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Rinse and Repeat – Realities of Mass Hair Care Branding

Posted by: Christine Sech on Tuesday, November 15 2011 05:22 PM

AussieBig hair, big stores, big business. According to Euromonitor International, the U.S. hair care market generated revenues of $10 billion in 2010. Of that total, shampoo sales accounted for $2.1 billion and styling agents were $1.5 billion. A large proportion of these sales took place at mass-market retailers such as supermarkets/hypermarkets, drug stores, and club and dollar stores.

The mass hair care market, an extension of the traditional salon market, often features products that are mid-tier versions of high-end, celebrity-inspired grooming solutions. These mass-market products offer a sea of colors, scents and ingredients to attract consumers with the promise of benefits similar to higher-priced salon staples.

Growth of the mass hair care market is being fueled by consumers’ desire for value in their personal care products, particularly in the face of continued economic uncertainty. Yet, consumers don’t want to sacrifice performance for price; they expect these products to possess attributes such as sustainability, high performance and accessible functionality.

‘Mass’ Arena Allure
The mass hair care market reaches large numbers of consumers of different ages, genders and needs, from the solution seekers to the personality expressers; the high-hair-involved to the “KISS” adherents; the budget-conscious to those willing to spend a bit more on their hair. It’s a forum for brands to talk to these diverse consumer groups in an accessible, non-intimidating environment.

Sometimes the brand chatter at shelf can be overwhelming. Mass-market hair care companies produce multitudes of multi-benefit products – think botanicals to “big hair” – for multiple consumer demographics. That’s a lot of shampoo, conditioners, and styling products crowding store shelves and vying for attention.

Ways In
How can a hair care brand break through the mass-market clutter and achieve success at the checkout and in the home? By adopting a brand and design strategy that focuses on identifying a target consumer, delivering valued end benefits, and creating a brand experience and expression that connects with that consumer at multiple touch points.

Three brand strategies that are being successfully leveraged in the mass hair care market are 1) going beyond function; 2) driving connection through personality; and 3) creating a holistic look and feel.

Going beyond function: Find something you can deliver remarkably well and stick to it. However, know that this means more than function. Determine the essence of what your brand stands for in the hearts and minds of consumers because it will guide the entire consumer experience with your brand. Yes, a reassurance of function is necessary because consumers want to trust their purchase’s worth. But with so many brands in the market today, basing your brand messaging on technology or performance functions without giving consumers a meaningful emotional benefit is not a long-term strategy.

Also, keep in mind that the purchase decision process is more emotional than rational. In hair care, brands like Rockaholic and got2b speak to consumers’ need to express themselves. These brands’ products aid in achieving not only the look, but the feeling of living (or, at least, aspirationally living) a rock-star lifestyle. Similarly, Yes To’s brand strategy includes a unique positioning of organic elements that are functionally and emotionally beneficial, brought to life in a simple, fresh aesthetic and whimsical personality that makes “natural” hip and desirable.

Driving connection through personality: What’s your tone of voice? How would others describe your brand’s personality and attitude? A brand’s character allows it to communicate and connect with audiences on a more personal, emotive level. It gives people the chance to get to know the brand and helps to differentiate its messages from competitors’. A unique personality elevates consumers’ understanding of the brand proposition and creates a stronger connection, especially when its functional benefits are at parity with competitors. BedHead and Aussie are examples of brands that leverage their playful personalities to create an ownable voice in the market. Also, Herbal Essences features experiential positioning and a playful personality reinforced through color, graphics, collection naming and label copy.

Creating a holistic look and feel: To achieve a holistic look and feel, a brand should bring to life its unique essence and personality in a manner that inspires a multi-sensory world. This world, along with distinctive assets, enables a brand to convey itself distinctly, consistently and cohesively. Keeping in mind how people engage, buy and commit to a brand and its products is important when considering how to create a holistic experience. Herbal Essences and Fructis reinforce their positioning and personality by consistently leveraging key elements such as color, graphic style, and tonality to link communication across touchpoints. Aussie leverages consumer insights and its unique brand essence to bring its look-tone-feel to life. Holistic and consistent communication has been key to the success of this brand.

The Outlook
Euromonitor notes that the U.S. hair care market growth is projected to increase just 1% from 2010-2015; to sustain and grow share in this challenging environment, hair care brands will need to create a powerful brand experience and expression that connects with mass-market consumers at multiple touchpoints. The process starts with truly understanding their brand strategy and leveraging it via the tools and techniques described in this article: going beyond function, driving connection through personality, and creating a holistic look and feel.

This article originally appeared in the October/November 2011 Issue of Beauty Packaging.

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