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Marketing Matters: Creating A Successful Brand in Challenging Times

Donna Barson

With the high failure rate of new brands in practically every industry, many brand owners are looking for a “magic formula.”

There’s no magic, but successful brands do share several of the following important traits:

  • Product: It all starts with a unique product that carefully defines its niche and its place in the market.
  • Research: There is a careful examination of the niche the brand fills, including listening to consumers and looking at other industries for developing trends.
  • Personality: Successful new products have brand personality ... that is, the products in the brand stand for something—whether it is organics, the melding of beauty and fashion, philanthropy, etc.
  • Targeting: Precisely defining the target audience for the product and brand is vital. It’s like a dog chasing its tail otherwise—it never catches it but uses a lot of time and energy trying.
  • Integration: A function of marketing, all messages are integrated into one strong communication tool.
  • Connection: Successful products and brands have an emotional connection with their customers—created in part through product packaging, Web site, advertising and promotional materials.
  • Consistency: Successful brands are consistent in the messages they send to consumers, and they don’t waiver from the mission of the brand.
  • Distribution: Successful brands help their retail partners grow, and are willing to examine alternative distribution and marketing strategies.

Case in Point

ThermaFuse, a rising hair care and styling brand, is a good example of the previously listed traits. At a time when there is much blurring of mass and salon hair care brands, ThermaFuse’s 2006 launch succeeded by carefully cultivating a niche.

Unlike other hair care brands, the formula used in ThermaFuse products was developed to protect and repair hair with the use of any heat styling tool. This unique niche allowed the brand to develop a successful promotional and marketing campaign based on the premise of “healthier hair with heat.”

Van Stamey, founder and CEO of ThermaFuse, comes from a family of salon industry impresarios. He knew that millions of consumers relied on blowers, flat irons and heat curlers for their styling needs, and these products were damaging their hair. So he worked with chemists to develop a brand of products carefully targeted towards heat style devotees who would benefit from products that both safeguarded hair from heat and actually revived hair health.

The technology at the core of the product line was dubbed “HeatSmart Complex” by Joni Rae and Associates, hired to handle the packaging, advertising, marketing and public relations for the brand. Once the formulation was complete, the positioning statement of “healthier hair with heat” was put into action. The line deserved a unique and memorable look with room to tell the story. Due to the lengthy list of ingredients legally required on the package, space became an issue. Ultimately the designer came up with a unique three-sided custom molded bottle that afforded several opportunities—including capitalizing on a unique look that the brand required, more space for the brand story and ergonomic bottles. When it came to choosing colors for packaging, the brand needed to stand out at point of sale and look appealing in the home bathroom environment. To better connect with the consumer, the color palette was ultimately selected in an effort to simplify the purchasing decision, first by category and then by type of hair desired.

In order to get salons to carry what was, at launch, a relatively unknown brand, a distinctive advertising campaign debuted in trade publications to create buzz. The ads featured not models but rather unexpected illustrations of a cup of coffee or a bag of popcorn with a “best when heated” theme. To create an emotional connection with their salon partners, the brand developed a program to help its salon and spa partners grow their business. HeatSmart Rewards let salons and spas earn back-bar and styling station supplies, trial and travel sizes, education opportunities, and more based on Thermafuse purchases.

In just two years, ThermaFuse has won 22 awards. The basic marketing premises of defining a niche, carefully targeting the audience and, in this case, thinking outside of the bottle are all lathering together to create excitement in the rather mature professional hair care market.

Donna C. Barson, MBA heads Barson Marketing, Inc., a marketing strategy, research and business consultancy in the personal care industry. For information about Barson Marketing and its proprietary tracking method for this industry, e-mail or call 1-732-446-3662.

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