The Grayson Report

Decisions, Decisions: Line Extension or New Brand?

October 31, 2005

For those of us of a certain age, one of the seminal events in marketing in the 1960s was the publication of a book by Al Ries and Jack Trout called Positioning. It was subsequently published in 15 languages. The basic concept was that line extensions tend to weaken the basic brand—sometimes severely. At that time, every mass marketer paid attention. This was truly new thinking. And, back in those good old days there was Tide in two sizes. Now there is Liquid Laundry, Ultra Liquid, Liquid-Mountain Spring Scent, Liquid with Bleach, Liquid–Clean Breeze, Powder-Mountain Spring Scent, and Powder-Mountain Spring Scent with Bleach.

Suzanne and Bob Grayson are respected, professional marketers, having spent their careers with the leading companies in the beauty industry before staring their successful consulting business in the early 1970s.

Their consulting clients have included Avon, Bristol-Myers, Estée Lauder, Procter & Gamble, Revlon and Cover Girl, among others. They reside in San Juan Capistrano, CA and maintain an office in New York City. For more information, they can be reached at or
Dove Beauty Bar was a singleton product–not even a bath bar. Now there is Antiperspirant/Deodorant, Firming Body Wash, Intensive Firming Lotion, Intensive Firming Cream, Anti-aging Moisturizer, Intensive Moisture Shampoo, Anti-aging Night Cream, Hydrating Cleansing Cloths, Essential Nutrient Cleansing Pillows and Intensive Nourishing Moisturizing Lotion. And we have a sneaking suspicion that we are missing some in each product category.

Consider the difference between the two brands. Essentially, if you use one Tide basic laundry product you don’t need any of the others. Then why have the others? Competition, shelf presence, technology, an over-zealous product manager.

But many of the Dove products are used with, or in addition to, one another. The deodorant, shampoo, body wash, bar soap (face), cleansing cloths, night cream and so on. The net is that Tide has extended its brand but not its reach, while Dove has developed a “house” with many products. One might even spin it off in an IPO as a stand alone, $2 billion company. Thus, we can make the case that there are “line extensions” and “brand extensions”—and there is a world of difference.

Which brings us to Avon and its Anew iterations, stemming from the original huge success, Anew Clincal Line and Wrinkle Corrector. There is Anew Ultimate Transforming Lift Eye, Night Transforming Lift, Day Transforming Lift and Hand and Nail Cream. There is Anew Retroactive Skin Optimizer, 2-in-1 Cleanser, Repair Eye Serum, and Repair Body Lotion, and Anew Line Eliminator Neo-Retinol Line Plumper and Dual Retinol Facial Treatment. Then the prior introductions, Anew Clinical Lift and Tuck, Deep Crease Concentrate, 2-Step Facial Peel, Micro-Exfoliant, and Laser System. Finally, not to be forgotten, Anew All-in-One Max SPF 15 Cream and Max SPF 15 Lotion. Whew! And, no doubt, we missed several.

So, now consider Tide, Dove and Anew. With Tide, only one product is necessary and if she makes a mistake little downside risk. With Dove, a woman can use most of the products—a total brand devotee. If she finds a deodorant that she likes better, she can just drop that Dove product and move on. With Anew so many of the products “sound” like others, it is almost impossible to make a selection. When adding line extensions, especially with similar benefits, marketers carefully parse words in an attempt at differentiation—assuming that consumers will perceive the differences. That’s where the blur comes in. Most consumers, and more specifically mass consumers, tend to want many/all benefits in one product. And they don’t see the differences which marketing intends

Whether they’re sold in mass or prestige channels, these ads for L’Oréal, Neutrogena, Lancôme and Estée Lauder (below) all make similar product claims.

Now, a new (oops!) product, Anew Alternative Intensive Age Treatment. It looks like this one could duplicate at least six from the list above but wait, there’s more! This product is a “new class of anti-aging skin cream that marries Eastern plant therapy with Western pharmaceutical technology.” Hey! That’s really new. Aside from the name “Alternative” which doesn’t resonate well, it is saddled with the brand name of dozens of other products-line extensions. Consumers will perceive “Alternative” as “instead” of the mother lode, the original Anew Clinical Line and Wrinkle Corrector, and (too) many will make the trade —especially as pricing is basically the same. “Alternative” is a very new platform with a new authority. It should be a totally new brand, on its own, with a great new name, higher priced to give it status and distinction, and less changing of dollars. Then it can be the fountainhead of another big brand, following the Dove example. Truly a missed opportunity—at least, in our opinion. Yes, investment in new brands can be daunting for traditional retail brands—think of the additional space, media costs, etc. But this is Avon! It has its own catalog, its own medium. It can do what retail brands cannot do; bring out entirely new brands and benefits, virtually at will. An unequaled competitive edge.


Is It Worth It?

One of the old—very old—axioms in advertising goes like this: “Nothing has been said about a 50-cent cigar that hasn’t been said about a 5-cent cigar.” Have we come to that with moisturizers and anti-aging creams? We think so. About 54% of the women polled believed that they were overpaying for cosmetics in specialty stores, and 50% felt the same way about cosmetic prices in department stores. Moisturizers were about the same, according to recently reported research. Of course, if you think the glass is half full, then you could say, “Wow, 50% of the women think that department and specialty store products are priced right.”

Consider this. If you believe that there is a value component to the expression of product satisfaction, you might conclude that there is a reason that the department store channel continues to get a smaller share of the total market. Of course, vendors and retailers tend to look at total dollar figures and so, if they are up modestly, they don’t really feel the share loss. But, does anyone look at unit sales? With most new products coming in at higher prices, not to mention the new luxury treatment segment, actual numbers of women will be down. No wonder the struggle to “anniversary” volume.

Dove’s real people advertising strategy is real effective.
Now look at the ad claims. Two are prestige and two are mass. Can you tell? That’s the point. While the layouts vary by brand style/look, the claims are approximately equal. So, is it any wonder that 50% of the women don’t feel that they’re getting their money’s worth in department and specialty stores? These mass prices are approximately $18-$24, while prestige are $55-70. Beyond price, when you throw in many competing anti-aging products from each of these lines, is it any wonder that the consumer’s eyes are glazing over? (See Line Extension story in the beginning of the column.) Prestige lines just want to get the consumer to the counter and let the beauty advisor sell her the correct or latest/more expensive product, which she is very happy to do. But what is the mass consumer to do when faced with the plethora of products in each brand, all in similar packaging? After all, she likely did not clip the ad so that she might buy the right one. Perhaps the “clipping” idea should be a suggestion in each ad.

We are reluctant (but not absolutely reluctant) to repeat the marketing mantra “differentiation.” Another old, but not so very old, axiom is “if you cannot differentiate your product, only price will sell.” And that axiom is working every day in mass outlets. What we may see here is a “tiering” in department stores, with the middle-priced brands suffering the most, as in many other classes of goods and society. Clinique holds/owns the entry price/aspirational skin care segment, although it is inching up in new product pricing. Lancôme and Lauder have increased their offerings in luxury skin care to meet Chanel, Sisley, La Mer, et. al. The middle tier, Estée Lauder, Lancôme, Dior, etc., products are head-to-head, and more vulnerable. At least, Clarins and Origins appeal to a different consumer; i.e. differentiation.

Two that work. Both visuals for these Infusium 23 are very effecitve.
For the department store brands there other problems. Namely Olay, Dove, Neutrogena L’Oréal, and Nivea—all have equal access to technology, are billion-dollar, global brands and are in a position to spend heavily. Prestige brands can’t even come close.

That brings us back to differentiation—new ingredients and new claims are the basic entry price. Differentiation must go beyond them. Easy to say, not so easy to do. But, as we’ve said before, “that’s why marketers and creatives get paid the big bucks.”


Dove Gets Real

Unilever’s strategy with Dove not only differentiates the brand but it continues to get editorial coverage in a variety of news stories. Alas, if only the products delivered what the “real lady’s” copy implies. Now too, Nike is into hips and bad knees. And Vaseline Intensive Care eschews the svelte for curvaceous. (Guess everyone at Unilever is reading the same research.)

Off the mark. This ad for Tropez cosmetics just doesn’t resonate with Latinas.
What these campaigns have/will spearhead is a groundswell of advertising using “real people,” seeking greater and more relevant appeal to target markets. This concept resurfaces every few years, but we don’t recall as much impetus ever before. Oddly enough, it is another form of “reference group” marketing (use of celebrities being the highest, and most impactful version of this solid marketing concept). The key to effective “reference group” marketing is the “aspirational” aspect. Somehow, the use of real people should include an “aspirational” element in order to have the desired impact for real brand building. It’s not enough to reach your target market; i.e., “we’re talking to you,” you have to execute the benefit—real and/or imagined—in an exciting manner.


Mixed and Missed Execution

The Tropez (Markwins) ad in Elle depicts light-skinned Latinas (aspirational or non-inclusive?), and a full array of cosmetic products. While we might question its media strategy, our query runs deeper. Non-Anglo color cosmetics and Anglo products are, for the most part, interchangeable. The differentiating factor (not that again!) is the shade range in foundation. That’s what will draw the Latina to the wall–and, of course, once she is there, etc.

The products shown are typical of shades in all lines. Where’s the “key product” position/rationale to validate the line’s reason for being? On the other hand, if she fits the Elle reader’s profile, she might send her chauffeur to pick up one of everything. That would work. None of the separate ethnic lines from Cover Girl, Maybelline, and Revlon were able to survive as complete lines because so many shades are interchangeable.

Each brand subsequently incorporated key ethnic shades into their regular lines. SKU turns of these shades on a national basis? That’s another matter.

A Fine Strategy

In the August issue of Vogue, positioned as the “age” issue, Lancôme has staked out a position which might prove unassailable. It placed an eight page, editorial style insert all about laugh-lines and other miscellaneous maladies that attack the eye area—right in the front of the book. All aiming at the first signs of “age.”

One need only look to the prestige mascara area to realize what Lancôme can achieve. It owns the department store mascara business and may well be on its way with the rest of the eye area. Solid strategy!

Wish We Had Done That

Two great visual impact (semiotic) ads by Infusium 23. Simple stories: “Shield your hair from the frizz” and “Pour moisture back into your hair.” So good, you don’t have to read the copy, just get the message, viscerally. Of course, the little pics at the bottom which tell how the products work could (should?) have been bigger. They are what give you permission to believe.

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