Bulldog aims to see off men’s skincare competition

It may be small, but the men’s skincare market is fast becoming a brand battleground, with established players fighting it out with a raft of new entrants.

Among them is Bulldog, a brand launched in July 2007 by two young entrepreneurs keen to capitalise on the trend. The men’s skincare market trebled in size between 2002 and 2006 to £55m, according to Mintel, although it still represents a small proportion of the total men’s grooming market, which, including toiletries and fragrance, was worth £781m in 2006.

Bulldog must compete in a field dominated by established players such as Lynx, Nivea and Gillette, while Boots is aggresivley marketing its men’s skincare collections with advertising in style press and Sunday supplements, and luxury brands such as Clinique are increasingly carrying “men only” ranges.

Natural ingredients

The Bulldog range comprises shower gel, shampoo, shaving products and moisturiser, all made with natural ingredients, free from parabens, artificial colours or sythentic fragrances. Although founders Rhodri Ferrier and Simon Duffy are new to the personal care market, they believe their experiences in the careers they gave up will help Bulldog “pioneer” natural grooming products for men.

Duffy was previously with Farenheit 212, the product innovation arm of Saatchi & Saatchi, while Ferrier’s background is as a mergers and acquisitions broker.

They have already pulled off the coup of getting Bulldog stocked in 328 Sainsbury’s stores nationwide.

Duffy says he felt “frustrated” at Farenheit 212, finding that ideas that had seemed “pure” at the time of presentation had been “watered down” by the time they got to market.

The pair, who met in New York, committed to the Bulldog venture in late 2005, leaving their jobs the following year and returning to the UK – by which time they had established a brand identity and a clear strategy.

“We knew we could work on formulation as we went along, ” says Ferrier, “but we felt if we couldn’t crack a brand that said what we wanted to say, then the whole thing would be meaningless.”

They decided that they would not pitch their brand at an exclusive, niche market but instead aim Bulldog at mainstream consumers, giving them, they claim, a natural choice at a reasonable price for the first time. They gave the brand a strong masculine identity, taking a risk with the potentially polarising name Bulldog. Clean white packaging with a bold typeface was chosen to make the range look markedly different from the market leaders such as Lynx, Nivea, Gillette and L’Oréal.

The company has received £1m investment from between 15 and 20 investors. One of the biggest struggles the pair had was finding a manufacturer willing to commit to producing the range before anyone agreed to stock it. That process took months, as did the “relentless” rounds of testing products.

Duffy and Ferrier describe a “magic fortnight” when everything seemed to fall into place: the financing was agreed, a manufacturer found and Sainsbury’s agreed to list the range exclusively, from July 2007.

Hit the mark

Sainsbury’s category buyer Finbar Cartlidge says: “They came in with a concept that was a bit different and hit the spot with its appearance on the shelf and priced at parity with the market leaders.”

Now the company is concentrating on consolidating its supply and distribution infrastructure. The exclusivity deal with Sainsbury’s expires in July and Ferrier reveals that it has had approaches from a major department store chain and natural products retailers.

The Bulldog range will see new launches in the coming months, with the intro-duction of sensitive-skin and lemon-based variants.

Datamonitor personal care analyst Matthew Taylor says the brand has made a “good start” and concludes: “It is a brand that makes natural products accessible to those who would like to give them a try without having to go to specialist stores and pay a premium.”

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