The Clairol lady just got younger -- she's now just 18, to be exact.
After years of working with more mature celebrities, Clairol, a unit of Bristol-Myers Squibb, will feature the pop singer Britney Spears in a new print and television advertising campaign for its Herbal Essences shampoo line.
In a special coup for Clairol, the singer has recorded her own song for the brand called "I've Got the Urge to Herbal" that is featured in 60-second radio spots and is part of a preconcert video presentation during Ms. Spears's 50-city summer concert tour, which Herbal Essences is sponsoring.
The 18-year-old Ms. Spears is one of the youngest endorsers for Clairol, which has had a long association with celebrity spokeswomen like Linda Evans for Ultress in the 1980's, Julia Louis-Dreyfus of "Seinfeld" for Nice 'n Easy in the 1990's, and now Debra Messing of NBC's "Will & Grace," also for Nice 'n Easy.
"Traditionally, Clairol's business had been in hair color and hair color traditionally had an older demographic that called for older spokespeople -- of course, these days everyone uses hair color," said Andrew Shepard, senior director of marketing for hair care and skin care at Clairol.
The Herbal Essences campaign with Ms. Spears is a special effort designed for teenage girls, but the brand will continue its broader, longstanding campaign aimed at females from 16 to 49. That campaign, themed "A totally organic experience," features women who simulate sexual ecstasy while shampooing, usually in an inappropriate setting like a crowded airliner, and has been credited with helping make the brand one of the leading shampoo-conditioners. It also helped build the reputation of its ad agency creators, the Kaplan Thaler Group in New York, which was formed in 1997 and was acquired last year by what is now the B Com3 Group.
Teenage girls are an important audience in hair care partly because they are heavier users of the products, Mr. Shepard said. He noted that Herbal Essences had always marketed to teenagers by running its advertising in teen-appropriate media, and had begun to use music marketing last year. But this is the first time the brand has a full-scale campaign aimed specifically at the younger audience and the first time it has used a celebrity endorser.
The move is a natural extension of earlier marketing work, Larry Lucas, the Herbal Essences senior manager, said. Last year, Herbal Essences sponsored the concert tour of the pop band 'N Sync, and found music to be such an effective way to reach teenagers that the company began seeking out a musical tie-in for this year, he said. While 'N Sync worked well, the band did not endorse the product and the only advertising that ran was related to the concert tour, Mr. Lucas said. In contrast, Ms. Spears brings a beauty perspective to the relationship, and will appear in advertising beyond the concert tour and into mid-2001.
"When you have an opportunity to sponsor a female performer that looks as great as Britney Spears, you can take the relationship to the next level," he said. "She's upbeat and energetic, all the things that fit our brand personality."
On the flip side, Herbal Essences brings more than just a concert sponsorship to Ms. Spears, said Robin Koval, Kaplan Thaler executive vice president and director of account services.
"She's trying to make her image a bit more sophisticated and glamorous, and Clairol is a big name in the beauty world," Ms. Koval said.
The television advertising is not completed yet, but print ads will appear in August in Teen People, Seventeen and YM magazines. The ads are classic beauty layouts, featuring the golden-tressed Ms. Spears in cover girl poses with headlines such as "Does this look like a girl who stays home Friday nights to wash her hair?" The answer is yes, because she can't resist Herbal Essences.
Herbal Essences is the nation's second-best-selling shampoo with roughly 8 percent of the $1.7 billion market, according to Information Resources Inc., a Chicago market research firm. The market leader, Procter & Gamble's Pantene Pro V shampoo, has a 14 percent share.
Unit sales of Herbal Essences were down 2.5 percent for the year ended May 21, while Pantene's sales were up 3.7 percent, the Information Resources numbers showed. Other top products in the market, which was stagnant over all, were P.& G.'s Head & Shoulders, down 5 percent in unit sales; Unilever's Suave shampoo, down about 1 percent; and Unilever's ThermaSilk Shampoo, up 14.4 percent. The new campaign, however, will promote the full Herbal Essences line, which accounts for some $329 million in total sales; included are a conditioner as well as body products like a moisturizer and a body wash.
Herbal Essences represents an unusually successful product reinvention, according to Carol Davies, managing partner at Kane, Bortree & Associates, a New York marketing firm. Created in the 1970's, the brand had virtually disappeared by 1995, when it was reintroduced with a new formulation, new packaging and a contemporary ad campaign. (The original version is still available under the name Herbal Essence.)
The new Herbal Essences captured the trend toward natural, often fruit-based fragrances, as epitomized in the success of brands like Bath & Body Works, which are sold in mall shops of the same name, she said. And the trend shows no signs of waning, she said.
"Natural is as big as ever -- consumers love it," Ms. Davies said.
PATRICIA WINTERS LAURO, July 24, 2000, The New York Times
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