Olay cosmetics

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Procter & Gamble Co.'s Olay cosmetics launch last spring may not have lived up to P&G's projections, but it did one thing that numerous other initiatives didn't: Reverse a slide.

P&G had slipped from first to third and lost a quarter of its market share in the $3 billion cosmetics category from 1994 to 1998.

Following the Olay launch, P&G regained nearly half that lost share, climbing to 26.8% and edging out Revlon for No. 2 for the 52 weeks ended Jan. 30, according to Information Resources Inc.

Olay cosmetics may reach less than half of P&G's $300 million target the first year, but the company still bills it as the biggest launch in mass cosmetics history. P&G says Olay All Day Moisture Foundation and Color Moist lipstick now lead their segments.

More surprising may be how Olay got there, spending about two-thirds of its $40 million media launch budget on print ads, according to Competitive Media Reporting. In the past, P&G cosmetics and other launches relied primarily on TV.

"We did our best to achieve the optimal mix of print vs. TV advertising at launch, spending at leadership levels vs. our competition in both areas," says Sue Conley, brand manager of Olay cosmetics, who began preparing for the launch when she was promoted to the post in 1997 after joining P&G in 1993 as an assistant brand manager in commercial laundry products.

"Moving forward," says Ms. Conley, "we'll continue to focus on print as we do across our cosmetics brands, as this is where women are likely to seek more detailed information about their beauty choices."

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