Friday, I discussed the state of the beauty business on Fox Business Live. Below is an overview of my comments and some of addition thoughts.

 

In
spite of the economy, the beauty business is holding up quite well. Apparently
most people are more concerned about their looks than the food they eat, the
clothes they wear or the cars they drive. 

 

What
works in the beauty business? The same thing that works in all businesses. Own
a word in the mind. 

 

Typically,
a beauty brand will start out by owning a word and then get line-extended like
crazy. Still the brand might remain powerful because consumers remember the
past. It wasn’t the line-extensions that created a powerful brand like Dove, it
was the original focus of the brand that did that job.

 

Dove
started out as “one-fourth moisturizing lotion” and is still the No.1 bar soap
with 24 percent of the market. And lucky for Unilever, that focus helped
maintain the brand’s power in spite of its endless extensions.

 

Olay is
Procter & Gamble beauty brand, also line-extended to death. By like Dove,
Olay still benefits from its history as “Oil of Olay,” apparently a magic wrinkle-remover
ingredient. 

 

Aveeno,
a Johnson & Johnson brand, became famous for its “active naturals,” a
concept trading on the trend towards organics, naturals, etc. 

 

Neutrogena,
also a Johnson & Johnson brand, was the first “hypoallergenic” soap. And today
it still benefits from its association with the concept. 

 

Clinique,
an Estee Lauder brand, became famous by being the first hypoallergenic department-store
beauty brand, a concept the company apparently has forgotten about, but most consumers
still associate the brand with “hypoallergenic” properties. 

 

Almay,
a Revlon brand, was the first drug-store “hypoallergenic” brand and also
benefits from its association with the concept. 

 

New
brands in the beauty aisle are about as rare as a wrinkle on a super model in
spite of the fact that launching a new brand is the real key to growth.

 

Look at
the success of Axe, the first body spray for men. The brand has been wildly successful
primarily for its sexual implications. Teenage boys will do almost anything to
increase their odds with women.  

 

Except
for Axe, there have been very few new brand introductions in the beauty
business. It’s all line extensions.  Confusion
reigns in drugstore aisles.

 

Walk
into any drugstore and watch consumers spend an incredible length of time
figuring out what to buy.   There are 26
types of Pantene shampoo, 42 types of Crest toothpaste.

 

It’s a
pity. Companies believe consumers crave endless choice. Yet nothing could be
further from the truth. Consumers want simple, clear brands that stand for
something.

 

Sometimes
fewer choices are better. Compare shopping in a Walmart supercenter versus
shopping in a Costco warehouse store.

 

My
favorite beauty brands are Dove and Axe. Both have strong positions in the
mind. Dove is one-fourth moisturizing lotion and advertises its “Campaign for
Real Beauty.”

Dove
 

Dove’s
moisturizing focus targets older users who have dryer skin. So the “real beauty”
idea has resonated extremely well with them. 

 

Axe is
focused on male sex appeal, "The Axe Effect." Unilever has cleverly verbalized the benefit of the
brand’s core idea. One recent tagline said “Spray More. Get More.”

Axe
 
 

 Both
brands have used extensive social media campaigns that have gotten rave
reviews. But was it social media that created the brands successes? I think
not.

 

Social
media is a tool and a tactic. Not a strategy. For any tool to be effective, a
brand needs an effective strategy.

 

That is
why this sudden craze over social media doesn’t make sense. A company should
set its strategy first, then pick the best tools to execute its strategy.

 

Doing
it the other way puts the cart before the horse.

To get consumers excited about your brand in their minds, in the store or on the Internet just liberally spray on some Focus. I call it the "Focus Effect."