Clairol injects freshness into Nice 'N Easy brand

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Clairol has enlisted a new spokeswoman to tout its best-selling hair color line, Nice 'N Easy, in an effort to fend off growing competition from rivals such as L'Oreal's Feria.

The Clairol brand's positioning will not be radically different, but it will be updated to give it a more contemporary look, said Joanna Rein, senior product manager for Nice 'N Easy. "Nice 'N Easy has always stood for natural-looking color and that's what this spot is about," she said. "We just want to make sure it feels current."

SIX NEW SHADES

A redesigned package will ship to stores in late spring, along with six new hair color shades, Ms. Rein said.

The Bristol Myers-Squibb Co. unit will break TV spots today, the first effort for the brand from Kaplan Thaler Group, New York. TV spots will be followed by print ads in May or June magazines, as well as online advertising and promotions, sampling and couponing.

The spots feature actress Debra Messing, the star of NBC's "Will & Grace," who follows sit-com actress Kristen Johnson ("3rd Rock From the Sun") as the brand's spokeswoman.

"This week, I gave myself a pedicure, bought a new lip liner and used Nice 'N Easy. Trust me, nobody noticed the lip liner," she says in one spot. Both spots end with the tagline "The true color of you."

Ms. Messing was chosen to convey a hip but approachable attitude for the brand, according to Linda Kaplan Thaler, the agency's president-CEO.

The accessibility factor was key because Nice 'N Easy is the entry-level brand for Clairol's lineup, added Exec VP Robin Koval.

Clairol originally planned to launch the repackaged Nice 'N Easy in 1999, but those plans were put on hold as the company went through several changes in management and agencies. Clairol parted ways in February with WPP Group's Intuition Group, New York, and divvied the accounts among its other roster shops, Kaplan Thaler and FCB Worldwide, New York.

SPENDING DIPS

Clairol did not put any significant support behind the brand while the new campaign was on hold. According to Competitive Media Reporting, Clairol spent $21 million in media for Nice 'N Easy in 1998, but only $1 million in January through October 1999.

Ms. Rein did not disclose the budget for the campaign, but said spending would be significantly higher than in the past.

Nice `N Easy is still a strong brand, second only to L'Oreal Preference, but its sales were flat in 1999, rising only 1.9% to $125 million, according to data from Information Resources Inc.

While Clairol remains the leader in the $1.3 billion U.S. hair color segment thanks to the combined sales of all its brands, it has felt the heat from old foes and new rivals. It had 40.3% of the U.S. hair color market at the end of 1999, followed by Cosmair's L'Oreal unit, which held 37.3%. But while Clairol's sales rose only 4.8% from 1998, L'Oreal's grew 21.7%.

"The category is very competitive . . . we think our brands are very well positioned. There is nothing broken about Nice 'N Easy," said Ms. Rein. "It's just more up-to-date."

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