Having won the war against odor and wetness, antiperspirant and deodorant manufacturers are turning their attention to improving the aesthetics of these personal care products.
by Tom Branna, Editor
FROM ALL APPEARANCES, the war against wetness is over and the clear winner is the American consumer. Marketers for the most part, are no longer emphasizing the odor protection factor of their products. Apparently, consumers are satisfied that antiperspirants and deodorants offer the best protection they can buy.
Instead the emphasis these days is on aesthetics. Leading brands are being extended with variants that are clear and leave no unsightly residue on clothing. Other new underarm protectants are being formulated to glide on easily. This new slant on product development comes at a time when sales of antiperspirants and deodorants have begun to stagnate, a sure sign that American consumers are up to their armpits in odor protecting products! According to data from Information Resources, Inc., Chicago, sales of deodorants and antiperspirants in food, drug and mass merchandisers fell 1.1% last year to $1.4 billion. Among the top five leading brands, only Procter & Gamble's Secret and Colgate-Palmolive's Mennen registered any sales gain. Dollar sales of Secret rose 3% and Mennen's sales improved 13.1% for the year ended Nov. 24, 1996 (see chart at left).
"We had an outstanding year with Speed Stick," noted Michael Sload, marketing manager, Mennen. "It grew two to three times faster than our other brands."
Mr. Sload credited the tremendous rise in Speed Stick sales to three key factors: the introduction of Speed Stick gel in March of last year, improvements to the traditional stick formula which kept cannibalization of existing products to a minimum and an aggressive marketing program that motivated consumers.
For the Ladies
To follow up on Speed Stick's success, in the fourth quarter of 1996 Mennen introduced Lady Speed Stick Invisible Dry antiperspirant, which offers all the protection of traditional Lady Speed Stick without leaving white residue. Mr. Sload says Mennen will apply the same marketing techniques that helped boost Speed Stick's sales last year to the new Lady Speed Stick formula. Unlike other no-white residue products, Lady Speed Stick Invisible Dry goes on dry. The 1.4-oz. stick is available in four varieties: powder fresh, scented, unscented and shower fresh.
But Mennen isn't the only major player launching a new residue-free product that's geared toward women. That's because Gillette recently introduced Soft & Dri Silken Solid, which it calls the first and only antiperspirant for women that contains real silk for a soft, smooth, silky application.
According to Gillette's consumer research, men and women expect very different things from their antiperspirant or deodorant. Eric Kraus, director of communications, said men appreciate products which have the ability to glide easily through underarm hair. However, since women typically apply underarm products to bare skin, "they are particularly concerned about application aesthetics and seek the driest and smoothest application possible," said Mr. Kraus.
According to Gillette research, 104 million women in the U.S. use an underarm product. Of that total, 53% use a stick; 27% use a roll-on, 10% prefer aerosol, 7% use a gel (although it's the newest and fastest growing segment) and 2% use another form.
Men, too, prefer stick products. Gillette estimates that 92 million men in the U.S. use underam products. Sticks are the No. 1 choice for 54% of men, followed by aerosols and gels, (both 15%), roll-ons (14%) and other product forms (2%).
Although sales of aerosol antiperspirants and deodorants have fallen from those halcyon days during the 1970s, that hasn't stopped marketers from launching aerosol products. Carter-Wallace, for example, introduced Arrid Ultra Clear spray in July. The company calls it the first aerosol antiperspirant that leaves no residue on clothing. A company spokesman told happi that Carter-Wallace is getting ready to ship Arrid Ultra Clear solid; it's expected to reach store shelves by April 1.
Although it's best known for its lines of makeup, Revlon also has a thriving antiperspirant business. In fact, Revlon credited part of last year's 12.9% rise in net sales (to $1.257 billion) to extensions in the Mitchum Clear deodorant line. Most recently Revlon added Mitchum Clear roll-on in scented and unscented variants. "Roll-on is one of our most popular forms," said Eleanor Steuer, vice president of product development in a statement. "So with new Mitchum Clear roll-on we are once again giving consumers the efficacy and dependability they associate with the Mitchum name, with the added benefits of no chalkiness and no messy residue."
The clear roll-ons, join Mitchum Clear gel and Lady Mitchum Clear gel which debuted last year. Mitchum and Lady Mitchum Clear roll on (1.5 oz.) and Clear gel (2.82 oz.), both retail for $3.40.
Clearly, when it comes to antiperspirants and deodorants, the emphasis is on clear formulations. So while clear soda, clear mascara and other transparent consumer products may have come and gone during the early years of the 1990s, when it comes to their underarms, U.S. consumers have made their choice crystal clear.