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Consumer-driven Change

Alexandra Voigt
  • The hair care market has changed from one of pure function and cleanliness to addressing specific hair problems and concerns.
  • Keeping target consumers and their needs forefront in the brand-building process is key, and putting the power in the hands of the consumer means investing in them first.
  • As in the wider hair care market, consumer demand for products with more natural and organic ingredients is among the drivers of change in the ethnic hair care market.

As the market for ethnic and multicultural hair products continues to grow, companies are finding new ways to market products based on addressing consumer demands and concerns. This dynamic approach allows companies to stay current with trends and also establish brands and products that focus on the consumer.

Crème of Nature is familiar with the importance of keeping the consumer involved in the process. The brand has maintained a presence in the multicultural marketplace for more than 30 years.

Shawn Tollerson, vice president of multicultural marketing at Colomer USA, notes, “Since the brand’s launch, the multicultural marketplace has become much more competitive, with the multicultural consumer having many options to choose from. In addition, consumers have evolved and are wearing their hair in a multitude of styles, which requires products that will help them to have the healthiest head of hair possible.” To maintain and grow their presence in an ever-changing market, the company recently updated the packaging and launched a new campaign utilizing social media mediums.

The social media campaign was created to highlight how consumers feel about the product rather than how the brand believes consumers should feel about the product. The campaign demonstrates how Crème of Nature consumers, salon professionals and beauty bloggers feel about the brand. “The new campaign has been nothing short of inspiring,” says Tollerson. “The testimonials are all heartfelt and a way for consumers to let the world know which products in the Crème of Nature portfolio works best for their hair and particular style creation.”

The company has also begun doing significant sampling, allowing consumers to try products and see for themselves the moisturizing benefits of the line. The company has put the power back in the hands of the consumer by investing in them first.

Mixed Chicks, too, is utilizing consumer opinion and demand to drive marketing. The company is based on the principle of consumer demand, starting with the wants and needs of the creators themselves. For founders Wendy Levy and Kim Etheredge, the creation of Mixed Chicks was not based on sales projections or market research; it was purely personal. Neither Levy nor Etheredge were from the beauty industry, but they shared a common problem—how to control and style their curly hair. Levy had created her own blend of roughly 10 different products to achieve the style she wanted, while Etheredge was constantly on the lookout. Levy notes, “We created Mixed Chicks for ourselves and our friends based on what works for us. We saw a product, then found a market.”

The needs of the consumer base (the brand driver) were also the foundation of the marketing strategy. Rather than creating full-sized products, the brand utilized samples and word-of-mouth to create buzz. Leveraging Etheredge’s public relations connections, Mixed Chicks received a major boost when celebrities began mentioning the product in magazine interviews. “Tracee Ellis Ross mentioned that she used and loved the product, and Halle Berry listed it as one of her beauty must-haves,” says Levy.

In addition to the celebrity buzz, Levy attributes the brand’s success to the fact that the brand is not marketed to any one specific audience. “The world is mixed. This product is for anyone with curly hair. The name helped with brand identity. People can relate to us and that’s why they love the product.”

Natural Demand

Consumer demand for products with more natural and organic ingredients also among the drivers of change in the ethnic hair care market. Crème of Nature had been working on incorporating more natural and organic ingredients into the brand for some time, so the new emphasis on natural and organic in the marketplace was helpful for the campaigns to support that brand effort.

“It is simply a natural connection for the Crème of Nature brand to incorporate certified organic ingredients into our products,” says Tollerson. “It is also a plus for us in that the increased demand for natural products has become much more prevalent.”

“Natural and organic ingredients continue to grow in popularity as consumers become more aware of environmental and ethical issues,” says Victoria Royster, senior customer sales and support specialist for AkzoNobel Global Personal Care. “The key to the success of these ingredients is to create finished products with them that still meet the performance requirements of the consumer.”

“Croda has and will always continue to offer products that fit the natural and organic claims,” says Jena Kinney, marketing manager, hair care, Croda. “This is true for the ethnic market as well. We continue to seek innovative technologies to fit these natural claims, while offering functional solutions to consumer needs. Most of these types of chemistries are marketed in Croda’s green and formulary guides where customers can make their product selections based on individual formulation needs.”

The Ingredient Side

The hair care market has changed from one of pure function and cleanliness to addressing specific hair problems and concerns. The demand is for products to create and maintain better appearance and style, and this consumer demand is influencing the nature and marketing of the products—as well as impacting the ingredients.

The dynamic approach of developing based on consumer concerns and demands is not limited to brand owners—it is approach that ingredient companies are using to drive creation as well. AkzoNobel Global Personal Care’s Royster notes that the company utilized data gathered from salons, as well as consumer demand for products without harsh ingredients. “In the past, consumers were using products that often had very harsh ingredients,” says Royster. “Today, they are looking for products that will be easier on their hair and will help treat past damage.”

International Specialty Products Inc. (ISP) is also utilizing consumer input as it creates ingredients designed for hair with specific needs and concerns. The company recently introduced the BioHAIRapy line of biofunctional extracts, created to target the hair follicle. “We believe these hair follicle-focused ingredients will help consumers achieve not only really beautiful hair but also strong, healthy strands that are fortified deep inside,” says Jim Mish, senior vice president/general manger, personal care, ISP.

Utilizing consumer feedback as a means of developing or refining a brand message, product or ingredient is certainly not new, but, in this social media age, is now critical in cultivating consumer attention, interaction and brand loyalty. Consumer influence on the creation of new ingredients and product lines in the multicultural marketplace will likely continue to unfold based on the success rate of organizations bold enough to adopt the idea. Ethnic hair care consumers face a multitude of products and choices, and it is a company’s ability to recognize, respond and react to that fact which will ultimately set them apart.

For more insight from AkzoNobel, Croda and ISP, please click here.

Alexandra Voigt is a freelance writer for GCI magazine.

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