When Jane Owen joined Clairol in 1992 as senior product manager for haircare, the company was better known for its leadership in hair color.
"It wasn't really the place to be at that time," recalls Ms. Owen, 44, who took responsibility for somewhat tired brands such as Psst, Final Net and Herbal Essence. Clairol had just had a haircare failure, the launch of a Color Hold shampoo.
Upon close scrutiny, Ms. Owen discovered Herbal Essence had tremendous equity.
"We found people had fond memories of the old green Herbal Essence. We couldn't kill it," she says. "We totally overhauled it and started from scratch."
A true natural positioning was adopted, different herbs were used to earn the name Herbal Essences and a whimsical-yet sultry-advertising campaign was adopted that even Ms. Owen admits made Clairol's own employees "gulp" when it was unveiled.
The first spot featured a woman using Herbal Essences in the shower-obviously enjoying it with the tagline "a totally organic experience."
Subsequent TV advertising continues to show people truly enjoying the experience. Despite a few complaint calls, Ms Owen says the commercials have a high recall level that has helped build the brand. It has been an especially big hit with some of the most fickle shoppers-teen-agers.
Herbal Essences today, according to data from Information Resources Inc., is the No. 2 shampoo with sales exceeding $169 million. So successful has the concept been for Clairol that it has been extended into styling products, body washes (already the No. 1 body wash, according to IRI) and facial care.
The success of Herbal Essences has raised the respect of haircare at Clairol. It's been beneficial for Ms. Owen, too. She was recently promoted to that other