P&G aims to clean up

Head & Shoulders, originally a functional problem-solving brand, is set for a £15m relaunch, including a range of conditioners. By Barny Stokes

Head & Shoulders, originally a functional problem-solving brand, is set for a &£15m relaunch, including a range of conditioners. By Barny Stokes

Procter & Gamble’s decision to spend &£15m relaunching Head & Shoulders (MW last week) underlines the consumer goods giant’s determination to shift the anti-dandruff shampoo into the mass market.

As well as upgrading the formula and redesigning the brand’s packaging, it is also introducing the first range of standalone Head & Shoulders conditioners. The new products hit supermarket shelves in March and, as part of a global marketing drive, P&G has signed Sex And The City actress Kristin Davis to be the face of the brand. Davis, who plays Charlotte in the hit US drama, is likely to feature in new ads from Head & Shoulders’ agency Saatchi & Saatchi as part of a campaign that P&G admits will be “heavy”.

Tom Moody, commercial director for haircare at P&G, says: “Head & Shoulders started out as a functional, problem-solving brand, but we have been moving it towards the mass market. A lot of women like to use the same brand of shampoo and conditioner and if you use a non-compatible conditioner you can wash away the active anti-dandruff ingredient.”

The move highlights the mature state of the UK’s shampoo market, which is forcing manufacturers to expand into growth sectors such as conditioners, styling products and colourants. According to Mintel, the UK’s shampoo and conditioners market was worth &£507m in 2004 and, while shampoo accounted for 62 per cent of the market, growth in the sector has been slow. It grew by just five per cent between 2000 and 2004, compared to 19 per cent for conditioners, and while shampoo has close to total market penetration, conditioner use is still below 80 per cent.

While P&G dominates the shampoo category, with sales of Head & Shoulders reaching &£38m in 2004, and accounting for 12 per cent of the market, its share drops off in conditioners. The manufacturers of consumer “salon” brands, such as Alberto Culver with TRESemme and John Frieda with Frizz Ease, account for nearly a third of the market between them.

Rather than take on the salon brands though, Moody believes P&G can build the category, stressing that recent research shows most men still do not use a conditioner regularly. It is a point on which industry observers agree. Many say that a Head & Shoulders conditioner could prove very successful if aimed at the family market, with women buying it for their partners and children.

One industry source says: “Haircare consumers like to use shampoos and conditioners that work in synergy, as they feel it enhances the benefits.  Head & Shoulders can’t pretend to be TRESemme, but it can certainly move from a medicated proposition to one that suits the family’s needs.”

Peter Shaw, managing director of branding consultancy Brand Catalyst, adds: “Head & Shoulders is not the kind of brand that’s bought by people who are particularly excited by haircare. It’s the kind that’s used by a lot of different people in the family bathroom.”

Others point out that P&G has been deliberately moving Head & Shoulders from a medicated proposition to a cosmetic one since the 1980s and accept that there is room in the market for a conditioner.

Chris Wood, chairman of branding consultancy Corporate Edge, says: “The arrival of a Head & Shoulders conditioner isn’t going to kill the category – there will always be people who want something more upmarket. Just because they keep building Marriot hotels doesn’t mean there isn’t space for more boutiques.”

For sector analysts, the move also illustrates the rise of the “Megabrand” in the cosmetics and toiletries sectors, where leading manufactures focus solely on a handful of their core brands. These brands are then extended into new sectors and product categories to boost sales and broaden their appeal, which in turn has resulted in a new breed of brand: the “cosmoceutical”.

Euromonitor news analyst Alexandra Richmond says: “What we’re seeing now is brands with a medicated or clinical background that are repositioning themselves as everyday or lifestyle brands. Last year Accantia launched a new range of haircare products under its Simple brand, while Estee Lauder leveraged its Clinique brand into the haircare sector with the launch of True.”

Richmond adds that brands with medicated or dermatological backgrounds are often viewed as more effective because consumers like to believe in the “science behind the brand”.
“In the case of Head & Shoulders, it depends on whether consumers buy into the advertising,” she says. “They might be tempted by the idea that ordinary brands of conditioner will wash away the benefits, but by now they may have already found a substitute that they’re happy with.”

With P&G’s budget and Head & Shoulders’ dominance of the shampoo market, the brand looks likely to wash away competitors.

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