The Grayson Report

How Revlon Went Astray

By Bob & Suzanne Grayson | September 6, 2006

As long-time readers of this column know, we concentrate on various parts of the marketing mix in our discussions of products and brands. Our main thrust is on how brands use or do not use, positioning, product benefits, communication of concepts (advertising) well enough—either in their new product race, or in the challenge to maintain and build their core brands. Nor, as we have found in our consulting practice, do they ask the really tough questions before they launch a new product or brand.

The “why should it succeed?” part of the equation is not asked. “Why yes?” rather than, “why not?” The “why do it part” of new products is easy—for the volume they are expected to produce to “anniversary” last years’ figures, to meet competitive pressures, to generate traffic, present the company as “leading” in the technology race, and so on. Rarely is a new product concept or line put through the paces of the marketing mix to get the answer to “why should it succeed?” And certainly, there is no disciplined methodology for evaluating a variety of new product ideas to determine which one(s) have the best long-range potential.

ID Weakness Prior to Launch

To provide a real marketing tool to help management prioritize the many new concepts it may have, as well as to hone in on the marketing strengths and weaknesses of existing products, lines or brands, we have created TheBrandAudit, a proprietary, weighted analysis system based upon five key components of the marketing mix: Product, Positioning, Consumer Appeal, Competition and Marketing Potential. Within these five marketing categories there are 29 Keys-to-Success sub-segments. These are the challenging marketing questions at the heart of the scoring process—the ones that demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses which drive the final score of potential success for new products, or not, and where and how to shore up stagnant brands. In every case, the audit pinpoints the strengths and weaknesses of the new product concept, or the on-going brand. Even those products with high initial scores can be further improved if any areas of weakness are noted and corrected. A score of 80 or better indicates strong potential for success. The 70-80 range is very marginal. Less than 70 presents a substantial risk.

The Failure of Vital Radiance

Traditionally, the audit is a tool of our consulting practice used as a guide to developing strategies and recommendations. It has been, until now, an internal document. The disappointing results of Revlon’s much anticipated new line, Vital Radiance, has given us the impetus to make it available. In previous columns in January and March of this year, we expressed concerns in its pricing (high) and the difficulties of concentrating on the older market. We present our audit (not commissioned by Revlon), so that we may present the true “why” of its disheartening results. Now, we can show you how this lack of success would have been predictable—if anyone really wanted to listen. The real tragedy is the “what might have been” had the launch funds for financially-strapped Revlon been put to better use elsewhere.

Using TheBrandAudit, we analyzed Vital Radiance in March-April of this year. It shows a total score of 57.16 out of 100!!!—with each of the five  marketing categories showing weakness. Positioning was relatively better because of the name, Vital Radiance, which projects a more universal and desired beauty benefit. This is an end-benefit, “look” name, which is not “age” defined, and it may be that the name itself will allow Revlon to make the line work, down the road.

Changing the Playing Field

Elizabeth Arden and Allergan have joined to change the way people consider the effects of aging. Thus, an ad for Prevage , promoting the concept of skin oxidation which, according to the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, is “a leading cause of visible signs of aging.” They use a sliced apple to convey the oxidation process.

The problem with the ad is that the headline doesn’t have any real meaning unless you read the small type body copy. Seems to us that the headline should have been:

“IDEBENONE RETARDS VISIBLE SIGNS OF AGING AND RESTORES SKIN VITALITY” —Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. Now available in Prevage. (Also available at your derm, in higher concentration. Good positioning.)

Headlines should answer the question, “What’s in it for me?”—a more direct way of saying, give the consumer the benefit, up front. And, with some authority to back it up, it gives the consumer permission to believe. Benefit and believability, what more could a consumer want?

A Little Clean-Up

We clipped these two fragrance ads (below) a few months back, and have been saving them for the start of the fragrance selling season. They both had appeared in the same March edition of Elle, getting ready for Mother’s Day, we suppose—but whose mother? Note that the bottom of each ad has been cropped so Calvin might use Ralph’s image and vice versa. One is Eternity by Calvin Klein and the other is Ralph Lauren Romance. It isn’t necessary to know which-is-which as they are interchangeable. One could say that Romance showed “romance” right from the beginning, while Eternity was “young-family” oriented (might have been better for Mother’s Day).

A Few Kind Words for Revlon

For the most part, all cosmetic products are returnable. Just say, “I got a rash” and the clerk will grab the product. But this Revlon ad, which says that you’re going to love the product, or you get your money back, in no uncertain terms, is a bold step forward. In our experience, if Revlon’s great laboratory tells marketing not to worry about the returns, the offer is solid. No matter what other problems Revlon may have, its technology has always been first rate.

Even the refunding process is not too onerous. Of course, you have to go to the website to do it, but, it’s not a perfect world.

Nexxus Goes Two Routes

Nexxus has always been a brand that sought to stay professional, eschewing the vast drug and mass market. Now it has embarked on a dual strategy, which is still being played out. If it works, it will get many copiers. Here is its trade and consumer ad to remind salons that Nexxus is still serious about the professional business. But the ad assumes that everyone knows that “phyto organics” is so special that the headline says it all. (See previous discussion “What’s in it for me?”) The small box at the bottom is to calm both the salon operators, “Phyto Organics is sold only in Salons” and PETA with “No Animal Testing or Ingredients.” As an aside, does that mean that they don’t test ingredients or that they insist that their suppliers have not tested on animals or both?