News Opinion From The Old World

Identifying Brands That Stand the Test of Time

By Colin Hession, Consultant | September 3, 2008

As most marketing people will tell you, the cost of launching new brands from scratch has been increasing steadily every year. The struggle to catch consumers’ attention has been intensifying as the market place has become more and more crowded. The difficulty of being heard over all the background advertising and promotion “noise” has meant that new entrants must shout louder and louder.
So keeping existing brands strong and refreshed has never been as important as it is today. Some companies do it better than others, and some are more consistent than others. But it’s not often that one is able to cite clear, research-based evidence in support of this self-evident truth.
With this in mind, we are always fascinated when every two years the publishing house that owns the leading German women’s magazine, Brigitte, publishes a major brand awareness and usage study.
As we’ve cited before (see Happi November, 2006), the study is based on a very large sample of women in Germany and significantly, always uses the same methodology so one can make direct trend comparisons over time.
The recently-published 2008 study allows one to make rare, quantified 10-year brand comparisons. So we have devoted this month’s entire column to a look at the data and specifically, how Beiersdorf’s Nivea has stood the test of time.
When considering the numbers, the following should be kept in mind:
    • Germany (only);
    • Large sample, women;
    • Aided Awareness;
    • Consumers’ opinions for Like, Use;
    • Source: Brigitte KommunikationsAnalyse, Gruner & Jahr AG

Hair Care: The Strengths of Beiersdorf and Nivea

In hair care, as in nearly every other category in Germany, Beiersdorf’s Nivea has built and maintained an extremely strong franchise with the consumer. Not surprisingly, the other major German player, Henkel, is also strong in its domestic market. It’s worth noting that Henkel has been busy promoting its “house” hair care name, Schwarzkopf, on all its hair care brands, not just hair colorants, so its long-standing local shampoo leader, Schauma (by Schwarzkopf) has been benefitting, too.
P&G has strengthened its position with Pantene during the past 10 years, as it has in so many other world markets.
Unilever has had mixed fortunes. On the one hand, a big success with Dove, not yet 10 years old in hair care, but achieving very high consumer ratings. On the other, Unilever is letting its long-established  shampoo brand, Timotei, slip badly, despite numerous restages.
French champion, L’Oréal, has always had to struggle in Germany, but it has at least maintained its Elvital brand well, as indicated by almost identical ratings between 1998 & 2008.

Body Care: Beiersdorf’s the Master

If anyone knows how to line extend a “masterbrand,” it’s Beiersdorf with its world famous Nivea brand. The franchise has been extended into many other categories beyond the original Nivea Creme, while the company has also been trying out all sorts of innovative new marketing schemes. One of the latest is fragranced cinema ads for Nivea Suncare, whereby the brand’s scent permeates the cinema, while the ad shows people using the product on a sunny beach.
The figures below show how consumers’ love of the original Nivea Crème has been transferred to newer variants, like Nivea Body, and Nivea Visage (see facial skin care table).
Once again, Unilever’s Dove has clearly struck a strong chord with body care users, although poor old Ponds has been suffering in Germany, as it has all over Europe. But another restage for Ponds is said to be on the way…
Worth noting is the rise of J&J’s Bebe, which has extended from just baby products to a whole line of adult products – but curiously, we feel, the folks from New Jersey have not put the mighty J&J name on the front of the pack. Given how much that name must be worth, a somewhat curious omission?

Facial Care: Nivea Visage Comes of Age

In facial skin care, Nivea Visage has come of age during the 10-year period, carving its own distinct image apart from the original Nivea Crème.
P&G’s Olay has seemingly struggled in Germany, as has L’Oréal, although having moved from Plenitude to L’Oréal Paris, the brand has at least moved its ratings ahead, too.
Avon has slipped during the 10-year period, while prestige brand Clarins has hung in there, maintaining a small but select franchise with those consumers willing to pay its premium prices.

Color Cosmetics

Nivea Beaute was able to trade strongly on its high ratings in other categories, when it introduced its makeup line back in 2000.
Coty and Avon have suffered accordingly. But look at P&G’s Cover Girl—despite hanging in there for strategic reasons—the brand’s popularity with the German consumer has hardly budged in 10 years.

Bath & Shower: Dove Hangs On

And finally, to Bath & Shower, the category which first saw the launch of Unilever’s all conquering Dove. Yet despite Dove’s inexorable climb over the years, Nivea has hung in there without apparently missing a beat.

Understand Why Consumers Buy

So, as consultants, what conclusions can we draw from this rich vein of German data, which may have wider implications for our clients in other parts of the world?
    • Strong brands can stand the test of time.
    •…despite the fact that most of the major international companies still tend to change their brand directors every two or three years (no matter the upgrade from the humble brand manager’s title of yesteryear).
    • As well as consistent A&P budgets, these long lasting brands require a really deep understanding of their franchises…why the consumer buys them, what is it that users particularly like about them, how could such likes be added to, and when would certain additions undermine the whole shooting match.
    • Such learning needs to be carefully collected and codified, and made mandatory reading for each new brand director before they’re allowed to get their feet under the desk, or pull any marketing levers.
    • On the other hand, if brand A&P “vacations” are taken every now and again, and if incoming brand directors are encouraged to  “take a fresh look...come up with something new...tear up the rule book (i.e., the strategy),” then that magical brand longevity will just slip, slip away.

Colin Hession is managing director of Colin Hession Consulting, a specialist consultancy that focuses exclusively on personal care in Europe, in terms of marketing and commercial development. Tel: 44-1202-710377. Fax: 44-1202-710399. E-mail: Website: