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Happier Days for Hair Care?

By: Briony Davies
Posted: September 2, 2008, from the September 2006 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Although growth potential is high in the less mature regions, manufacturers must continue developing their product ranges in the U.S., the U.K., France and Japan to keep a foothold in the global market. The rising disposable income of tweens and teens is creating distinct consumer segments in these countries.

Men’s hair care also presents an area of opportunity that is relatively untapped. The majority of men’s hair care consists of male-focused colorants to hide gray. However, this market is nearing maturity. The majority of potential for growth lies with male-focused shampoos, conditioners and styling products. For the most part, male-specific shampoos and conditioners have yet to meet with great success. There is a needs-based question here. Unlike deodorants, where manufacturers have convinced men and women that they need separate products, that division has not been established with shampoos and conditioners. Were manufacturers to push to convince men that unisex shampoos were not strong enough for their hair, there might be greater segmentation and development of a new category.

The Fall of the Mega Brand?

The expansion of hair care lines into a broader range of products has been apparent throughout the past year with the rise of the mega brand. Major players such as Shiseido, Avon, Unilever and Procter & Gamble chose to focus innovation on a handful of high-impact brands. Brands have been split into new categories and extended into different sectors to scoop up sales and broaden appeal among a wider consumer base. The theory is that manufacturers can milk broader industry trends and target new lucrative groups such as ethnics, teens and tweens, and grays while reinforcing brand equity. In the U.S. and Western Europe, in particular, ethnic consumers have become an important niche for mainstream manufacturers. L’Oréal has a Chicago-based center that does nothing but research ethnic hair and skin, and P&G’s Pantene Pro-V has a complete range of products for the ethnic consumer. Given the potential for this segment, manufacturers cannot afford to ignore a lucrative group. By professing expertise in Hispanic hair, straight hair, long hair and so on, however, it remains to be seen whether these companies run the risk of losing credibility by overextending products and their images.