MARKETING SUPERSTARS;ORGANICS;ALEXANDER RIBBINK

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PARIS-Stakes were high for Alexander Ribbink, brand manager for Unilever's new Organics haircare line, as he oversaw the global rollout of the product over the last two years.

As the first global product from any Unilever Innovation Center, Organics needed to succeed in the highly competitive haircare market to show the centers' effectiveness for creating new products.

Unilever set up Innovation Centers around the world for various product categories to speed new product development and introductions. Unilever positioned Organics, developed by the Hair Innovation Center, as the only shampoo that "nourishes the life source of hair, the roots."

Organics first rolled out late in 1993 in Thailand-a fiercely competitive market for haircare products-and immediately faced its main rival, Procter & Gamble Co.'s Pantene. The Organics line snapped up an impressive 9.5% market share there in the first year.

Unilever then introduced Organics throughout Asia, before bringing it simultaneously to Europe and Latin America. Strategy in all locations has been virtually identical, with Organics' claims, attributes and eye-catching green packaging featured universally.

The global view was also reflected through advertising. A single rollout TV and print campaign-developed by JWT Europe, London, with creative by a JWT Spanish team-was used in all markets after Thailand. These surrealistic TV and print ads featured billowing-haired models emerging from the ground, recalling Organics' claims to nourish hair roots.

Initial response to Organics was encouraging to Mr. Ribbink, who said he found Unilever managers elsewhere so keen to launch the product that Unilever had to advance its timetable.

So far Organics is running No. 2 after Pantene in most markets, claiming 9% market share in the U.K. and 16% in Norway. After Organics enters a market, P&G often breaks heavy promotions and increases TV spending.

"To succeed with this kind of global launch in a very competitive market, you have to either create a new segment-which I think we did-or offer a better, more competitive product overall, which I also think we did with Organics," Mr. Ribbink said.

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