy-haired movement behind Bumpits, though there's no evidence that her hair is artificially enhanced.

Flo, the effusive enthusiast in the Progressive Insurance ads, looks suspiciously like a Bumpits user.

And Snooki Polizzi of MTV's "Jersey Shore" has had to deny repeated allegations that she uses Bumpits, including during a Q&A with Jay Leno in January, where she said her look is the product of teasing, not plastic inserts. That, however, wasn't convincing enough to quash a "Snooki Clearly Wears a Bumpit" Facebook fan page with a small following of less than 300.

An unauthorized website, BumpitSightings.com, chronicles Bumpit wearing or endorsement by the famous and not-so-famous alike, including Disney Channel star Brenda Song and "American Idol" judge Kara DioGuardi, who, while they are not shown bearing artificially poufy locks, are shown holding up boxes of Bumpits.

Allstar isn't behind BumpitSightings.com or companion BumpitsPubCrawls.com, similar to SnuggieSightings.com and SnuggiePubCrawls.com, which similarly sprung up to chronicle the Snuggie phenomenon. Bumpits has, however, advertised on both sites bearing its name.

But the bottom line is that while the recovery of the 1980s seemed to coincide with bigger hair, and "Morning in America" once meant liberal doses of hairspray, the Bumpit Effect means rising coifs don't necessarily lift all boats.

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