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Scent Sleuth: Fragrance Trends in Hair Care

By: Nancy C. Hayden
Posted: May 1, 2008, from the May 2008 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Shampoo products have exploded, and the definitive line between salon products and retail products has diminished. Upscale products are now available in specialty stores, drug stores and discount chains; so it is increasingly important, regardless of where a hair care line is launched or retailed, that scent be well thought-out and fully integrated into the line. And marketers must expect a certain amount of consumer fickleness. Fragrances have reached a new level of attracting consumers to buy and try a new shampoo, and while the tried-and-true megabrands have promised elevated performance, they must continue to address the scent dimension and heighten that experience to complement improving formulas.

Brands, Performance and Fragrance
Of the mainstay mass-retail brands, which had good brand identity at retail such as Breck, Prell, Head & Shouldters, and Alberto Vo-5, Clairol Herbal Essence stands out for its reliance on the marketing impact of its fragrance, which is a vital part of the brand identity and makes a direct reference to the product’s natural herbal complex. It was one of the first brands to realize both its impact and the power of fragrance to convey a natural message. Since P&G bought the brand and expanded its natural fruit flavors and botanicals, there has been an explosion of the brand premise, and the line and its fragrance themes are now expanding into bath and body care.

Garnier Fructis, a strong niche product line owned by L’Oréal that also relies on the natural fruit and vitamin theme, has expanded into myriad hair treatment products that have maintained the same fragrance theme of the original offerings, which rely on natural citrus blends of orange and grapefruit, pineapple and lemon. Unilever has expanded the entire Sunsilk product line through multiple fragrances that have expanded the fruity botanical trend.

Helene Curtis began the green apple fruity trend with Salon Selectives. The brand, recently reintroduced by a private group headed by former Helene president Gene Zeffrin, already achieved good on-shelf recognition, but will have to look into new marketing twists relying on fragrance to keep interest in the line. Finesse brand sales, also featuring a melon-based scent, have dwindled, indicating that the melon note, perhaps, has become too mundane.

The Dove line made a huge splash a few years ago, and has remained consistent with a very clean and soft mossy herbal fragrance that is an integral part of the formula and ties with the brand’s gentle cleansing theme. This is an illustration of a fragrance delivering the whole concept of cleansing and conditioning and leaving a wonderful aura of herbal notes on the hair. The fragrance carries the identity of the product. The identifying tie note is the herbal natural complex which has since been broken down into sub-categories within the brand. The line has kept up with fruity note trends since P&G bought it. The Herbal Essence theme has been expanded into bath and body care. The line caught the naturals theme early.