For Redken Product Launch, Interactive Is in Style

Brand Uses Webisodes, Online Dares to Push Urban Experiment Line

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A correction has been made in this story. See below for details.

LOS ANGELES -- There's hip music, square-dance lessons and online dares.

To promote its Urban Experiment line of styling products, L'Oreal's Redken got together with online culture magazine Flavorpill.
Did we mention this was a hair-care campaign?

When L'Oreal's Redken launched a new line of styling products, called Urban Experiment, last month, it was the first time new media led the charge in one of its marketing campaigns.

Molly Mansur, director of interactive marketing for Redken, said the new line is targeting a different kind of customer than their usual buyer.

Hard-to-define demo
"We don't like to describe them as a demographic because you can't pin them down by age or gender; it's an urban, underground lifestyle," she said. "They're really into music and art, and the internet is a really big part of their life."

The four products -- velvet gelatine, grit wax, nylon clay and enamel wax -- are designed for folks interested in experimenting with their look without making the commitment required for a bold hair dye or tattoo. In other words, they can put their suit back on in the morning, and no one at the office will be the wiser.

"We have talked to people that are interested in experimenting with their look, but they were worried about permanence and how their friends are going to see them," said Gene Lewis, director of web development at Digital Pulp. His company built the Urban Experiment website.

'Dare to experiment'
Using the tagline "Dare to experiment," Digital Pulp created a series of dares -- from giving a lottery ticket to a stranger to performing a pole dance on the subway. Each dare is linked to one of the four products, and has an accompanying theme song, performed by an up-and-coming artist. The pages have room for user comments, and dares are expected to be forwarded to friends.

"We have a lot of things that push some buttons," Mr. Lewis said. Indeed, launched July 15 and got 44,000 unique visits by Aug. 29.

The web team also built in product demonstrations, using "urban characters" such as musicians and yoga teachers.

"We're showing them how the product works and how an everyday person can get those results," Mr. Lewis said.

To take the experience one step further, Ms. Mansur also partnered with Flavorpill, an online arts and culture magazine with New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco and London editions. Redken chose Flavorpill as a partner because of its unique connection with the underground market. In fact, Flavorpill founder Sascha Lewis was unavailable for comment because he was participating in the Burning Man festival.

Series of webisodes
The Flavorpill partnership includes a series of webisodes, available at UrbanExperiment and OutOfTown.TV. Characters are chosen through contests in major cities, and the winners are taken for a four-day rural adventure. The first contest chose two young women from New York and took them to Kurztown, Pa., for Fourth of July weekend. The women watched glass blowing and learned to fish and square dance.

The next contest will be held next month in Chicago.

For Ms. Mansur, however, the biggest thrill was harnessing the power of the web to benefit her company's product launch.

"For the first time interactive has really been the lead in a major product launch for Redken," she said, "and that's been really exciting."

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Kimberly D. Williams contributed to this report.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that scenes from the webisodes at UrbanExperiment and OutOfTown.TV will also air as commercials during E!'s "Simple Life."
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