Widespread allure

Its latest ad campaign has sparked copycat allegations from Dove, but its accuser can’t lay claim to owning the idea of beauty in the way that Nivea owns skincare. Louise Jack reports

Nivea_girlNivea came under fire last week when its latest ad strategy was branded a “copycat” of Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty (MW August 6). Nivea’s £4m advertising push communicates the idea that beauty is not just about looks and includes elements designed to engage women in discussion about what beauty means to them.

Although the strategy has parallels with Dove’s marketing, experts say the thinking behind the campaign is sound. Quentin Higham, managing director of brand consultancy HOQ Consultancy, says: “The strategy is dead right but perhaps the execution is too familiar and could have been improved. Dove has been very successful with its Campaign for Real Beauty but it does not have exclusive rights to have that dialogue with consumers. In fact, it’s something everyone should be trying to do.”

The Beiersdorf-owned company started the campaign in the UK last week and it is set to extend it to more than 64 countries throughout 2007 and 2008. The repositioning comes after extensive research across Europe, the US, Russia, Brazil and China, which investigated women’s perception of beauty. TBWA executive creative director Ben Sheer says: “On this foundation we have developed the central theme ‘Beauty is…’ and have verified the concept in detailed consumer tests.”

Commenting on the latest campaign, Nivea consumer relations marketing manager Jo Wood says: “This is a new vision for Nivea that builds on the brand’s existing core values and ensures that it now stands for a more holistic view of beauty.”

Those core values of gentleness, caring and reliability have made Nivea the number one skincare brand in the world. In the first half of 2007 alone, Beiersdorf reported that global sales of Nivea rose by 13% amounting to €1,800m (£1,222m). The company has an annual turnover of more than €3bn (£2bn). Nivea’s 80-year journey from what was essentially a one product brand to a range encompassing 14 categories and more than 300 products has been relentless.

In 1890 when Paul C. Beiersdorf, a Hamburg businessman, sold his eponymous company to Oskar Troplowitz, the company was successfully producing medical plasters and the first elastic adhesive bandages. It was in 1911, after Troplowitz’s technical adviser brought to his attention a discovery made by chemist Dr Isaac Lifshutz – the emulsifying agent Eucerit – that Nivea Crème was born.

Nivea%20logoEucerit was the first water-in-oil emulsifier able to produce a long-lasting ointment base. The discovery was originally meant for medical applications but Beiersdorf used it to create a cosmetic cream. Prior to this, skincare creams were made using animal and vegetable fats, which quickly decomposed into a rancid mess. The fresh-smelling product from Beiersdorf, with its stable formula was revolutionary. Troplowitz named his cream Nivea, based on the Latin word nivis, meaning snow.

The original product range, cream, powder and soap was initially only accessible to wealthy women and was packaged in refined art nouveau-style containers. But Beiersdorf decided to move into the mass market and quickly gained popularity. As the female grooming market evolved, the company began to advertise and by the 1920s Beiersdorf was exporting Nivea overseas.

By the 1930s the range had expanded into hair care and shaving products, and sales grew consistently in the decades that followed. The 1990s saw a period of phenomenal growth for the brand extending into many different categories with sub-brands including Visage, Body, Sun, For Men, and Baby.

In 2003, research conducted by AC Nielsen revealed that Nivea was the market leader in skin creams and lotions in 28 countries, in facial cleansing in 23 countries and in sun care in 15 countries. In the body care category, Nivea is the current European market leader, coming top in Germany, Spain and Italy and second to Yves Rocher in France (TNS Worldpanel).

In many of these markets Nivea was reportedly believed to be a brand of local origin – having been present in them for decades. The familiarity of the brand goes a long way to helping it achieve leadership status in so many categories and countries.

The brand’s advertising creative work has long been handled by TBWA/Hamburg, where material is developed and adapted for other markets. This has occasionally led to rather dull Germanic-style advertising with poor voiceovers being aired to the more sophisticated UK market. “The company could certainly not be accused of producing sexy or humorous creative work. While the products are often innovative and fresh, the advertising can be rather pedestrian,” according to one analyst.

But this does not detract from consumers’ innate trust in the brand. The Reader’s Digest annual survey of European trusted brands has named Nivea as the most trusted brand within the skincare category for the past three years.

Nivea says the new umbrella brand campaign is designed to create a unified brand appearance across all categories and is to form the basis for any new product offerings. The company says it will concentrate on fewer but more significant innovations in future.

Analysts say Nivea has been slow to extend into some categories and question, for example, why there is not yet a female shaving range. Higham observes: “Nivea tried to go into the make-up market but, in the UK at least, that didn’t work: we don’t associate the brand with colour. But anything to do with skincare, it owns.” 

Timeline:

Nivea 

1890 Nivea’s creator, Oskar Troplowitz, buys the Beiersdorf company
1911 Nivea Crème first produced. The formula has remained the same for more than 90 years
1928-1930 First brand extensions, with 1930hair care and shaving products
2007 The company sells more than 300 products, extending across 14 categories, in more than 160 countries

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