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Creating a hit in haircare seems as rare as catching lightning in a bottle, and for Carol Hamilton, lightning has struck three times.

In 1997, she was acknow-ledged in Marketing 100 for her contributions to Revitalift; she returned in 1998 for the launch of L'Oreal Kids. Now there's Feria, L'Oreal's new premium hair color line.

Ms. Hamilton, as senior VP of marketing, positioned the hair color as a fashion statement, not a cover for premature grays.

"We broke out of the hair color 'ghetto,' " says Ms. Hamilton, 46.

L'Oreal is seeking packaging and ads to look as modern and up-to-date as the editorial pages of women's beauty magazines, she says. The packaging and advertising-from McCann-Erickson Worldwide and Group2, both New York-used models of various cultural backgrounds in sometimes unexpected ways, such as having an African-American model using a blonde shade.

That positioning caused some initial resistance among retailers, recalls Ms. Hamilton. Even if they were excited about a premium-priced product with high profit potential, they had their doubts about its cutting-edge style.

The trick was to translate into hair color the same attitude women had for lipstick and nail enamel, where they experiment with blues and greens, says Ms. Hamilton.

"Feria was born out of a total beauty concept, rather than out of the rules for the hair color category," she said. "It was a vision we had that women wanted to

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