Chinese Shampoo Takes On Top Western Brands

Leading Local Soap Maker Updates Herbal Brand for Premium Sector; Ads Feature Pop Star Andy Lau

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LISHUI, ZHEJIANG--Chinese companies been tough competitors against multinational marketers for inexpensive package goods, particularly household and personal care products. Their local market edge also helps them prosper in smaller cities, in tiers three, four and five, where distribution gets more complex and disposable income smaller.

Now Nice Group Co., one of China's leading producers of soap, laundry detergent and dish washing detergent, is taking on global rivals like Procter & Gamble and Unilever on its home turf for the first time by moving upscale with a local haircare brand called 100 Years.

Nice, based in Lishui City in Zhejiang province, near Hangzhou, controls over 40% of China's washing powder market, largely through its Nice brand. The company also has nearly 70% of soap product sales, including liquid detergent sold under the Diao brand name and toilet soap.

Nice took over the 100 Years brand in 2006, when it acquired another Chinese personal care company, Olive. Nice has developed one of Olive's brands, 100 Years, into a premium hair care line that debuted nationally this month, including in stores in China's top-tier cities like Shanghai.

"Until now, Nice was only in the low-end part of the market. Now it's going high-end, the first time a local brand has gone premium in the shampoo category," said Viveca Chan, the Hong Kong-based chairman-CEO of WE Worldwide Partners.

The independent ad agency was appointed last year to help Nice relaunch 100 Years as a premium shampoo brand, including brand strategy and positioning, logo, packaging, advertising and point of sales materials. Media buying is handled in-house.

The 100 Years brand became successful in the 1990s with an herbal formula specifically created for Asian hair and a TV campaign featuring Chinese actor Chow Yun-Fat in a memorable love story.

"It was the only local brand at the time that was able to capture share from P&G," said Ms. Chan. Before she founded her own agency, she was the chief executive, Greater China, at Grey Global Group, a P&G roster agency.

Nice has updated the product line of shampoos and conditioners made with natural ingredients like olive leaves. The range includes products to restore strength, fight dandruff, moisturize, and appeal to men. The target market is 25-45 year-old middle class consumers.

The retail price is slightly above P&G's Pantene, its main rival, and 100 Years has a new name, Centaine, a play on "cent," the French word for 100.

Nice is marketing the revamped product nationally on China Central Television with TV ads--a 30" spot and a 5" billboard version--that stress protection and nourishment. Nice also created a 90" version for trade and on-premise marketing.

The "Love you for 100 years" campaign recreates a love story well-known to Chinese consumers featuring Chow Yun-Fat with a new execution starring another Chinese celebrity, Cantopop star Andy Lau.

Despite its local market knowledge, Nice faces the opposite challenge to its foreign rivals, said Ms. Chan. The company's distribution is strong in third and fourth tier cities, but needs to expand distribution in China's most sophisticated, affluent cities. At least, she said, "People in lower-tier cities are getting richer more quickly now."

Heineken appoints Leo Burnett Arc in Hong Kong
HONG KONG--Heineken International has appointed Leo Burnett's Arc division as its creative agency in Hong Kong, responsible for strategic and communications planning as well as creative, following a pitch against the incumbent, TBWA Worldwide's Tequila unit.

Arc will develop through-the-line advertising in Hong Kong aimed at 20- to 30-year-old consumers, both Hong Kong Chinese and expatriates. Advertising will run in TV, print and digital media, and in retail shops, bars and restaurants.

Hong Kong property giant Swire hires MPG for Beijing complex
BEIJING--Hong Kong real estate developer Swire Properties has appointed MPG China, a division of Havas Media, to deliver media solutions for a new shopping and entertainment complex in Beijing, The Village at Sanlitun. MPG will develop and implement media strategy, planning and buying for the Sanlitun development, Swire Properties' first retail project in Beijing.

Coke unleashes Olympic blitz; Global effort proudly features host country as some sponsors shy away
NEW YORK--Coca-Cola this week takes the wraps off the final phase of a 60-country global marketing blitz surrounding the Olympics, its largest ever around the games.

The cola giant's TV campaign, themed "Live Olympic on the Coke Side of Life," highlights the games' host country, while a packaging promotion brings aspects of Chinese culture to 150 countries--a gamble, some might say, as critics around the world disparage China's track record on human rights and environmental issues. But Coca-Cola is standing firm, saying it never considered adjusting or scaling back its program and is not concerned about negative consumer feedback.

"As we get closer to the games, the consumer excitement is much more positive than we would have thought," said Kevin Tressler, director-worldwide sports and entertainment marketing at the marketer.

Indeed, China seems to be grabbing fewer negative headlines. "The message tends to get more positive and some of the politics tend to fall away as the competition itself and the story lines that develop therein come to life," said Kevin Adler, president of Engage Marketing, a Chicago-based sports-marketing firm.

Still, some major sponsors are treading carefully. Visa is running spots in the U.S. that focus on the Olympics' ability to bring countries together and hardly mention China. In stark contrast, Coca-Cola is expected to announce plans today for two flashy spots that prominently feature China and will air around the globe.

In "Unity," which will begin airing in the U.S. this week, basketball stars Yao Ming and LeBron James show off cultural icons from their respective countries. In Mr. Yao's case, that includes dragons and traditional fans, while Mr. James touts break dancing and cowboys. At the end of the "cultural face-off," both basketball stars look to trump each other by pulling out a Coke-Mr. Yao's in Mandarin packaging and Mr. James' in English packaging.

"This is our own interesting way of East meeting West and bringing the world together," Mr. Tressler said. "[Mr. Yao and Mr. James] are so different, but the one thing they're united on is a Coke."

The second commercial, "Bird's Nest Stadium," will air Aug. 8, the date of the opening ceremony. In that spot (see it on, animated birds fly around the world-actual footage from different countries was shot-snagging straws from unsuspecting people, often from their Coke bottles. The birds build what is ultimately revealed as a look-alike version of the Beijing National Stadium, which has been dubbed the Bird's Nest.

Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., created "Unity," and Wieden & Kennedy, Amsterdam, Netherlands, created "Bird's Nest Stadium."

Some 25 countries have committed to air the spots either on TV or online, Mr. Tressler said, adding that more countries will pick up the spots as the games approach. In total, 60 countries will activate some form of integrated marketing.

The broadest aspect of the program is the rollout of commemorative packaging in 150 countries. That, more than anything else, indicates the company's support of this year's Olympic Games, Mr. Tressler said. The Chinese characters used to phonetically pronounce Coca-Cola translate to "delicious happiness" in Mandarin, and that will be explained on each package in the local language.

"Packaging is the best way to interact with consumers," Mr. Tressler said. "They might not watch TV or get on the net, but they're going to see Mandarin packaging, and that's a commitment."
--by Ad Age reporter Natalie Zmuda in New York

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