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A Market Fit—The Evolution of Deodorants and Antiperspirants

Abby Penning
  • The deodorant/antiperspirant segment, a highlight of the 2008–2009 beauty market, has found ways to expand and reinvent, even in mature markets.
  • Focusing on different product experiences, such as scent and packaging elements, can give new life to commodity products such as antiperspirants and deodorants.
  • Innovative marketing efforts can spur new interest in brands and products that have long been a staple on beauty aisle shelves.

Commodity beauty products such as toothpaste, shaving cream and deodorants/antiperspirants enjoy a specific niche of the market, helping to maintain a level of staying power despite economic ups and downs or industry shifts. Although consumer loyalty to a particular brand or product is never a guarantee, even in a commodity-driven niche, people will likely keeping purchasing these products, even if they have to trade down to maintain a particular price point justification.

This is perhaps among the reasons why deodorants/antiperspirants were, according to Euromonitor International, among the star performers in 2008–2009, proving to be more resistant to the global economic downturn than the entire beauty market overall.

Euromonitor stats point out that deodorants/antiperspirants had global value growth of 7% in 2008–2009, lifted because of increased interest in the markets of Asia and Africa/Middle East, as well as the continuation of the importance of deodorants and body sprays as fragrance substitutes in Latin America.

The global shift of deodorant and antiperspirant products as items that were little used to products more and more of the world’s consumers are incorporating into their lives and needing on a daily basis is also continuing, keeping this niche a viable market and an area for brand owners to continue to focus on.

Growing Apart

Other than the continued penetration into world markets where deodorant and antiperspirant use was previously less pervasive, marketing efforts are also being initiated in more mature regions such as the U.S. to keep particular deodorant/antiperspirant products in consumers’ line of sight.

Nearly all of the top deodorant/antiperspirant lines focus on value-added products, featuring ingredients, formulations and design that fight odor and perspiration—with some lines even offering “clinical strength” options—treat skin with moisturizing and nourishing benefits, elements that lessen underarm hair, and even feature long-lasting formulas and antiaging benefits. They also offer different aesthetically pleasing options as well, working to not leave white residue on the skin and clothes and, perhaps a key signature in marketing differences, the availability of different signature scents and fragrances.

And while these features can be seen as being appealing across gender lines, antiperspirants and deodorants are increasingly an area where beauty products are distinctly separating themselves into very gender-specific options. An example that places this issue in stark relief is the product line Sure. Originally created by Unilever, the deodorant/antiperspirant line debuted in 1973 as a dual-gender brand, growing through developments of roll-on and solid formulation technologies, making its mark with distinctive marketing campaigns and maintaining a presence on mass-market store shelves through 2006, when the brand was purchased by Innovative Brands The line’s new owner then went on to develop a Sure for Men line, in addition to its traditional gender-neutral options, debuting the male-centric products in 2009. Then, in 2010, the new Sure for Women line was also introduced, in addition to a formula upgrade for Sure for Men.

With these product line announcements in early 2010, as well as the announcement that the Sure brand was sold to Helen of Troy in March 2010, the brand focused on addressing concerns universal to each gender—namely, wetness and odor protection—while also allowing each specific line to focus on the particular needs of the gender for which it was designed. The women’s line features antioxidant skin conditioners such as vitamins A and E and aloe vera, and is available in three scents—Citrus Escape, Sparkling Bloom and Fresh Essence—as well as an unscented option. The men’s line’s features include microencapsulated fragrances that release over time, and three scents—Outdoor Sport, the Mountain Frost and Crisp Breeze.

Each product line, while sharing similar logos and design components, also features colors specified to not only reflect the scent contained in each particular SKU but also shades that are more male- or female-friendly, depending on the product’s intended audience.

The new line announcements also included the launch of the brand’s “Battle of the Sexes” marketing campaign. The centerpiece of the Battle of the Sexes campaign is, a Web site where men and women can answer trivia questions and compete against the opposite gender for points to win monthly prizes and eventually be entered to win the grand prize in December 2010—a women’s adventure trip for two, as well as a corresponding trip for men.

The Web site component of the marketing campaign is an interesting element, somewhat similar to the packaging efforts, as it brings both genders to the same destination for product information and interaction with the product and the contest, but still singles out each of the lines as products with their own gender-specific reaches, interests and benefits. It’s a nod to the original gender-neutrality of the Sure brand while also recognizing the growing development of the men’s and women’s deodorant/antiperspirant markets as independent of each other.

The progression of the Sure brand from a gender-neutral product to one that now markets its products as highly distinct indicates the growth of the deodorant/antiperspirant market, as well as the realization that the men’s and women’s beauty care markets grow and operate independently of each other, even within a niche as small as deodorants/antiperspirants. With the men’s market currently on an upswing, marketing efforts from multinational companies to small operations focus on the ingredients and formulations in both men’s and women’s deodorants and antiperspirants that do relatively the same thing, in addition to those all-important differences—including fragrances, packaging colors and design, and even marketing channels.

Making the Most of a Market

Key differences in the way to reach and speak to men and women when selling beauty products are nothing new, but applying them in such specific and distinct ways in products that include many of the same benefits and features shows a new way brand owners can leverage a product and present it in a vastly different light to a vastly different audience.

While similar ingredients treat the wetness and odor problems both sexes are looking to quell with deodorants and antiperspirants, the additions of different fragrances, skin-soothing ingredients and packaging components give a basic product a new life to a whole new set of consumers. Thinking about the differences between consumers—and not just between men and women, but also young and old, highly product-conscious and those who use products little—can open up a range of new avenues to beauty brand owners for a variety of products.

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