Is Perfect 10 the Perfect Fix for Clairol?

P&G's Hair-Color Line Has Struggled, but Fast-Acting Product May Give It Boost

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It's been a long, painful decline for Clairol, but Procter & Gamble Co. thinks it has a quick solution.

P&G is preparing to launch Perfect 10, a 10-minute Clairol hair-color product for women that it's billing
Brand Identity
1. for 52 weeks ended Aug. 12
Source: Information Resources Inc.
as "the first fundamental change in the basic chemistry of hair coloring in 50 years."

Perfect 10 is expected to hit stores as soon as late December, though P&G isn't releasing most details yet. WPP Group's Grey Global Group, New York, will head what's likely to be a $100 million-plus marketing push.

Innovation
The product would appear to dramatically decrease the 30 minutes at-home hair coloring takes for women, though Combe's Just For Men has offered five-minute hair coloring for men for many years, said Cyrus Bulsara, principal with Plano, Texas-based Professional Consultants & Resources and a former Clairol executive.

But men's products, he said, are far less sophisticated, generally focusing on darker shades without highlights. And 10-minute touch-up products, such as Revlon's Root Perfect, have to cover only a small area. So Clairol's product appears to be a first.

Even the fastest salon processes still take about 20 minutes, Mr. Bulsara said, but salon customers, too, are demanding faster coloring, so he said launching the product on the retail side first could give that side of the business a boost.

Though P&G executives have deemed the 2001 acquisition of Clairol successful and said it delivered on its economic targets, the brand is finishing its sixth consecutive year of share declines. And the category, at least as measured by Information Resources Inc., has been flat to down in recent years.

Fading profits
Those data don't include Wal-Mart Stores, which probably pushes the category into positive territory. But IRI has the category down slightly for the 52 weeks ended Aug. 12, at $1 billion, after a 1.1% increase last year.

An aging population isn't a positive for hair color anymore. As more boomers pass into their 60s, some industry executives believe the number of people giving up on coloring their hair may be growing faster than the number who are starting.

Clairol brands lost 1.7 share points in the past 52 weeks to register at 28.3%. Last year, Clairol slipped below a 30% share for the first time in decades.

P&G has shifted most of its focus in the category to Clairol Nice & Easy, which is up six share points since 2002, and says Natural Instincts and Herbal Essences have promise too. But low-priority brands, including Hydrience and Loving Care, still make up 20% of the business, leaving it plenty more room to fall barring a breakthrough.

Combining talents
"We are confident we have the best-ever hair-coloring technology with the best-ever usage experience that can be delivered in 10 minutes," said Gina Drosos, president-global personal beauty care for P&G, at an investor conference earlier this month. "Perhaps most importantly, this patented technology creates a new platform for innovation."

P&G tapped technology from its laundry detergent, Clairol and Wella professional-hair-care business to develop the product, Ms. Drosos said.

A P&G spokesman acknowledged that launch plans for Perfect 10 had been delayed by a year. He declined to provide a reason but said it wasn't because of trademark issues with rival hair-color marketer Revlon, which holds a "Perfect 10" trademark for nail color and markets the Root Perfect 10-minute root-touch-up kit.
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