Marketers rush into men's care category

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Based on the conviction that beneath men's gruff exterior lies insecurity best addressed by personal-care products, an unprecedented wave of male cleansers, moisturizers, sunscreens, depilatories and body sprays has begun washing up on U.S. shores, largely from European marketers.

Unilever's $90 million launch of Axe, which goes beyond the traditional U.S. guy bounds of deodorants and aftershave into the relatively uncharted territory of body spray, heads the list. Unilever said its research found 50% of U.S. men who say they'll buy Axe plan to use a spritz or two of body spray in addition to their usual deodorant.

In all, men spend $7.7 billion on grooming products globally each year, according to Unilever, which expects that figure to reach $8.8 billion by 2004. An NPD Group survey last month found 36% of men said they "always" wear fragrance, defined as four times weekly, up 10 percentage points from last year.

"Guys are much less secure than we often realize," said Alan Jope, chief operating officer of Unilever North America. "Smelling great gives them a little bit of confidence."

Joe Venezia, marketing manager of Beiersdorf's Nivea for Men skin care line, said "Speed is picking up [in the U.S.] and we imagine more competitors are going to be coming into the [U.S.] market." Joining Nivea late last year was Johnson & Johnson's Neutrogena Men, with Pierre Cardin and Coty entering the fray this year. Coty, after this year launching Adidas deodorant and skin care products, next year plans a second men's skin care line called Adrenaline.

"Men are doing everything to stay fit and stay young looking," he said. "The piece of the puzzle that's always been missing is taking care of their skin."

Gillette Co. has focused new attention on its Gillette Series shave preparations, this year giving the line its first TV ads in more than a decade and tacking a "skincare with every shave" tag for shave gels onto Mach 3 Turbo ads from Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, New York.

slow move

But the evolution of American masculinity from John Wayne to Niles Crane isn't happening overnight. Mr. Venezia said men in their 30s and up may go for Nivea shave creams and lotions, yet often reject moisturizers and scrubs. "But younger guys get it," he said, adding that Nivea has shifted about 10% to 15% of its ad budget toward women, who buy the products for men in their lives.

College guys opting for the smooth-torso look, meanwhile, have grown open-minded about depilatories, with Church & Dwight's Nair for Men among a host of new, primarily male-oriented products driving a 15.9% increase in depilatory sales to $148 million in the 52 weeks ended June 26, according to Information Resources Inc.

Mr. Venezia says Nivea for Men, handled by Interpublic Group of Cos.' Foote, Cone & Belding Worldwide, New York, is on pace for $25 million in 2002 sales, ahead of expectations for its first full year. That's on the back of $19 million so far in measured media according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR.

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