Categories: Case StudiesLauraPositioning

Experience the Focus Effect

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.


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. 


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


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.


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


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


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


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. 


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


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.  


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


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


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


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.”


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.”


brands have used extensive social media campaigns that have gotten rave
reviews. But was it social media that created the brands successes? I think


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.


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."


Laura Ries :

View Comments (9)

  • So true, Laura. Too many carts before the horse. Too much war in the boardroom and not enough focus on the mind of the consumer.

  • So, it's not the number of skus per se because Dove has just as many as Pantene, if not more. Is it that Dove has a strong association with moisturizing that holds its portfolio together whereas Pantene's emphasis on "shine" is not strong enough?
    What about Dove's extension into men's care products? (http://dove.us/mencare/) Is that going too far? It undercuts the real beauty direction but the products still have moisturizing properties.

  • Laura,
    Do me a favor; we love you to mention some of the newest projects you’re working on.
    This will at least give us some insight on how really good you say you are at making predictions, so we can monitor the progress of projects you executed.
    You have such amazing insight about brands.
    I know a few other brand strategists who have amazing insight. Laura you’re in the top 5 at #4 among them.
    You did well presenting the beauty market, but you came up short on exposing Dove body soap for Men and Dove shampoo as line extensions, positioned in the mind of consumers as a feminine body soap or unisex brand. It’s like Pepsi for Men when Pepsi is a unisex brand.
    Do me a favor when you’re on Fox Business or any other show, keep smiling more as you’ve been doing, it may help sales.

  • It's really an impressive posting. I liked it & think that it will be helpful for others. Keep up the good work. Good luck.

  • yes! axe commercials is also one of my top picks. The commercial leaves a strong impression that when you use axe, you will attract more women. "Spray more get more".
    I also like how they have incorporated humor in their commercials. It's one way of making their commercials really noticeable. :)

  • Laura - Great post. I especially like your point about social media being a tool, not a strategy. Unfortunately, too many marketer overlook this point.