Mass-market brands see more upscale heads

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Haircare brands are working themselves into a lather to create a more upscale image.

Many mass-market brands, from category leader Procter & Gamble Co.'s Pantene Pro-V to Unilever's Salon Selectives, have been revamped and relaunched this summer, often with higher-price tags and expanded advertising.

Even orphaned brands such as White Rain, which was sold to Diamond Products Co. by Gillette Co., and Prell, sold by P&G to Prestige Brands International, have gotten facelifts under new owners.

Many of the revamped lines now look more like their competitors in the salon shelves than products consumers would find at food and drugstores. It's a wise move, say industry observers, since the average consumer now mixes and matches prestige and mass-market products.

Marketers are "trying to have a professional cachet at the mass level, but they're also trying to trade [consumers] up from the mass brands," says Suzanne Grayson, president of consultancy Grayson Associates.

Consumers are buying more premium haircare products in mass-market outlets. According to figures from Information Resources Inc., dollar sales growth was ahead of unit sales in every haircare product segment in 1999.


For example, dollar sales of shampoo rose 4.3% in 1999 to $1.74 billion, as unit sales grew 1.3%. Dollar sales of gels and mousses rose 7.4% to $521 million, as unit sales rose 5.4%. The disparity between dollar and unit sales in haircare often is tighter, especially in big product-launch years when couponing, markdowns and two-for-one sales proliferate.

The production of haircare products is relatively inexpensive, so a premium-priced product can generate high-profit margins for the marketer, notes Ms. Grayson. "The objective is profit. You make it look like it's worth more, and people will pay more for it," she says.

P&G, which last year broke the $10 price barrier with Physique, revamped Pantene in August 1999 and followed a month later with the relaunch of Vidal Sassoon. Both brands were repackaged and product lineups changed to focus on functions like volumizing, shine and styling-similar to Physique's lineup and salon brands.


Unilever's Helene Curtis unit took a similar stand when it relaunched the 13-year-old Salon Selectives brand this summer. The product lineup was expanded to include more hairstyling products, the whole lineup was repackaged and prices were boosted on average by a dollar. The relaunch was backed with a campaign that broke in magazines this month.

Not to be outdone, Revlon reupped its efforts in the haircare aisle with the August launch of a new premium haircare line called Revlon Hair Treatment. Items are priced at $9.99, which places it against premium mass lines such as Physique and salon lines such as Paul Mitchell.

Revlon is expected to spend nearly $5 million marketing Hair Treatment during the fourth quarter and another $8.4 million during 2001. A campaign from Revlon's in-house agency, Tarlow Advertising, New York, will include ads breaking in October magazines, as well as in-store displays, sampling, couponing and promotions.


Other companies are planning to spruce up their existing brands. Alberto-Culver Co., which overhauled its Tresemme line last fall, also is expected to make over its flagship VO5 line soon. The brand's account recently moved to Euro RSCG Tatham, Chicago.

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