Marketing Matters: Values Shape Purchasing Styles

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Natural and organic ingredients are gaining influence and becoming more prevalent in the marketplace as consumers become more educated on the effects of the elements applied to their skin. But more than the ingredients in the products themselves, it is a consumer’s culture—and the values and rituals therein—that help to shape an individual’s selections in the bath and body categories.

Hispanic culture and values vary greatly from country to country within Latin America, and again within Latina subcultures in the U.S. In our current caseload, we have observed that sun care products, hair care products—up 281% from 2005 in Brazil alone, according to Euromonitor—and a product segmentation phenomenon are all driving bath and body categories in Brazil and Argentina, while Mexico is seeing growth in products specifically marketed for hair removal.

Central and South American women tend to be very focused on hair type. As a result, they look for shampoos, conditioners and styling products that are specifically geared toward dry, oily or frizzy hair. Procter & Gamble has capitalized on this segmentation by offering niche-specific hair care products in the Pantene Pro-V and Head & Shoulders lines. Additionally, P&G’s Wella Lifetex, Koleton Care and SP families are providing Brazilian and Argentinian women with UV filter protection in shampoo and conditioner, while Wella SP’s Express Cream and Cream Spray are assisting in repairing any hair damage from sun exposure. L’Oréal hair care products also have a strong presence in Brazil and Argentina.

Customer Service Hallmark

For bath and body needs, South American women have a variety of options. Purchasing choices for women in Brazil provide an interesting example of these options. Besides mass retailers such as Carrefour—the world’s second largest retailer behind Wal-Mart, with stores in 30 countries in Europe, Latin America and Asia—and Lojas Americanas, Brazil’s largest nonfood retailer, women in Brazil shop at O Boticário, a homegrown retail franchise. The chain’s 2,000-plus retail stores in Brazil offer a variety of moisturizers, lotions, gels, deodorizing bar soaps, deodorants, body oils and sun protection lotions. Additionally, individualized customer service has become a hallmark of the purchasing experience at O Boticário.

Natura Cosméticos, a direct sales company that began in Brazil in 1969, also offers a host of options for bath and body care. Its Ekos line features hydrating body oils, perfumed body moisturizers, face and body cleansing foam, glycerin soap and cream liquid soap. Most of these products feature extracts of plants and vegetables native to Brazil. Although upscale retailers such as Sephora and Ulta are limited to larger Brazilian cities—São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, for example—specialty retailers stocking salon-quality hair products and imported bath and body products are popular for consumers with disposable income.

Bar soap still holds a grip on the bath and body categories in Latin America. Phebo, a Brazilian glycerine soap once owned by P&G, remains popular because of its variety of luxurious scents. Lux, one of the darlings of the Unilever line since 1924, also sells well, although it tends to have a higher price point than Phebo. Palmolive, primarily a dishwashing and liquid hand soap (SoftSoap) brand in the U.S., has a stake in the bar soap and body wash categories in Latin America, while Zest and Camay are top sellers in Mexico. Due to the high humidity in Latin America, scent and odor control are major factors influencing the choice of body wash and bar soap products; consumers tend to have more options in choosing a fragranced bath and body product than do their U.S. counterparts.

New Kids on the Block

 “We see Brazil’s market growing for more trendy glamour brands like MAC and Estée Lauder,” said Rogério Chain, country manager for Brazil, Estée Lauder. “That’s not just because Brazilian women are considered to be more vain and beauty-conscious than most, but also because of a growing economy. The GDP is expected to rise 3.6% in 2006. We see Brazil the way we see China, India and Russia, as one of the new kids on the block.”

Supporting the claim, Women’s Wear Daily reported 2005 sales of beauty products in Brazil were at $6.3 billion, an increase of 14% over 2004.

Generally, these consumers tend to value interpersonal relationships when selecting products, which might account for the success of direct sales companies such as Avon, with a current sales force of one million consultants in Brazil alone, and Natura, which is gaining market share. However, the U.S. consumer trend of buying in bulk, in warehouse-like retail outlets such as Costco and Sam’s Club, has not extended to Latin America. These consumers tend to buy only what they know they will use. As a result, packages tend to be smaller (200 mL of shampoo vs. 500 mL in the U.S.), and body care products such as razors are purchased individually or in packages of three, not 10.

This group also tend to exhibit brand loyalty, which might account for the continued popularity of Pert in Mexico and Colombia, and Miss Clairol in Mexico.

One study found that Latina women born in the U.S. tend to prefer shopping at mass retailers such as Wal-Mart or Target because their dollars go farther than in specialty shops. However, foreign-born Latina women living in the U.S.  prefer to purchase body care products in a store that both caters to Spanish speakers and offers the most cost-effective setting possible. This trend continues somewhat in the lower socioeconomic echelons of Latin America as well, as Brazilian and Mexican mothers tend to buy body care products marketed toward babies (Johnson & Johnson products, for example) because they are perceived to be the most gentle on the skin, and it is less expensive to buy one product that the entire family can use than to purchase multiple products for different family members.

Skin care still trumps body care overall in China and in Japan, as Japanese women are accustomed to a seven- or eight-step skin care ritual, and Chinese women are beginning to augment their cleanse and moisturize routines with toners and nourishers. Estée Lauder executive Cedric Prouvé predicts that China will be in the top three beauty markets globally within the next three to five years, as appearance is a growing concern among Chinese women. Brazil, Russia, India and China are seen as the top four emerging global markets.

Direct sales were prohibited in China by the government in 1998. The ban, which was recently lifted, had created a unique hybrid experience for Avon product sales—boutiques staffed by direct sales representatives and retail counters in department stores—while most Chinese women purchased skin and body care products at hypermarkets or in retail locations. Avon sales have increased 24% in China since the ban’s removal. Asian women also display unmistakable brand loyalty. Pert, for example, which is known as “Rejoice” in China, is extremely popular and is considered a high-end shampoo brand there.

Japan used to be a direct sales powerhouse, but with more women staying in the workforce after marriage, the direct sales channel is declining. Most products are now purchased at convenience and drug stores.

Just as rituals and values differ between countries and cultures, bath and body products do as well. To best capitalize on a specific market in Latin America or in Asia, it is vital to remain cognizant of the underlying perceptions and cultural differences that consumers bring with them to the retail counter, the mass marketer or the direct sales appointment.

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