P&G's $100M Pantene push mimics rival

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Procter & Gamble Co.'s category-leading Pantene will take a page from rival Kao Brands' play book with the $100 million launch of Pantene Expressions. The 18-item line of color-specific shampoos and conditioners start hitting stores late this year and roll out fully Feb. 7.

Pantene Expressions will come with separate product assortments for brunettes, blondes and redheads. Retail buyers see it as a knockoff of Kao's John Frieda brand, with its Sheer Blonde and Brilliant Brunette lines and which will get a sibling range for redheads by early next year.

P&G has shown great interest in the Frieda Products, with R&D staffers obtaining samples of Brilliant Brunette last year before they hit shelves, said one retailer. Other retail buyers said Expressions' packaging copy is virtually identical to the Frieda products.

P&G will make Expressions probably the best-supported hair-care launch of 2005, with one retail executive estimating marketing support above $100 million. "They throw a lot of stuff at the wall and spend as much as they can to make it stick," he said. P&G declined to comment.

Pantene, handled by Grey Global Group, New York, has fared well, even gained share, amid onslaughts in recent years from Unilever's Dove and L'Oreal's Garnier Fructis. But other P&G brands, particularly those acquired in the Clairol acquisition from Bristol-Myers Squibb in 2001, have lost share for two years.

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