The Grayson Report

The Future May be Here

May 16, 2006

Suzanne and Bob Grayson
Grayson Associates

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
It’s called Natural; a.k.a. Organic, Nutraceutical, Bio-something or other, Cosmeceutical and who knows what?

We just returned from a trade show called Natural Products Expo West. It boasts 2,500 exhibitors and more than 35,000 attendees. Nearly one-half were “natural foods,” about one-third was devoted to supplements, and a bit more than 11% devoted to personal care products. That’s more than 275 beauty booths, all considering themselves “natural” or some interation of that.

By category, there were 110 products devoted to anti-aging, 70 categorized as “cosmetic/beauty aids,” with nearly 200 listed under skin care. Obviously many—or even most—are in more than one category, so the numbers add up to considerably more than a simple tally of booths. But you get the idea.

Some of the brands have already achieved a modicum of fame: Burt’s Bees, Jason Natural Products, Mill Creek Botanicals, Rachel Perry and Reviva Labs. But the number of new brands was staggering, and most were nicely packaged, with prices in all ranges. As we went from booth to booth we kept asking, “Where are all these products distributed?”

The answers most often given were “spas,” “salons,” and “drug stores.” But none tossed out Wal-Mart, Target or K-Mart. Also we heard very little about Rite-Aid and Walgreens. Macy’s, Bloomies, Nordstrom—never.

Are these companies all so small that they can live on less than $1 million in sales? Less than $500,000? Maybe. So next year there is quite likely to be a whole bunch of new companies and a number of non-survivors. Sadly, we are reminded of a passage in Thomas Gray’s Elegy:

Natural products have been around for years, with no real burst into the mainstream. You could also say that about spas until a few years ago, when some catalyst started the real blooming of spa-mania and look what has happened to that market. We believe that the catch-all natural “umbrella” really translates to healthy, better for you and taps into the wellness trend.

Having pondered this continuous explosion of natural-type products, this is what we came away with: sometime, in the not-too-distant future, one or more drug chains will put in a “natural” section. Maybe only certified products to add a “pharma” dimension. They will cherry pick the best from each of the 25 individual sub-categories to help with the turnover, rather than take on full lines with many products that don’t turn fast. Naturally, Avon will dip its toe in, and/or expand its Wellness group. And what a great category for L’Oréal to push with its new Body Shop division.

The Many Faces of Max Factor
Whether you prefer the Tom Ford-style (upper left), Carmen Electra (upper right), or good old fashioned price promotion, these new Max Factor print ads are a departure from the old with a new logo and more sophistication.

A Wellness Bar?

What will department stores do? Of course, Origins is the mother of this trend. And isn’t it interesting that the largest traditional department store vendor, Estée Lauder, has the leading brands in this category with Aveda and Origins? And, they have been left virtually alone by the majors all of this time. Many years ago, when Revlon created Blush-On, it was quickly adopted by all competitive brands. That’s what made the blush category. No single company, no matter how large or powerful, can develop a truly new category all by itself. But, as we have also seen, no traditional company read the tea leaves and believed that this was a category of real growth. It has been left to the entrepreneurial brands until now.

Is there a place in department stores? How about a “natural” bar composed of the most expensive, best packaged products, along the lines of a fragrance bar? Each would have special ingredients to focus on specific consumer needs—from a natural (bio-nutra-cosmeceutical, whatever) angle. Of course, there’s the gritty problem of who will pay the demo costs? But, if department stores are to get a piece of this growing category, they do have to go after it.

Finally, we are reminded of Pogo’s great wisdom when looking in the mirror, “We have met the enemy, and we is them” and altered it slightly, “We have seen the future and it is now.”

Is Max No Longer a Factor?

What a bad pun! But it stems from the front page Ad Age article (March 13, 2006), “Kissed off: Stores ax Max Factor.” The article goes on to cite the line being dropped by Target, Walgreens, CVS and Rite-Aid. Only Wal-Mart remains stalwart.

In fairness, it points out that the brand remains strong in the UK and Japan, which undoubtedly will continue and give the verisimilitude of being a global brand. Remember, when P&G bought Factor it was considerably more global than Cover Girl, which was purchased two years earlier.

All of this seems to be happening at a time when Max Factor advertising has finally gotten its act together and on a road less traveled. It looks different! A new logo and authentication line, makeup, maximized. The target? The more sophisticated and confident user, with a little nod to the Tom Ford era at Gucci for graphics. Of course, all too late to stem the current tide, but not too late to rejuvenate, albeit a slow road. To show that Ad Age wasn’t just being mean, it published “five recommendations for P&G from industry consultants and executives.”

Here are the direct quotes:

• Stop the bleeding. Wal-Mart should be the primary focus. Improving the cosmetics shopping experience there could be critical.

Target, target, target. With limited distribution, media planning and buying are key.

Contemporize. Carmen Electra may be a start.

• Technology. Lipfinity was Max Factor’s big recent hit. But the brand had no follow-up act.

• User experience. Overhauled product line and packaging this year could help. But is it too late? (Ed note: Mostly, already completed and looking very good.)

Frankly, we weren’t impressed with the recommendations—as the “motherhood” suggestions would probably apply to most brands. Here are some other thoughts:

• Maximize the graphics for more excitement, more of the outrageous “Tom Ford/Gucci” era;

• Create an emotional, visceral reaction with the reader (too bad the more limited distribution will deny use of much TV).

• Find out-of-the-box ways to reach this target market. One way to execute this strategy is to cause a sensation, give new meaning to the word “buzz.” That’s just a beginning.

• Do not go the price-off promotional route.

• Create added value for the brand by virtue of the “reference group” authority to which it appeals.

• Find/create a star product that can lift the brand to its former heights and beyond (And, leave it to the MAX, don’t give it to Cover Girl).

P&G has invested heavily in this revitalization process; you can be sure that they will stay the course. We’re rooting for the MAX. Send us your ideas for revitalizing Max Factor. We’ll publish them—with or without credit, your choice—in the next issue. Email us your ideas at:

Vital Radiance—Venus Rising

Here it is. The brand you’ve been waiting for. Vital Radiance, emerging into the mass, targeting the 50+ market, no support, no authority (Revlon is hidden), no distinctive packaging, no-impact display and high pricing, $19.50, for an ordinary-looking tube of makeup. Of course, there was $3.50 off of any item in the line. Do you think that they’ll have a permanent price off? The only place in which the Revlon name appears is the back of the package in “mice” type as a division of Revlon. What a waste!

What’s new about this ad from Pond’s? Not much at all really.
One of our axioms is that “failure is inevitable unless there are positive reasons for success.” We weren’t able to find a single positive reason for this line to succeed. Without benefit of advertising, as of this writing (end of March), it has been sitting in the stores since the beginning of the year and not moving, according to trade information. A look at the website—which also needs work, but that’s another column—indicates that the pitch will be “inspiring real women” and obviously, not the same ones on the display.

Our January column was written before anyone, besides buyers, had seen the line—although its strategy and positioning were clearly expressed. We erred in assuming that it was to be associated with Revlon. Obviously, they didn’t want to go that route for one or more fears:

• Might cannibalize basic Revlon, especially Age-Defying Makeup—the only really valid product for an older skin.

• Might “taint” all Revlon as “older.”

• Cost and difficulty of installation within the Revlon section. And, what do you do if it doesn’t sell as well as expected?

• Ultra-high pricing might not be acceptable, coming from Revlon.

• Basic insecurity as to the viability and long-term potential to maintain space.

So here’s the $64,000 Question. (There is a bit of irony in using that phrase. The $64,000 Question television show is what made Revlon). What are the chances that the turns per SKU will support the space? Our prediction is that the line will last about a year or so, and if there are any key products, they will be recycled into Revlon. Meanwhile, what could they have done to support/ build basic Revlon with the time, talent and money? Also consider that this line helped to nail shut the coffin lid of Revlon’s old rival Max Factor. Not a bad benefit at all for Revlon. Your comments on Vital Radiance and all column subjects are most welcome.

Glad I didn’t do that!

Note the Pond’s ad above. The headline: 46 and savvier. The bottom line: THE NEW POND’S. We scoured the ad for the “what’s new,” but came up empty. Not to be picky, but why doesn’t the package also say, The New Pond’s. They missed everything that creates excitement when something is truly new.

What a lost opportunity to tap into the consumer’s “running tape” and its awareness of Pond’s to present a differentiating position to start rebuilding the brand. And, too bad the package looks like another drug store package, albeit with a nod to Lancôme’s “rose.”