The Grayson Report

Hard to Pick on P&G

By Suzanne & Bob Grayson, Grayson Associates | September 7, 2010

Almost impossible – since you know that every product, ad, package, et al., has
been focused, qualified and quantified with the latest high-tech research (psychological, demographical, behavioral) plus tea leaves and chicken entrails, to insure success. So every P&G ad must be OK? Right? But then we spot a couple of Parade ads for Olay Moisturizers and Body Wash that make us wonder about all that, considering that they must have been approved up and down the line. Remember, at the outset of the recession, P&G announced a value strategy, for the obvious reasons, and has moved along
P&G’s Olay ads in Parade has us—and consumers—a bit confused.
that road, smartly. We haven’t seen a great deal of that strategy executed in traditional media, generally used to create demand via benefits. OK, we know, Parade is pretty “deal” oriented.

The two examples:The first is the huge “$20, limited time rebate when you buy $50 worth of Olay Facial Cleansers, Facial Moisturizers or Facial Treatments. Visit for more details.” It’s a one month offer, and also a good idea to send readers to the website, which includes lots of product sell, along with those details. Plus, there’s a coupon for $1 off at time of purchase. Wow! “But,” the intrigued woman asks, “which one shall I buy?” The ad clearly shows four products, above the subhead, which all seem to do the same or similar things, but with different SPF levels—“pick your protection—guard your skin from damaging UVA/UVB rays.

”Clearly, this ad objective is to build volume quickly, even though it will subsidize/reward an existing customer (which most coupon ads do) and take her out of the market—thereby withstanding the temptation of the Fall onslaught of competitive new products. Note: With the exception of Pro-X, she’ll probably have to purchase two or three of the other products to hit $50. But, lots of new users? Probably not—not enough differentiating product benefits for the conviction of “that’s the one for me.” This is a “here’s-why” story.

Lessons from Lever
In the early 1950s, Lever’s leading detergent was Rinso, a white powder heavily advertised on radio (aha! A soap opera) and suffering at the hands of Tide. Rinso was late in changing from a soap to a detergent, which added to its woes. At the time, “bluing” was thought to enhance whiteness, so Lever introduced Rinso Blue.

There they were, side-by-side, Rinso White and Rinso Blue. The “Mad Men” at the time hoping to justify the two products, developed this cuplet: “Rinso White, Rinso Blue—the choice, dear lady, is up to you.” They bought neither!For Rinso, it was the beginning of a long slide into oblivion. The first lesson, then and now, is don’t confuse the customer; she needs that reason why. The second lesson,differentiate your product(s) so that it is easier for her to make that best selection.

Product Is not a Commodity
Since one can barely read the Olay package copy, the only differentiating benefits are the choice of levels of protection; two at SPF 15, one at SPF 30 and one at SPF 50.So for about 40% off and just a little trouble, the consumer can buy a few products for not much more than what the retailer pays.

So what does this all mean? When you use price alone, and/or SPF alone, you treat the product as a commodity. All SPF 15s may give similar protection, but that’s not the prime reason(s) that she is buying these products. It’s visible and differentiating performance benefits/benefits—first, last and always. SPF in a moisturizer is no longer an exclusive benefit.

Let’s move on to Olay Body Wash in that same Parade issue. It looks to us like its main feature is 85% water. That’s to intrigue you enough to read the body copy which goes on to explain that Olay has 25% less water than the top-selling body wash; ergo, a different way to look at value. We assume that the focus group also thought that less water translated into a better product. That’s good; “more of what you bought it for” is product value/satisfaction.Subliminally, showing a clear bottle of water for the “bad guys” is also slap at the gel-type body washes as lacking a moisturizing image. Interestingly, one of the most famous mantras in Cincinnati was always, “Never write a negative headline.” Guess they are re-writing the book inside the Ivory towers.

But, if you stop to do the math, 25% less water would mean the Olay has 60% water, which still seems like a lot of water, which begs the question: Why go there? Instead, P&G should have pushed the notion that less water translates into more active ingredients and benefits. Positives motivate you and create that all-important dissonance with her current product, while negatives do just the reverse. Maybe they shouldn’t re-write that book in Cincinnati!

CosmoProf 2010 – Las Vegas

This line from Valley of the Sun Cosmetics has great visual impact.

This marked the eighth year of this event and it seems to have hit its stride. While still offering great appeal to the salon owners, it balanced nicely with other areas such as packaging and international marketers. And importantly, there are many hundreds of new entrepreneurial products—a key reason to visit the show—and others of its type.

It’s particularly exciting to hear the passion of these innovators—doesn’t make up for the money and smarts they’ll need to succeed, but without the product passion…you can finish the sentence. (You don’t see much passion at the traditional corporate level.) Among many innovative offerings we found a few that seem particularly interesting. Here are two—we’ll insert several more in the coming months.

The first is NP2 Nail Perfection, with a clever combo pack of nail color and clear base/top coat all-in-one product. The snap-apart connector brings the two together for great convenience and combination of colors, etc. Makes for a great visual/display presentation.

From the entrepreneur, NP2 is “nail technology to the second power.” The product is intended for professional distribution and is also sold in some fashion retailers as well as online, with free shipping at $22.50 retail, for the 2-in-1 package. Lesson: Yes, innovative packaging and delivery systems are driving new product introductions, but they’re not an end unto themselves. It would have been far more breaking news (and dissonance-making with the consumer’s existing product) to position the nail color itself with a new category making, benefit-oriented name for the patented formula. Passion is a requirement, but it doesn’t replace professionalism in marketing.
More info:

The second is HollywoodStyle from Valley of the Sun Cosmetic LLC. In its 32-page brochure, dominated by very colorful packaging, it has surrounded the face with every conceivable product from SPF to acne treatment, toners, gels, masks, et al.—hundreds of products.

What really distinguishes the line is its visual-impact packaging: four-color process face photos on tubes, for example, a huge display feature and exciting to behold. Should help move it off the shelf, apace—if it can get distribution. Too bad the line is “only” destined for professional distribution, for now. Lesson: The photos are so outstanding themselves—no need to go over-the-top with over-design.

We always urge readers to check as many trade shows as they can—especially if they are for channels of distribution in which you do not compete. Treasure ideas abound!

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 or