Profile: Hair to Stay—The Story of a Relaunch

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Eugene Zeffren Profile

Collecting authentic Pink Floyd records may help some music fans slip into sentimentality, but what would happen if the band suddenly reunited and began recording new songs? The analogy is similar to what has the beauty world buzzing this spring. Hair care brand Salon Selectives, which reached popularity in the 1980s and 1990s, is back on store shelves with a new look and a new attitude.

Female consumers may feel nostalgic seeing the aromatic line of shampoos, conditioners and styling products at supermarkets and drugstores nationwide this year. Eugene Zeffren, former president of Helene Curtis and CEO of Chicago’s entrepreneurial company, SBB LLC, has researched, revamped and relaunched the brand, founded by Helene Curtis Inc. in 1987 and later acquired by Unilever in 1996. Members of the beauty industry could not have foreseen that Salon Selectives would be discontinued in 2004, only to return four years later—more poised than ever to tackle its retail competition.

But Zeffren and his colleagues did their homework and discovered that 80% of women are still fans of the products—kind of like the die-hard Floyd followers who would love to see the band perform again. So SBB, a company founded in 2007 that acquires and revitalizes undervalued brands in the personal care category, accepted the challenge to reintroduce Salon Selectives to the market.

“When we acquired the brand, we were pretty certain that it would be successful, because everyone on our team had worked on it previously at Helene Curtis or Unilever, and we knew what a powerful brand it had been,” says Zeffren. At its peak, the brand had a 6.5% market share and annual sales totaling $275 million. For the relaunch, SBB repackaged the products and created new formulas that consumers can mix and match according to their own specific needs. The revitalized brand features a line of three shampoos, four conditioners and nine styling products.

“Salon Selectives’ core proposition—‘customized care for salon beautiful hair’—continues to be as relevant and distinct today as it ever was,” says Zeffren. “The promise of looking and feeling like you just stepped out of a salon really resonates with women, and the personalization aspect of the brand empowers women to select just the right products for their unique hair issues. In addition, the brand’s signature apple scent is fondly remembered and still very appealing.”

Targeting a female audience in their 30s, Zeffren says an advertising campaign with “stylish, confident and approachable” spokeswomen, and a new Web site, will embody the brand’s personality to attract consumers. The kicker is a specially designed, interactive online “Hairometer” that allows women to find the Salon Selectives products especially for their hair textures and styles.

There is also a community forum online for hair care chat. “We will be constantly working to keep the Web site fresh and engaging, with new content, offers and downloads,” says Zeffren. “We will post our TV commercials there, as well as coupons and sweepstakes, and we will provide hair care tips and tricks and stylist advice.”

As for future brand growth, Zeffren says his team is already working on product innovations for 2009 and 2010. Unlike Unilever’s failed attempt to reposition Salon Selectives as a global brand for teens, according to Zeffren, the brand’s fresh face for the new millennium hopes to prove that reunions—whether musical or commercial—can be successful. “Our colleagues in the industry have been very positive about the brand’s potential to make a comeback,” Zeffren says. The next 12 months should offer some insight into whether or not he’s right.
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