London—Global beauty giant Unilever Personal Care is setting its sights on the prestige market and on its men’s grooming category—the company’s “growth drivers,” said its president, Alan Jope.
Unilever this year acquired several niche skincare brands, including Murad and Dermalogica, and presented them to journalists from its top global markets, at the first-ever Unilever PC Summit held at the multinational’s British headquarters.
Jope said prestige personal care is growing much faster than its mass-market equivalent, thus Unilever is bullish on developing its prestige portfolio, which now has eight brands.
He said their acquisitions are focused only on prestige skincare and hair-care brands, as they’re aligned with Unilever’s areas of expertise and market structure.
“These prestige businesses, when they see the Unilever labs, they’re like children in a toy shop… We don’t know much about color cosmetics and prestige fragrances,” said the Singapore-based Scottish executive. “You only make money in color cosmetics if you’re the No. 1 or No. 2 player, or if you’re a niche local brand. It’s the same with prestige fragrances; we’ve been there before,” he added, in obvious reference to Elizabeth Arden, Calvin Klein, Vera Wang, among others, which it has since sold. “[Prestige fragrance] carries high advertising costs… It’s a declining market globally.”
Unilever is also not looking into developing its own prestige brands, but he said the company would continue to “premiumize” some of its mass brands with its own “masstige” lines, like Pond’s Age Miracle.
For instance, on top of the core range of Dove hair-care, it’s also developing the Dove Advanced Hair-care Series, “which offer even better products at a higher price point, selling for about $6-$7. The prestige is a completely different price point, from about $50-$150.”
“We’ll stick to the [current] distributors [of our prestige brands],” said Jope. In the Philippines, it’s Rustan’s for Murad and Dermalogica. “I’m careful with geographical roll-out. Many brands have been spoiled for going too far, too wide, too quickly. We saw the Murad and Dermalogica stores in Philippines, and we’re going to grow them, invest in them and provide the distributor even more support than in the past. We will build a strong position where we are.”
A retinue of innovative mass and masstige products from such brands as Rexona, Dove, Lux, Vaseline and Pond’s are set to roll out in the Philippines in the coming months and were also previewed at the summit.
Jope said another fast growing area—twice faster than any other category—is men’s grooming. The men’s division at Unilever generates 3 billion euros, with brands like Axe, Dove Men+ Care, Clear for Men, Rexona for Men and Clear for Men. The fastest growing brand for 2015 across the board is Dove Men+ Care, he said.
“Men are changing,” Jope noted. “They’re more aware of their looks. If you watched the World Cup and saw the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, they’re well-groomed young men. Ten, 15 years ago, they were a bunch of hairy lumps. We’re well placed for continued growth.”
Since men tend to choose brand over function-specific products, and they have a propensity for speed-shopping, Jope said the strategy would be to provide the customer a full selection of products for its multicategory brands like Axe and Dove Men+ Care.
Unilever is also looking at its Muslim markets as well as digital platforms and e-commerce as drivers of growth.
“Consumer products and magazines have run according to the same business model for the last 70 years, but that business model is doomed,” he said. “It’s going to go away and we won’t be able to rely on interruption-based television or print advertising. The world is going digital very quickly. How do you engage with consumers on social media, on mobile, through gaming and so on, and e-commerce? E-commerce has been a tremendous source of growth for us and it will only get bigger.”
The company has started using a video blog called “All Things Hair” to promote its hair-care brands through advice and tips. It airs on YouTube. Its success will be the prototype across all categories, said Jope.
“I would urge you to move your business from offline to online because that’s where our dollars are going to flow for sure.”
Unilever Personal Care global revenues amount to 19 billion euros, with categories like hair-care, skin cleansing, skincare, deodorants and oral care. The emerging markets, including the Philippines, account for 60 percent of annual sales.
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