Beiersdorf Gives Makeover to Chinese Hair Care Brand

Slek Campaign by Draftfcb and Carat Features Chinese Actress Kitty Zhang

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SHANGHAI ( -- One of China's best known local hair care brands is getting a makeover of its own.

Beiersdorf is trying to position Slek as a premium hair care brand, a segment controlled by foreign brands such as Rejoice, Pantene and Lux.
Beiersdorf is trying to position Slek as a premium hair care brand, a segment controlled by foreign brands such as Rejoice, Pantene and Lux.
This month, Beiersdorf launched a major campaign to promote Slek Night Repair as part of the German personal care giant's re-positioning of Slek as a premium hair care brand, a segment dominated by foreign brands such as Procter & Gamble's Rejoice and Pantene, and Unilever's Lux.

The Slek range, launched by a local company called C-Bons in 1996, also includes shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, oil treatments and other hair styling products. (The brand's Chinese name, "Shulei," sounds more soft and elegant than the English name Slek.)

The Night Repair campaign includes a spot featuring actress Kitty Zhang dreamily sleeping in a hammock while the product works overnight. Draftfcb did the creative and Carat, Beiersdorf's media agency in China, handled planning and buying. Ads are also running in print and online media, including a Slek web site,, and point-of-sale promotions.

Beiersdorf is also marketing Slek through sponsorship of a celebrity-hosted TV reality show called "The Stars Love Me", debuting next month on Hunan Satellite TV, one of China's largest provincial broadcasters.

Reality shows are popular in China, providing an opportunity for ambitious young men and women to stand out in a country with an enormous population.

Foreigners scoop up personal care brands
Slek and other leading Chinese hair care brands called Maestro, S-Dew and Hair Song were created by Wuhan-based C-Bons Daily Chemical. Beiersdorf bought 85% of C-Bons in 2007. The remaining 15% share is held by Global Source Investments.

As a hair care specialist, C-Bons complements Beiersdorf's skin care brands, such as Nivea and Eucerin. Many Chinese brands thrive locally but Slek is a rarity because it also has strong national distribution. But before the Beiersdorf deal, Slek's brand image and marketing were no match for new products from multinational marketers.

Like Slek, many other major personal care brands in China have been snapped up by multinationals. Unilever, for example, has had a licensing agreement with White Cat's Zhong Hua toothpaste since 1994.

In the last few years, L'Oreal has acquired skin care brand Mininurse and Yue-Sai, a makeup brand started by Chinese-American TV celebrity Yue-Sai Kan. Johnson & Johnson took over Beijing-based Dabao Cosmetics Co., China's biggest skin care company, in 2008.

Beiersdorf bought C-Bons "with the expressed desire to bring in expertise globally to take brands like Slek to the next level," said Mathias Chaillou, a client services director at Carat in Shanghai.

"For local brands, it's always a challenge to compete with foreign brands. By improving the product quality and marketing, it wants to take this already strong brand and make it a more formidable competitor in the upscale hair care market," Mr. Chaillou said.

Slek spokeswoman Kitty Zhang
Slek spokeswoman Kitty Zhang
Many C-Bons executives stayed with the company after Beiersdorf's acquisition, including President Wu Yong-nan, who is CEO of the new company.

Slek's brand revamp combines C-Bons' local market knowledge and Beiersdorf's expertise, said Chee Tor, a business director at Draftcb in Shanghai. "But the Germans are very involved in this process."

That process began in March 2009 with a major ad campaign for Slek's Silky Smooth line.

So far, the strategy seems to be working. In the first eight months of 2009, Slek grew at almost twice the market pace, Mr. Chaillou said, taking share from rival shampoo brands from Procter & Gamble Co., L'Oreal and Unilever.

"[The Night Repair campaign] is a major step for Slek in terms of upgrading the image of the brand and using celebrities in a bigger way than it has before. Kitty [Zhang] is more high-profile than any celebrities they've used in the past, Mr. Chaillou said. "Slek is a challenger and it's gaining in a market dominated by foreign players."

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