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Within the beauty industry, salons ride the trend wave, creating cutting-edge styles with cutting-edge products. For brands, stylists become the client’s beauty advisor, their recommendations making or breaking a purchase. Therefore, marketing strategies must showcase how products complement the creativity of the stylist to maximize their enthusiasm for them. Education and communication between salons and brands are key elements of any strategy.
“The biggest difference in marketing for salon products versus other retail outlets is that we have a unique opportunity to speak directly to stylists,” said Lori Green, director of marketing, American Crew. “This opens up a much larger range of subjects that we can discuss with them, most importantly, education. It’s not just about the products and what they do for hair; it’s also about how the products fit into their styling techniques, with their salon tools, and help them to become better [artists].”
Stylists choose brand lines not just for the products themselves, but also for how those products complement the salon’s consumer base. The right mix of product offerings is a pillar of a salon’s business.
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“We aim to provide the salon with maximum opportunity to generate more business, and our products help to provide the tools to do this,” said Nathalie Tang, vice president, Redken Global Marketing. “Our products are tailored to different hair needs and concerns fueled with the latest technologies. In this way, the hairdresser can prescribe the right regimens to fit their clients’ needs.”
Ergo, the most successful brands are both consumer-friendly and an instrument of the stylist.
Stylists make recommendations based on personalized regimens; brands understand this and add value to products by tailoring to individual needs. “Products designed for specific needs—such as color care, curly, straight and volume-specific formulas—are driving the technology,” said Van Stamey, CEO, ThermaFuse. Additionally, trends create the need for fresh offerings that appeal to the short attention span of the consumer.
Today’s transient culture has evolved into a brand-agnostic society, and, as a result, products have a short life cycle. According to the Natural Marketing Institute, consumer brand loyalty was down from 51% in 2005 to 44% in 2006. Consumers are more willing to try new products, particularly those perceived as the most innovative or coolest offerings.
“A demonstration of the power of brand-agnostic status can be seen in retailers such as Pac Sun, Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie and Sephora, which experienced double-digit sales growth in 2006,” said Maryellen Molyneaux of the Natural Marketing Institute. “They are able to adapt to the changing trends of consumers with a strategy that protects them against brands that fall out of favor.”
This sense of consumer adventure can translate into increased retail business if a salon keeps its offerings fresh. To find novel products, salons turn to the brands with technically savvy innovations.
“As marketers, we strive to find the balance between the technical discussions for the stylists and the product and lifestyle conversations that appeal to the consumer,” said Green. “When we are successful in communicating both of these directions, we can fully arm the stylists with the tools and communication materials they need to enhance both their service business and their retail business.”
New technologies, including active ingredients and delivery systems, play a part in how products perform to meet consumer needs. Brands use these advances as criteria in determining the course for further development. Additionally, these product choices must pay tribute to consumer needs as well as a particular salon’s menu, allowing the stylist to offer the product in conjunction with a service.
“Consumers respond to a variety of different things, and the most common are brand recognition, professional or personal recommendation and package appeal,” said Green. “A brand like Modern Organic Products appeals to the consumer that is conscious of the trend toward more environmentally friendly products that also provide a modern sense of style, while American Crew makes a bold statement with quality grooming products for men that are uniquely packaged to be masculine.”
The green movement continues to be one of the more dynamic trends garnering positive consumer response, as products appeal to lifestyles and social consciences. This trend has fostered brand stories that appeal to green consumers. Salons can also choose to market themselves as green, appealing to a specific consumer base through organic and natural menus and products.
Brand marketing in the salon arena may be similar to traditional retail, but the pampering experience within a salon can often be the deciding factor for a purchase. The entire ambience of the salon experience, supported by the efficacy of the products, encourages retail purchases and salon loyalty.
“Clients demand that their service and shopping arenas provide comfort and thoughtfulness to their needs. It is crucial for today’s salon to consider the products they sell just as important as the services they provide,” said Green. “These days, time is precious to everyone. And if the consumer doesn’t feel comfortable and can’t find the products they want easily, they will often not purchase products or services.”
As a result, the experience the products create becomes a major selling point for salons and brands. These consumers are willing to spend in order to achieve that relaxing encounter over and over again, but the products must deliver the expected quality and efficacy that triggers the appropriate emotional response.
“If clients have a positive salon visit experience—typically stemming from a solid, trusting relationship with their stylist—they are naturally more apt to purchase products from the same salon that provided them with such an amiable experience,” said Stamey.
Salons provide a unique opportunity for brands to build consumer loyalty through the experience provided by the stylist, and a symbiotic relationship thrives when brands offer the latest technologies and benefits that complement the stylist/consumer relationship.