Cosmetics competitors try to slap down Revlon

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Revlon rivals are lining up with new products and invigorated ad spending to try to derail the reborn cosmetics juggernaut.

And Revlon has begun a court battle to defend its No. 1 selling ColorStay lipstick from what it characterizes as competitive disparagement from Procter & Gamble Co.

Through new products such as ColorStay, Revlon increased its market share to 19.4% in the $2.2 billion mass-market color cosmetics category for the nine months ended Sept. 30, up from 17.4% in the comparable 1994 period, according to the company's filing of an initial public offering with the Securities & Exchange Commission (AA, Nov. 20).

Maybelline, unseated this year by Revlon from No. 2 in market share (AA, May 29), next year will spend $30 million, or 60% of its media budget, to introduce The Greats and a new Maybelline umbrella campaign from Gotham Inc., New York. The line is a collection of makeup products named after Maybelline's Great Lash mascara, the No. 1 selling cosmetic of any kind.

No. 3 Maybelline's share is now 18.4%, say industry executives, who believe The Greats is a defense in part against Revlon's fall introduction of ColorStay eye makeup and foundation, and the early 1996 arrival of ColorStay Lash Color mascara.

To stem the competitive tide, which besides rival products has also included ColorStay bashing in company correspondence, Revlon has become a legal aggressor, filing suit last week in U.S. District Court in New York against P&G. The complaint arose after Revlon received "threat" letters from P&G, the most recent mailed on Nov. 22 and questioning ad claims that ColorStay lipstick and makeup won't rub off.

"It's very unusual to wait a year and a half to raise questions about a competitor's ad campaign," said George Fellows, president-chief operating officer of Revlon Consumer Products Corp. "P&G is losing market share and trying to use the courts to protect the Cover Girl and Max Factor businesses..."

In response, P&G fired back in a press statement that Revlon's ad claims are false.

P&G's No. 1 Cover Girl and its laboring Max Factor are also ready to volley back with new products. In particular, some analysts believe P&G could slow Revlon's breathless pace if the company's reaffirmed commitment to its cosmetics proves real.

At a meeting between P&G top management and financial analysts last month, P&G Chairman John Pepper said: "We are very focused on getting [cosmetics] to where we want to be by 1999 to 2000. Next year, we are counting on quality of product and the marketing message for improvement."

In response to questions from analysts regarding P&G's specific commitment to Max Factor, P&G President Durk Jager said: "Factor is a cornerstone for the globalization of our cosmetics business."

Factor, now in its second restage since P&G acquired it from Revlon in 1991, in August kicked off an $80 million global marketing campaign themed "Makeup that performs." The campaign from Lotas Minard Patton McIver restores Factor's imagery as the cosmetic brand of choice of Hollywood makeup artists. By doing so, P&G more clearly defined Factor's image and is also playing off the growing trend of makeup artists' signature brands.

In 1996, Factor is expected to spend more than $20 million on U.S. media--almost double what it originally planned.

Factor General Manager Cathy Rings said market share also is rising and is now at 7.3%, up from 6.1% at the start of the year.

Factor's ad focus late next spring will be Lasting Performance Stay Put Makeup, competitive with Revlon's recently introduced ColorStay foundation.

Cover Girl, the market leader with a 23.5% share, according to industry executives, is also putting its money behind makeup that won't rub off, dedicating an estimated $15 million of 1996's $40 million-plus media budget to Continuous Wear foundation bowing in February. Also due out then is Simply Powder, a lightweight powder that acts like a foundation. It too will be supported by $15 million in media. Both also will be heavily sampled to the tune of an estimated 4 million trial sizes. Grey Advertising handles.

Copyright December 1995 Crain Communications Inc.

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