Yet, in the year since its debut in early 2000, Procter & Gamble Co.'s Physique rang up sales of $100 million and captured around 2% of the haircare market.
Fueling that success was an elaborate marketing campaign that may have been the most varied and integrated of its kind for package-goods marketer P&G, one that Diana Shaheen, 37, global marketing director of Physique, likens to childbirth.
Bad-hair day battle
Physique's campaign included such offbeat tactics as sponsoring and releasing a study by Yale University linking bad-hair days to bad moods and job performance, messages on cocktail napkins, prominent signs at the front doors of stores and a Web site (physique.com) that lured more than 1 million registered members for a sampling program -- all in addition to the more conventional P&G TV and print ads from Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi, New York.
Behind the unusual launch was a marketing director with an atypical career path. Like most P&G marketing executives, Ms. Shaheen joined the company straight out of college in 1986. But she spent her first six years in manufacturing, designing equipment that makes Pringles potato crisps. She liked working with consumers as part of her role on product development teams. She made the move into brand management, first in food and beverage, later in healthcare, where she was part of the team that launched Aleve as an over-the-counter medication in 1994.
Aleve was a prescription analgesic, offering a once-daily dose, that had a distinctive proposition and consumer base presenting a challenge similar to Physique, Ms. Shaheen says. "With Physique, there was the challenge because this was targeting a core group of consumers [to whom] style is important ... but they were also willing to spend if it meant their products would deliver. ... We knew we needed to reach them ... where they live, work, shop and play."
A top brand
Physique ranks as one of the top haircare brand launches ever in the U.S., though it hasn't eclipsed Unilever's 1997 launch of the styling-oriented Thermasilk brand. Now comes another challenge. As part of the global aspect of Ms. Shaheen's duties, she must identify the best overseas markets for Physique.
"We're doing that initial consumer work now," she says. "We're going to find those markets where [Physique is] relevant, where styling is relevant to the consumer."