Vive la Diffrence

By Tom Branna, Editorial Director | March 9, 2010

Antiperspirant and deodorant marketers rely on the unique wants and needs of men and women when promoting their wares to consumers.

It’s a man’s world. When it comes to antiperspirants and deodorants, it’s a woman’s world as well. Apparently, sex sells when it comes to selling underarm protection. Years ago, consumers were content with gender-neutral antiperspirants and deodorants as long as they delivered on their promise of odor control and wetness protection. But in recent years, marketers have realized that they can generate interest in new launches, reenergize sleepy brands and provide a jolt to a mature category by genderizing antiperspirants and deodorants.

According to some estimates, 10 years ago, 30% of the antiperspirant and deodorant (AP/deo) category was unisex, but today, it represents just 5-6% of the business.

The gender-specific strategy may help marketers steal a point or two of market share from the competition, but in a mature category such as AP/deo, double-digit gains are a thing of the past. The good news is that, unlike many categories in the household and personal products industry, AP/deo doesn’t face too much competition from private label products. According to data from Information Resources, Inc., Chicago, sales of antiperspirants and deodorants slipped just .04% last year to about $1.24 billion, while unit sales declined 2.3% to 372.6 million.

In its 2009 assessment of the U.S. AP/deo sector, market research firm Mintel forecasts that the market will increase roughly 3.5% a year in current prices for the next five years, and about 1% per year in inflation-adjusted dollars. Clearly, there’s scant room for improvement when 92-93% of the teen and adult population is already using AP/deos.
New Right Guard offerings return to their sports-based heritage with unique formulas.

Take Five

No wonder why marketers, big and small, are using a variety of techniques and product launches to get consumers to switch brands.

Henkel/Dial is back in the men’s AP/deo category with a vengeance with the launch of Right Guard Total Defense 5, which replaces the brand’s Total Extreme line. The improved formula provides better odor and wetness protection and has a better texture for more pleasing aesthetics.

“We made significant improvements in non-caking and non-clumping, and that translates into less staining,” explained Tim Fuhriman, director of innovation and commercialization for the AP/deo group.

The four-item line includes Powerstripe, PowerGel, PowerDeo and Clear Stick formulas. Each provides five benefits. For example, Powerstripe is said to block sweat, provide time-released long-lasting protection, target bacteria, protect 48 hours from odor and 24 hours from wetness, with a new ingredient called Protectate. The deodorants contain Triton technology to help guys stay “fresh” all day.

But according to Fuhriman, men couldn’t care less about AP/deo technology; they’re only interested in what works.

Degree Ultraclear now includes
a Red Satin variant.
“Guys tell us that the don’t want to hear about what’s in the formula—only the end benefit. That’s why Total Defense 5 focuses on five benefits that consumers ranked as being important to them,” he said.

To get the Total Defense 5 message out to men, Right Guard recently reenergized its sports heritage by becoming the official deodorant of the NBA. Fuhriman said the move reestablishes credibility with consumers and provides a point of entry for teen consumers who are dealing with odor and wetness.

“It’s a personal category and product failure is a big concern,” explained Fuhriman. “But when the product works, users are very loyal.”

But interestingly, not all guys are interested in controlling sweat, which would explain why APs hold just 70% of the men’s market, while they make up nearly 100% of the women’s category.

“There is a group of guys out there who say, ‘I’m a man. I sweat.’ That’s okay with them, but they don’t want to smell,” said Fuhriman. “Plus, some guys just don’t sweat that much.”

A Clear Message for Women

Next to malodor, residue stains are the most embarrassing underarm issue for women, according to Unilever, which explains the recent launch of Degree Women Ultra Clear in new Red Satin. Launched just in time for red carpet season, Red Satin’s fragrance is a unique blend of floral, citrus and fruity notes for a sparkling clean, fresh scent.

“Many women require different attributes for their deodorants,” explained Heather Mitchell, communications manager, Unilever. “Degree Women Ultra Clear in new Red Satin is unbeatable on white marks among invisible solids and provides 24-hour odor and wetness protection.”

Residue-free application in a scent women prefer may be the primary reasons why consumers choose Degree Ultra Clear Red Satin, but Mitchell noted that women select an underarm product for a variety of reasons.

“We’re always working to make sure we’re meeting the individual needs and preferences of active women on the go,” said Mitchell. “If that includes a need for stronger protection, like with our Clinical Protection product, or a fun, flirty scent, like new Red Satin, we’re sure that one of our varieties will meet her needs.”

Finally, just for teens, the brand introduced Degree Girl Love antiperspirant and deodorant, which provides 24-hour wetness and odor protection that’s dermatologist tested and made specifically for teen girls.

Innovative Brands now has men and women covered with the launch of Sure for Women.
Clear formulas are also a big hit with guys. Last year, Old Spice introduced Ever Clear, a stick formula that eliminates streaks, flakes and clumps. The formula has less white powders and waxes and contains small particles that blend right into the skin, creating a consistent and clear layer of long-lasting scented protection, according to P&G. With a target market of males 12 to 34 years old, Old Spice has—like the competing deodorant and body spray brand Axe—relied heavily on over-the-top humor and promises of having an aphrodisiacal effect on women.

Ever Clear debuted about 10 months ago, and now Old Spice is getting ready for a new launch in the AP/deo segment. But at press time, there was no word on when these products would make their debut.

Something for Everybody

While its competitors roll out lines specifically for men or women, executives at Innovative Brands are hedging their bets by rolling out two Sure formulas—one for guys and one for gals. Sure debuted in the U.S. back in 1973 and, despite changing owners over the years, it remains a leading antiperspirant and deodorant brand.

According to Dave Greenberg, VP-marketing, Innovative Brands’ goal is to uncover legacy brands with energy and bring new life to them.

“There are a lot of opportunities for brands that have fallen out of favor within a particular company,” he explained.

Greenberg noted that prior to acquiring Sure AP/deos and the Pert Plus hair care, both brands were declining at double-digit rate.

“We got them back to flat, and in some instances, have grown them,” he noted.

With the brands back on the right track, management decided to take the unisex Sure brand, modernize it and parlay it into gender-specific formulas—Sure for Men and most recently, Sure for Women.

“We knew that if we wanted to bring new benefits to the brand we had to split it,” explained Greenberg.

Sure for Men features masculine scents such as Outdoor Sport, Mountain Frost and Crisp Breeze, and contains 20% aluminum trichlorohydrex gly for ultimate odor and wetness protection. Greenberg said Sure for Men provides the same level of protection as clinical products but at a lower price point ($1.99-2.99) than clinical APs.

In contrast, Innovative Brands is promoting the skin-caring benefits of its new Sure for Women formula which debuts this month. It contains antioxidant skin conditioners such as vitamins A& E and aloe vera.

To boost awareness of both Sure variants, Innovative Brands launched a Battle of the Sexes online trivia contest. By visiting www.surebattle.com and answering some questions and earning points each month, contestants will be entered to win monthly prizes that include $500 shopping sprees, tickets to seasonal sporting events, flat screen TVs, digital cameras, MP3 players and more. In a further nod to the gender split the brand has undergone, the contest will end in December with two grand prize winners—one for a woman’s trip and one for men.

Au Naturel

Whether man or woman, teen or adult, the natural movement is having an impact on every HBA category, including underarm protection. One of the leaders in the segment remains Tom’s of Maine. The brand recently introduced two new deodorants, Tom’s Natural 24 Hour Long Lasting Deodorant and Tom’s Natural Crystal Confidence Deodorant.

Natural 24 Hour Long Lasting Deodorant contains hops extract, which inhibits the growth of odor-causing bacteria and zinc ricinoleate, which binds up odor molecules, traps them and absorbs bad smells. Tom’s of Maine published a paper in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology that backs up the efficacy of the hops/zinc ricinoleate combination. In contrast, Natural Crystal Confidence contains potassium alum and zinc citrate mineral salts to fight odor.

Naturally Fresh crystal deodorant is now available in several new scents.
Either way, both products appeal to consumers who want to understand what goes on their skin and where the ingredients come from—and they don’t want to use products or ingredients that have been tested on animals, according to Fiona Russell, brand manager, underarm protection.

“A lot of consumer product companies develop products around demographics,” observed Susan Dewhirst, media and PR leader, Tom’s of Maine. “We are more aligned around values and benefits.”

Those benefits go beyond the formula’s ingredients to include the package itself. All Tom’s of Maine stick deodorant containers are made from propylene No. 5, which is recyclable and the leaflet is made from 100% post-consumer recycled/recyclable paper. The roll-on deodorant container and roller ball is made from HDPE No. 2 and the cap is made from propylene No. 5. The leaflet is made from 100% post-consumer recycled/recyclable paper.

Moreover, the company has partnered with the Preserve Gimme 5 program to recycle spent deodorant containers into new products such as razors and toothbrushes. Consumers can drop their No. 5 containers into Preserve Gimme 5 bins in Whole Foods Market stores or mail their packaging directly to Preserve.

“We never stand still. We’re always trying to find new ways to get better and innovate and find the best experience for our consumers through programs such as Gimme 5,” explained Russell.

Tom’s of Maine might be a leading player in the crystal deodorant category, but TCCD International has been making crystal-based products for years. In November, the company rolled out eight new variants in its Naturally Fresh Deodorant Crystal lineup, which company founder and chief executive officer Ted Alflen says gives more options for those seeking a more natural, healthy lifestyle or for those allergic to conventional deodorants.

According to Alflen, 10% of the U.S. population is either allergic to or irritated by traditional underarm product ingredients.

“More consumers are looking for healthy alternatives to the harmful aluminum-based ingredients found in conventional underarm products, or they are allergic to the fragrances in traditional products,” insisted Alflen, who claimed that too many deodorants billed as “natural” don’t contain enough ingredients to be effective.

And while Alflen called 2009 a good year, 2010 is shaping up to be a difficult one as more multinationals enter the crystal deodorant category and big retailers seem to prefer to work with larger suppliers.

Still, Alflen keeps innovating. Last year’s introduction of crystal deodorants with essential oils boosted the sales and more launches are on the way. Like his multinational competitors, underarm products weathered the recession quite well, even as private label has gained a bigger share of other household and personal care categories.

“Sure, there is increased activity in merchandising deals and specials, especially at the entry level,” observed Fuhriman. “But private label didn’t gain a foothold in the AP/deo category during this recession. There are certain things that are too important for people to concede to private label.”

At a time when national brands are under pressure, it’s a bit of a surprise to see the private label folks break a sweat!