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procter & gamble co.'s Pantene is the top shampoo in the market, but it's feeling the heat from both premium and mass-market brands and the effects of being the target of all the other marketers.

"Procter has had some problems in the shampoo industry," said William Steele, analyst with consultancy Buckingham Research, San Francisco. "There's a tremendous amount of competition in that category, with companies adding new product."

But while Pantene has lost ground, P&G refuses to let it wash out. This month, the marketer launched a restyled Pantene Pro-V, its first overhaul for the brand since 1992 (AA, Feb. 1). A campaign from Grey Advertising, New York, promotes its reinvention as Pantene Ultra-V, with a new formula, scent and packaging.


P&G still holds nearly one-third of the mass-market shampoo category, largely thanks to Pantene's 14.2% share.

According to figures from Information Resources Inc., P&G had 30.6% of the market during the third quarter of 1998, compared with 18.5% for Unilever -- marketer of the Suave and Finesse brands -- and 14.4% for Bristol Myers-Squibb Co., whose Clairol unit markets the Herbal Essences brand (see story at right).

But while Unilever and Bristol-Myers increased their shares during that period, P&G's share dropped by 4% from the same quarter in 1997.

Unilever's launch of Helene Curtis' Thermasilk brand helped it jump by 3.2% last year, and the launch of its Daily Defense brand, combined with the continued success of Herbal Essences, helped Clairol's share rise by 3.4%.

Pantene's slide is a factor of "designer-brand haircare," said Wendy Liebmann, president of consultancy WSL Strategic Retail, New York. The arrival of more premium, salon-quality brands into the mass channels are a challenge to its niche as a premium-quality product for the mass market, she noted.

The new Ultra-V line includes shampoo-only and shampoo-plus-conditioner products, two conditioners and a spray-on strengthening conditioner, which is a new product-type for Pantene.

The ad campaign includes seven TV spots that began airing Feb. 1, plus print ads in March magazines and outdoor boards.

The print executions include scent strips touting the new fragrance, believed to be the first time a shampoo has used that promotional vehicle.


P&G wouldn't disclose spending, but the company put $134 million in measured media for Pantene in the first 11 months of 1998.

The Ultra-V launch "speaks to the need in the market to stay new," said Ms. Liebmann.

She noted that product news -- such as Thermasilk and L'Oreal's continuing introductions of Vive shampoo lines -- can steal the thunder from established lines like Pantene, although she said the P&G brand is still strong.

"It's a short-term hit, but Procter has long-term momentum," said Burt Flickinger, a consultant with Reach Marketing, Westport, Conn. The relaunch

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