Shower power of bar soap dissolves

BODY WASHES: Dial, Axe, Old Spice heat up the action in the guys segment; meanwhile, 75% of women already use body washes

By Published on .

Most Popular
Body wash is on its way to becoming the personal cleanser of choice in the U.S., and marketers are waking up fast to take over the shower stall.

The men's side of the business has been the primary focus of late, as Henkel launched Dial for Men earlier this year, following last year's launch of Unilever's Axe and 2004's intro of Procter & Gamble Co.'s Old Spice for men.

Body wash eclipsed bar soap in dollar sales a few years ago and is on the way to topping bar soap in total usage in unit volume by 2010, says Doug Weeks, VP-personal care for Dial. That led Henkel to make its biggest marketing push in five years for its flagship U.S. brand, a tongue-in-cheek "take back the shower" campaign from Energy BBDO, Chicago, offering guys body wash in what "looks like an oil can" as an alternative to what their wives and girlfriends use.

While IRI data show body washes up 8.4% in the 52 weeks ended April 16, panel data from VNU's ACNielsen also covering Wal-Mart Stores, clubs and dollar stores show a category twice as big and growing almost twice as fast, up 16.7% to $1.15 billion for the year ended March 25. Two men's brands-Axe and Old Spice-accounted for nearly half that growth.

About 75% of women now use body wash either on its own or with bar soap, Mr. Weeks says, compared to only 25% to 30% of guys. In both cases, improved moisturization or skincare is the appeal, although with guys, Dial found it best to treat that benefit in passing and with humor to dodge the "metrosexual" label.

But in the privacy of the shower, guys haven't been ashamed of liquid soap. Old Spice launched body wash after discovering guys were already using their wives' and girlfriends' products, says Alex Keith, marketing director for Old Spice. Earlier this year, Old Spice launched a Hair & Body Wash after the marketer discovered lots of guys were also using body wash on their hair.

In the swan song on Old Spice from Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, which earlier this year lost the account to Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., ads for the hair-body product show it easier to deal with than the conflict a guy faces in deciding whether to answer his mate when she asks which of her friends he'd most like to "be with."

Old Spice faces a stiff challenge for men's wash leadership from Axe, backed by its most recent variant, Snake Peel. To launch it, MindShare Entertainment created an "Order of the Serpentine" program on Spike TV, which became the theme of an ad and online relationship marketing effort from Bartle Bogle Hegarty around a secret society of guys using the product to wash away the embarrassments of unsavory hookups.

Women's washes have been getting plenty of attention, too. Unilever's Dove retained its category dollar leadership behind the launch late last year of its Energy Glow range, backed by a new wrinkle in the "Campaign for Real Beauty" from Ogilvy & Mather, Chicago, in which guys give testimonials about their wives.

Unilever's volume wash leader Suave is looking to regain some lost share behind a new "Pretty Mommy" campaign from O&M.

P&G's Olay, despite the launch of a "moisture ribbons" extension backed by Saatchi ads aimed at stealing some of Dove's momentum, continued losing share over the past year.

Meanwhile, Colgate-Palmolive Co. looks to reverse small share losses behind the recent launch of a more premium Cashmere line, featuring real "Cashmere extracts" in the soap, with ads from Y&R Advertising, New York.