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We’re Just Asking…‘Why Should It Succeed?’



By Suzanne & Bob Grayson, Grayson Associates



Published July 8, 2010
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Or, said another way, “what are the positive reasons for success?” We’re just asking because it is never safe to bet against P&G. And in this case, it’s about Frederic Fekkai —with its luxury/prestige/celebrity/professional authority/hair-is-a-fashion-accessory strategy—entering the mass distribution hair care category, which is already loaded with other professional hair care lines, either diverted or those created for mass, with medium to masstige pricing.

We ran across the Fekkai introductory display in RiteAid. It was stuffed into a promotional gondola, among all the temporary promotional displays of the season, with their hardboard cosmetic headers—all of them geared for impulse, mass-priced sales and screaming nail color, bronzer, lipstick and makeup, as you pass by. Enter the Fekkai unit, an upscale and fairly “quiet,” recessive blue, low-slung, permanent/semi-permanent rigid plastic unit measuring 4’W x 1’ H x 1’ D —containing an 8” graphic cube for image ID, via a model photograph (ad at right). The display stocks about three units each of 12 different products, plus a three-piece starter kit. It is a self-contained, refillable unit, complete with spring-loaded, product sections, designed to slip on to a shelf in the hair care section of your favorite mass store. The kicker is that the 8oz products are $22.99, announced garishly/grossly with RiteAid’s large black and white price stickers, all across the display front. A classy display made to look like a fire sale! It looks a lot better in-line, in the hair care section of a Duane Reade in New York City. But without its

Fekkai recently took the plunge into the mass market.
display, four feet of valuable space just fades away, as the package design is simply flat. In sum, there is little impact or image value/reinforcement in the package design.

For the cognoscenti who shop in mass, this is an opportunity/rationale to try Fekkai’s products without going to one of his salons—as the brand’s strategy is to forsake (or be forsook) out of prestige in favor of mass; i.e., it is on the way of out Sephora.The strategy is sort of reminiscent of consumers’ “reaching” for the Chanel lipstick instead of the dress or handbag for self-status. For the rest of the shoppers, it is an ultra-high, luxury-priced shampoo, coming in at about $2.88 per ounce! That’s about 10 times the price of the new, very well-executed re-launch of the Pantene Solutions line, in its larger size, as noted in the following chart. Of course, pricing will vary from chain to chain, but the essence will remain the same.

Old Pantene (average price):
10.2oz$4.99 ($0.489 per oz.)
New Pantene Solutions:
12.6oz$4.99 ($0.396 per oz.)
25.4oz$6.99 ($0.275 per oz.)
Frederick Fekkai:
8.0oz$22.99 ($2.88per oz.)

For Fekkai, given the high-price/prestige-at-mass strategy, there is no engagement, authority statement/presentation, enticement, incentive and/or any significant promotional reason whatsoever, at point-of- sale, to help the consumer to justify trial—or to help create dissonance with her existing product. Point-of-sale advertising/ presentation is just another execution of the brand positioning strategy. So far, it’s just out there. In contrast, the Pantene re-launch is loaded with trial incentives, promotional sizes and price-offs galore.

Okay, so you don’t want to use price as an incentive for a “luxury” line. But what about traffic-building events; i.e., news-making hairstylist shows in-store, or my-riad happenings to target and benefit the ideal consumer? The really surprising factor is that P&G seems not to have paved the way for a consumer-benefit, prestige-at-mass section, starting with Olay ProX skin care, and now Fekkai. Industry positioning-speak is not consumer language. The consumer is not looking for “luxury, or prestige-at-mass or masstige.” She might be convinced to check a pricier section if the benefits were clear, captivating and compelling.

In sum, it seems (to us) that P&G/Fekkai must do a significantly better job of executing the prestige-at-mass strategy, in a more dramatic fashion. Most everyone surmised, as soon as the Fekkai deal was done, that P&G would go for a repeat of its historic success with Pantene—moving it from department stores to mass. But today, it’s not the same as moving from some recognition in department stores to settling into to the promotional gondola in RiteAid. And then, of course, the question: who is Frederick Fekkai? So, unless there is a more earth-challenging execution of the luxury/prestige-to-mass strategy, there’s not enough “why yes” – yet. Back to our original question, do you think this initial launch will be successful? Of course, P&G rarely gives up, so you’ll see new initiatives, for sure—maybe even more “value,” real or imagined, for the buck. Wait and see.

Marketing’s Holy Grail

If you take a long, very long look back at marketing, there may be three significant milestones. In the late 1800s, hand soap was cut from a 100-pound block by the grocer. Lever in England wrapped it in individual bars, marking the start of packaged goods. In the 1920s, P&G introduced the product management system, and in 1942 Neil Borden introduced the marketing mix. When we look back in 10 or 20 years, the advent of the internet with all of its iterations may well be added to the list.

The channels of distribution went from the local general store to independent drug stores, to department stores, to house-to-house, to chain drugs, to mass box stores as TV sent droves of consumers into the stores. Ah, but we know all that. Now what?

While all of these tremendous changes expanded the market, the basics have remained the same. Now we are in the midst of this new upheaval with internet/digital and mobile’s purchasing and social marketing volcano. While marketing managers are fast-track-learning to manage the new media, there are still four basic imperatives:

1. Find a place in the market for your product, by positioning/ segmenting/differentiating; the more newsworthy/breakthrough, the better.

2. The easier and more foolproof it is to use, the greater the potential—that’s the real basis of all the new “applicator-inspired” products.

3. Create dissonance with consumers using competitive products, and

4. Create a sustainable competitive advantage—that’s where branding/image (value) and trust come in.

Peter Drucker put that all together and said that the purpose of a business was to create a customer.
In sum, don’t let these new tools of marketing (tweets, blogs, social networking, et al.) smother the underlying basics of sound marketing principles.


Secret succeeds by playing on consumers’ fears.
☺☺☺ Wish I had done that.

This is the first time we felt obliged to award three happy faces. The excellence (maybe brilliance) of these ads is that they get to the very root of the deodorant category—FEAR! It goes right to the consumer’s psyche and hits the problem right on the head, but with a light and relevant touch. Can you picture the focus group wherein deodorants are being discussed? The moderator has ascertained that all conferees use deodorants. Then she quietly slips in “why?’The people respond “I would smell bad if I didn’t,” and “I like to feel clean (or fresh) like I just got out of the bath”—and so it goes. But the copywriter sitting behind the one-way mirror hears something different. She hears, “ I don’t want to offend, I don’t want to ruin my clothes,” “I don’t want to feel dirty.”

“Aha! They’re afraid.” And then the copy writes itself. “FEAR of being hurt” and “FEAR of being exposed.” We’re not sure that this is another “Man in the Hathaway Shirt” or “Commander Whitehead,” but David Ogilvy would have been pleased.

We just finished reading “The King of Madison Avenue” and would recommend it to anyone interested in advertising. David Ogilvy was truly the king. One of his key teachings was, “get a big idea, and then put it in the headline.” There you go.


Suzanne and Bob Grayson are respected, professional marketers, having spent their careers with the leading companies in the beauty industry before starting 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 bob@graysonassociates.com or suzanne@graysonassociates.com


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