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In an effort to return to its “authentic voice” that talks truthfully to consumers on hair care, Pantene has tapped actresses Eva Mendes and Naomi Watts to share their hair secrets in TV and print campaigns, scheduled to break throughout July and August.
A return to actresses was strategic, said Julie Marchant-Houle, marketing director, North America Retail Hair, and managing director, Global Fekkai. Actresses, much more than models, she said, are more popular, more approachable and more relevant.
“The days of wondering what [an actress’] beauty secrets are, are gone. They talk about their beauty challenges and their beauty secrets nonstop. They can tell real stories, they are much more relatable [than models].”
Stacy London, the fashion expert on TLC’s “What Not to Wear,” has been a key spokeswoman for Pantene since October 2009, and is best known for communicating in ads that a mass market hair care brand is as good as higher-priced salon brands. London’s Pantene contract is still in effect but future plans on how she will be utilized are still being decided, said Marchant-Houle. In the last year, Pantene ads have also featured Padma Lakshmi of “Top Chef” and Shay Mitchell of “Pretty Little Liars.” Both represented the Nature Fusion collection.
And while London’s campaign was considered successful, for the second half of 2011 and beyond Pantene is back to talking about healthy, beautiful hair.
In meeting with a number of actresses, Marchant-Houle said, Mendes emerged “as a strong-willed woman” who tested high for respect and for her sexiness, “which wasn’t threatening.”
Mendes will be representing Pantene’s Breakage to Strength collection.
Watts, who Marchant-Houle pointed out “doesn’t have the perfect hair” will appeal to Pantene’s large “contingent of customers with fine hair” as Watts represents the Flat to Volume collection.
And, Pantene will be looking within for some of its marketing techniques. Pantene scientists, many of whom are women with healthy manes, will be appearing on Pantene’s social media platforms to make them more accessible to women and to help consumers get to know the faces behind the brand, said Marchant-Houle.
Digital plans also include “dynamically generated banner” ads which let the brand deliver a more customized message to consumers depending on the site from where they are viewing the ad. All of the ad’s variables (language, model, background, copy, call-to-action and product) will be optimized based on the site. The technology, Procter & Gamble Co. said, learns over time what is most resonant and will show consumers more creative options with those elements in it.
Pantene is consistently held under a microscope by the industry as the overall hair care category fails to generate more than modest incremental growth. For the most recent 52-week period ended May 15, the segments within hair care in which Pantene plays — shampoo, conditioner, hair spray and mousse — increased sales 2 percent, 2.5 percent, 0.52 percent and 1.78 percent, respectively. As the world’s largest hair care brand, with $3 billion in global sales, many expect Pantene, through innovation and relevance, to grow the category. For the year to date period ended April 17, sales of Pantene products slipped 9.1 percent to $121.8 million, excluding Wal-Mart. For the 52-week period ended April 17, sales were $412.8 million, down 4.4 percent.
Marchant-Houle admitted “It is difficult to get a large brand to grow,” especially as there are “tons of new entries and the consumer is always seeking out the next best thing. Part of the reason we keep changing is to stay in front of that. Eva and Naomi will help us stay relevant.
“The upside for the brand is that it is less than a 20 percent dollar share [its share has been between 12 and 15 percent in the U.S. over the past several years],” Marchant-Houle continued. “And when you look at other categories there are brands that have grown past a 20 share.”
Since April, Marchant-Houle said Pantene’s business has seen growth behind the launch of seven new two-in-one stockkeeping units and five new large-sized sku’s. It is expecting further momentum from the new Mendes and Watts campaign.
“I don’t think we have tapped out on Pantene [in the U.S.] at all,” said Marchant-Houle.