Suave and VO5 declare victory in value sector

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Suave and VO5 have triumphed in the value-brand shampoo wars.

The two stalwarts successfully fought off two-plus years of frenetic new-product activity in hair care that claimed three victims-the official discontinuation of Procter & Gamble Co.'s Daily Defense and Daily Renewal and the de facto elimination of Unilever's Salon Selectives. Those brands disappeared in spring shelf resets of such major retailers as Wal-Mart Stores, Target and Kroger Co.

Death of the "Dailies," as the two value brands came to be known at P&G, marks at least a temporary retreat from the category's bargain basement and appears to show incumbent value brands-Unilever's Suave and Alberto-Culver Co.'s Alberto VO5-had more going for them than price. They are now are bouncing back with stepped-up spending behind restaged packaging, new product ranges and new, largely nontraditional marketing campaigns.

Even though it managed to fend off P&G's brands, 68-year-old Suave saw its decade-plus run of double-digit growth ended by the value assault, dropping 10% to $100.7 million in shampoo sales for the 52 weeks ended April 17, according to IRI figures, which don't cover the brand's major strongholds at Wal-Mart and dollar stores. Suave's recent losses, however, come mainly from weakness of the Suave Men and Vibe tween line rather than the core brand.

The "Can You Tell?" campaign, launched this spring, includes pop-up salons in New York, Chicago and Minneapolis. TV and print direct consumers to, where they can guess which sides of models' heads were treated with Suave. WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather, Chicago, handles creative; sibling MindShare, New York, has media buying and planning.


V05 saw an 8.3% increase to $39.9 million in shampoo sales according to IRI, largely behind its mid-tier Nourishing Oasis line. Now, VO5 is further working to contemporize the brand with a new flaming-red packaged styling line.

"The brand has been around 50 years, but in the beauty business, 50 years has an upside and a downside," said Tom Nestor, VP-Sales at Alberto. "Oasis and [the red styling line] have allowed us to appeal to a much broader demographic and do some edgy things in advertising and promotion."

Besides TV, VO5 is backing the styling launch with ads on movie-theater popcorn bags and spreads in women's magazines. Omnicom Group's Element 79 Partners, Chicago, handles creative.

P&G's Dailies, by contrast, led short and troubled lives with little marketing support. Daily Defense, launched in the 1990s, had already been discontinued by Clairol when P&G purchased the unit from Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. in 2001. P&G revived it in 2002 as an under-$1 bargain brand. Daily Renewal, originally Renewal 5x, launched in 2001 as Clairol was up for auction to target P&G's hair-care mother-ship Pantene, was restaged by P&G as a "Suave killer" priced around $2 a year later.

Meanwhile, Salon Selectives, a more premium brand, has lost most of its little remaining retail distribution, though it hasn't formally been discontinued. Unilever tried to sell the brand two years ago, according to people familiar with the matter, but found no takers.

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