UNDERARM TACTICS

Under pressure from own-label rivals, manufacturers of branded antiperspirant and body spray products are putting more effort into innovative packaging to retain consumer loyalty and to boost sales. Jo-Anne Walker discovers the secrets of stan

Research shows that a sizeable chunk of buyers can be swayed at the last minute from buying their cat’s favourite tin of tuna bites if their eye is caught by a well-designed, competitive brand. When it comes to choosing an antiperspirant, the requirements are probably a little more personal. Buying a product that looks as if it works is more important.

Elida Gibbs has been in the antiperspirant and body

spray business for years and now has a 38 per cent share by value of the market. But although Elida Gibbs launches a major product virtually every month, the sector has long since matured. It increased in value from 272m in 1993 to 288m last year. Innovation and the ability to stand out from the crowd are becoming increasingly important.

One of Elida Gibbs’ most prominent products is the 20-year-old Impulse brand, with sales of more than 100m worldwide. The brand holds joint fourth place in the UK, in terms of market share, with Natrel Plus. The Impulse imagery is well known from its advertising. The boy falling for an unsuspecting girl (or her body spray) theme has been trotted out consistently through the years.

However, body spray brands have suffered recently from own-label competition from retailers such as Marks & Spencer and Boots. Adrian Collins, marketing director at Elida Gibbs’ design agency Ziggurat, says: “It is harder to put a fragrance in a can and market it as a brand.”

In an effort to boost a flat market, Elida Gibbs is launching an Impulse sub-brand this month. It consists of three vanilla fragrances and is packaged quite differently to the main brand. The three fragrances – Kisses, Secrets and Delights – are targeted at a much younger market of 11 to 24 year-olds in an attempt to expand market share.

The introduction of the vanilla range is part of a trend that the cosmetics company says started in the US. It seems to indicate that, just as musk was the smell of the Seventies, vanilla will be the taste of the Nineties.

Collins says: “Rather than follow, Impulse has led the UK and European fragrance market with its own vanilla range. The design challenge was to create something that was branded but a more intimate experience for the consumer.”

In keeping with its younger appeal, the can has been made lighter and cream coloured, which is what research showed people associated with vanilla. “The cans are a lot lighter in look and feel. All three are cream coloured, which is a departure from the main brand where each fragrance has its own personality,” says Collins.

“In terms of the packaging, the can, collar and actuator are identical to the rest of the Impulse brand. The idea was that the vanilla range would not become a distant cousin to the main brand. The logo is the same and in the same position, as is the branded butterfly. But we made the cap semi-translucent, which gives the can a fresher and lighter feel. Also, behind the butterfly is a different spot colour for each fragrance, which we don’t have on the main brand. This injects a small degree of personality into the fragrance which is its own. Conceptually, vanilla arouses a feeling of serenity, tranquillity and inner confidence,” he adds.

Sure antiperspirant is another Elida Gibbs brand with significant market share. Over the years, it has also undergone transformations in design – some more subtle than others – which often reflected the fashion of the time. But, unusually, one of the initial design elements from when it was launched in 1964 remains the hallmark of the brand today. The ubiquitous tick appears in all Sure advertising and on all of its packaging.

Ask anyone to recall Sure antiperspirant commercials, and most will instantly recall the 1979 to 1984 campaign where a woman is sweating profusely as she lunges through the jungle, except for the part of her body sprayed with Sure in the shape of a tick.

Sure has held the number one antiperspirant position in the UK since 1984. Last year it still held a 14 per cent share of the market. The range has two male, two unisex and three female

variants.

Elida Gibbs innovation manager Paul Cubbon says the tick is a brand symbol that has a synergistic effect across the Sure range. “You see so many brands that move around with their design. We, as marketers, get bored of things before consumers do. There is a difficult balance between not changing and making consumers bored, or changing too often and therefore losing continuity. Also, when you are redesigning things, people often confuse execution with brand values.

“You could say that Sure is about ticks, but it is actually about confidence. A lot of little ticks doesn’t mean confidence,” he says.

Elida Gibbs is continually tweaking the design of its Sure product, but has to ensure that the evolution is smooth enough for the brand to retain its position in the market. One of the main changes recently is that the company has lightened the colours of its main range of antiperspirants.

Cubbon says: “We want the brand to be seen as effective. But there is a fine line between being seen as effective and being seen as harsh and old-fashioned. This is particularly true when you are using strong primary colours on the cans.

“So we have to make changes that consumer doesn’t necessarily notice. But the gradual changes keep refreshing the brand. In 1995, we want the brand to look like 1995 and not 1990,” says Cubbon.

Sure has spawned subbrands which depend on design to define them in the market. In the early Nineties, consumer research showed that attitudes were changing. Although the “dry tick” gave people confidence, there was a feeling among customers that they wanted something softer and more “caring”.

In 1993, Body Responsive was launched. The quality assurance tick was made white, gentler and soft. The design left a window on the can to allow consumers to “see” into the heart of the brand. The product was given an emotional side that opened up a new vista – Body Responsive. By repositioning the parent brand, Elida Gibbs was able to introduce a range extension, Sensive, with brand qualities that were seen to be more feminine.

Collins says: “The name in itself has feminine overtones. One of the main features of the antiperspirant, aloe vera, is flagged up front in soft script, and this has a soothing effect. There is an emotional promise with Sensive. It is more complex, more feminine and more emotional – and this is demonstrated in the design.”

On the other side of the Sure range, is the more recently launched Sure 24 Hour Intensive. The product is deliberately clean and pharmaceutical looking to make it seem like a specialist product.

Cubbon says research has shown consumer dissatisfaction with conventional roll-on balls, with problems ranging from crusting, hair snagging and the feeling that you are rubbing your underarms with a ballpoint pen. Sure 24 Hour Intensive has a roll-on ball which is 50 per cent larger than conventional ones. The product also contains a formulation that ensures the liquid does not crust on the ball.

And, as Collins points out, Sure 24 Hour Intensive avoids the strong colouring of the main Sure brand.

“With the Sure brand you have the dark blues and greys which are the men’s colours and, at the other end of the spectrum, the pink and violet which are more feminine. There is an area in the middle which is unisex – and that’s what we went for with Intensive.

“Colour is a flag of fragrance. Too much colour means too much fragrance. That’s not the image we wanted to portray with this brand,” he adds.

“You have to continually think of ways of growing the brand without stretching it too thinly. With the launch of these two sub-brands, the Sure brand equity is maintained and enhanced, but also made more flexible,” says Cubbon.

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