Unilever Takes on P&G's Pantene with Lux Relaunch

New Strategy Is Based on China's National Flower, the Peony, As Symbol of Strength

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Unilever Peony ad in China
Unilever Peony ad in China
SHANGHAI (AdAgeChina.com) -- Unilever took a page out of Chinese history to relaunch Lux Ideal Oriental, a variant of the Lux haircare product line only sold in China and Taiwan.

Using the visual metaphor of a crimson peony, China's national flower, as a symbol of modern Chinese beauty, Unilever tapped into the psyches of their target audience, dubbed the Peony Generation.

Advertising features the actress Shu Qi, fashion designer Ji Cheng and singer Zhang Xuan to promote the product's key benefit, creating shiny hair. In the print and TV executions, the women's long black hair is presented against a flat black background alongside vibrant red images of the peony flower.

The Peony Generation is "a device for us to showcase the oriental element of the brand without using chintzy images," said Johnny Tan, creative director of Bartle Bogle Hegarty in Shanghai.

The agency developed the marketing strategy for the relaunch, out-of-home advertising, in-store and packaging materials and an activation TV spot designed to drive consumers to the online marketing program. Unilever's longtime global agency for Lux, JWT, created the brand TV spots. The campaign will run through the end of the year.

The campaign also suggests a spiritual benefit, encouraging young women entering the work force to shine with their own identity, said Mr. Tan. "The peony flower is powerful and strong and doesn't take instruction. It's a confident flower. Everyone sees majesty and strength in that flower and women here understand that. So it encourages women to embody sense of majesty and confidence."

The Anglo-Dutch company hopes the peony campaign will build stronger brand appeal by tapping into the strong sense of pride that mainland women feel for their country's heritage as well. Connecting with the so-called Peony Generation is tricky.
Unilever lux photo booth in China
Unilever lux photo booth in China
Unilever's target market for Lux, women aged 25 to 35, "want to keep the essence of tradition alive, but make it modern," Mr. Tan said.

Unilever also faces tough competition from Procter & Gamble's Pantene brand and Japanese manufacturers like Shiseido which, like Unilever's new Lux variant, uses herbal extracts from plants like tsubaki, which are said to be nurturing for Asian hair. Chinese manufacturers are also entering the premium hair care category, such as Nice Group Co.'s Centaine brand.

"Competition in our category is fierce," said Faye Qu, Unilever's Shanghai-based senior brand manager for Lux in China. The peony campaign "is visually stunning and emotionally appealing, a powerful combination that will stand out from the crowd."

Unilever created a video section on the Lux web site in China, where members of the so-called Peony Generation can participate in the campaign, by telling others what they think defines their generation.

Women can make video recordings in branded booths located in hypermarkets such as Carrefour in major Chinese cities like Shanghai. The videos are edited by Unilever and placed online. Women can also make their own recording and upload it to the site, and vote on the mantras submitted by others.

"The whole idea of Peony Generation is to preach the philosophy of what peony woman is supposed to be about," said Mr. Tan. "Everyone has their own point of view about that and we want to encourage them to live by their mantra and share it with others."
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