Bold moves open up Fleet’s portfolio to new audiences
Jennifer Cheslock, 21, never goes anywhere without her Summer’s Eve products. They are in her gym bag and in her apartment at college. And it isn’t something she learned from her mom — her friends suggested the brand.
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And that’s just what C.B. Fleet Company had in mind when the company decided to target millennials. “About three years ago, we decided to roll the dice and reposition a brand that was [already] doing pretty well,” said Bruce Montgomery, VP of North American and South American sales. Among the strategies were bold colors, an “off-the-wall” advertising campaign and stepped-up social media, which all helped boost sales of Summer’s Eve. “And if you wanted to sum it up, it is because of the younger women, say 20 to 35. It’s gone from Summer’s Eve — why to why not?”
Fleet hit upon a receptive audience of young women who love an abundance of toiletries and grooming aids. Studies conducted by Fleet revealed women in the target range had an average of eight different products in their showers. “So why couldn’t Summer’s Eve cloths just be something in the gym bag, or our powder or our wash or our sprays?”
Fleet began to break down barriers, and the payoff has been encouraging with sales that have doubled in four years in a brand with a long and strong heritage.
Other products in the portfolio also have benefitted from addressing the New General Market. An example is Boudreaux’s brand of baby products. The packaging is bright yellow, red and green — colors that attract young moms at the point of sale. “Reaching the Boudreaux’s mom today [is] all about online and … what your friends say. When we were having our kids, the hospital gave you a big jug of Desitin and you didn’t even think that there was another brand you would use. So it has changed,” he said.
Having an interactive strategy is paramount with the New General Market as an avenue to provide feedback to consumer inquiries. In the old days, letters to companies often were ignored. That doesn’t work anymore, and it’s not an option.
Today’s consumers want interaction at all times — whether that is in a store or online. There’s also mounting demand for brands to stand for something, and altruistic efforts also are no longer just a nice extra.
The measure of success for Fleet stretches beyond the cash register. Other indicators include a positive buzz in the community with consumers giving feedback and the trade sharing positive vibes. It is important to listen to consumer attitudes, even any negatives, for full transparent communications. “I tell my group all the time, you can monitor your numbers, you can see where you are relative to goals, you can show up, you can write letters — but you’ve got to care. So if you really care about what you’re doing and you care about winning and you market to the consumer properly, I think that that’s huge for you,” Montgomery said.
There’s been more change in just the past few years than the last 10 years, illustrating that marketing plans can’t be static. “All of us as product marketers, we’re all on a continuum from brand awareness to brand preference to ultimately brand insistence. And when you get people seeking out, ‘Where can I get this?’ or ‘Where did you get that?’ that’s not success because you’ve got to be on the edge of your seat. Right now you’re having some success, but the minute you kind of sit back [and get] comfortable, someone’s going to pass you.”
DenTek does more than sell merchandise
Being consistent is good, but you need to be consistently great to keep up with today’s New General Market, according to Dave Fox, president and CEO of DenTek Oral Care.
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A best practice at DenTek is to care, a concept that sounds so simple but in reality takes many moving pieces to master. “It starts at the top, and I’ve got to care more than anybody else. I’ve got to move faster than anybody else, and that’ll set the tone,” he explained. Caring also involves a deep dive into the community. “We monitor everything. All the posts, all the phone calls, all the letters. This is how you get a sense over time if you’re doing the right thing and how consumers talk to you and how involved they are with the brand. It really is about a relationship; it’s not just about selling to someone,” Fox said.
Fox said he is a fan of old-fashioned metrics even if the gauges are such new-world technologies as Facebook. He stays on top of how many Facebook likes the company gets, how many people opt into the email database, how many people open the emails and how many people view videos. “Because ultimately, people vote not just with their wallets, but with their eyes, with their pens, with their emails,” Fox said, noting that although it is still about sales and profits, there is value in a positive buzz.
Although DenTek exists in a mature category, the company is gaining traction with younger consumers through an acquisition made six months ago called Orabrush, a tool to scrape accumulation off of the tongue. The product has a following with 18 to 24 year olds, especially those dating and concerned with bad breath. “A fun fact: In 2010, 97% of all the paid search on YouTube was for one brand — Orabrush. They were the first brand to use YouTube for paid search — 45 million views —which is like a billion times more than any DenTek product cumulatively,” Fox recalled. “So we bought that business to really help us understand how consumers — people — use YouTube to become involved with products. And we’re now taking that learning and trying to apply that across other products within our product line.”
DenTek often turns to consumers to help design products. According to Fox, the company monitors social media and reviews every 800 call. “We try to read every review and everything that’s said about our products, and actually use that input. We humble ourselves and say, ‘How can we make our products better?’ And as a result, we probably upgrade every one of the 30 or 40 products in our line every 18 months. Because we can’t imagine what they’re going to say, what they’re thinking when we develop a product. We develop the best we can, we put it out there and we say, ‘You know what? We can make it better, and here’s why.’”
As a smaller company, DenTek also is a “challenger” brand. It doesn’t have the bountiful budgets of big competitors. The company now allocates a significant portion of its budget to social media. While that doesn’t negate TV, it is a tool to target the desired audience. Fox said it is crucial to find the right way and right place to talk to consumers. And that’s not always just millennials.
“Our business has always been about the psychographic; it’s never been about the demographic. It’s the highly involved oral care consumer, and that can be a 6 year old whose parents are active flossers and they start flossing when they’re very young. It could be the teenager who has braces or the person who comes back from the periodontist and realizes they’re going to lose their teeth if they don’t start using an interdental brush. But wherever they are, whatever life stage they’re at, that’s our consumer.”
The concept of authenticity so much discussed when marketing to the New General Market doesn’t stop with consumers, he added. Retailers also have the proverbial “BS” meter, too. “[Retailers] force us to be on our game,” he said.
Winning with the New General Market: The incremental value of inclusion
Over the past 15 years, studies have indicated how different America will look in the future — in 2020, 2040, 2050 and beyond. However, the United States isn’t on the brink of change. It has indeed already changed well beyond demographics, and the cultural shift that we are now witnessing will continue as a defining part of the landscape and future of the nation.
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So, what does this mean for the beauty industry? As manufacturers and brands, we have an extraordinary opportunity to shift how we approach and serve all of our consumers and, as a result, reshape the beauty landscape from one of standardized ideals to one of inclusive representations.
I have often said that the only place in America where segregation is still legal is in the beauty aisle. So, at Sundial, we transformed our General Market approach to a New General Market journey more than two decades ago, first using this term to describe our community of consumers more than 10 years ago. We recognized early on with our SheaMoisture and Nubian Heritage brands that little value existed — for our global community, our business and our industry — to operate within the constructs and constraints of traditional segmentation and the myopic labeling that often results.
As such, we have defined the New General Market as an amalgamation of cultures, ethnicities and demographics aligned against commonalities, need states and lifestyles. For us, the most important part of this definition is commonalities. It is not a segmentation approach; it is an approach of inclusion. It also is not part of a multicultural or ethnic strategy; it is a multi-need strategy in which the heterogeneity within populations and the similarities across populations are simultaneously acknowledged and understood. We all share very common needs, and when we begin to focus on what those are, we can begin to solve for much larger population sizes and serve consumers in a much more meaningful and relevant way.
In fact, women are telling us that they choose beauty products not based on race or ethnicity, but on desired benefits. In a May 2015 study commissioned by Sundial and conducted by Global Research Partners, we found that half of women said they engage with beauty based on hair or skin type, or beauty need. Only 7% said they engage based on race.
But our own family taught us the lesson of commonalities first. My grandfather was white, and my grandmother, who was from Sierra Leone, was left to raise four mixed-race children in the 1940s in a rural village in West Africa after becoming a young widow. To support her family, she made natural skin and hair care preparations and sold them primarily to missionaries, as well as villagers. Through both her personal experiences and her experiences as a village merchant, she learned — and taught me early on — that with an efficacious natural product, the consumer is very broad, and not to be typecast. This is the legacy of my family and of the brands we build at Sundial.
I was born and raised in Liberia and came to America to attend college. When I graduated in 1991, Liberia was in a civil war, and I was unable to return home. It was then that I started Sundial with my college roommate and my mother, and we began selling soaps developed from my grandmother’s recipes on the streets of New York City. As our company grew and we began growing our family stateside, our different cultural influences and walks of life helped us better understand the criticality of an inclusive point of view. With heritages ranging from Liberian and Sierra Leonean to Irish, Swedish, German, Indian, Filipino and beyond, no one in our family looks the same — but they often desire the same benefits.
Our community has continued to teach us that there are far more similarities in what they desire — and the solutions we provide — than there are differences based on culture, ethnicity or demographics. Because of this, we fundamentally believe that the United States is the New General Market. By focusing on the unmet needs of consumers who want better and more products to address their specific issues, we can all begin to serve New General Market consumers in ways that bring more value to them and that uncover significantly greater incremental value and opportunities than yesterday’s general market versus multicultural approach.
When we engage with segmentation strategies, we tend to look at data. Granted, we have a lot of it. But while there are certainly many proper uses of data, the New General Market approach mandates that we first think about and have honest engagement with our consumers as “real” people.
What do they need? What are they feeling? What are they experiencing? How do they want to be acknowledged? What can we do to create more meaningful engagement for and with them? In turn, what are we solving for, and most importantly, how will we achieve it for the benefit of our consumers?
By acknowledging needs first, we are able to identify connection points among all people, not the differences between them — whether African-American, Latino, Asian, Caucasian or others. Consider this: Many preferences or issues that have long been perceived as “ethnic” are not just important to multicultural communities. Research that we commissioned in 2013 from Global Research Partners found that while such preferences as “all natural” and such issues as thick/ curly/wavy hair and blemishes and scarring of skin may be more prevalent in multicultural groups, the actual number of whites who say they have the same issues often is more than double that of the multicultural populations. In the case of thick/curly/wavy hair, the total market opportunity includes almost 100 million people with the same or similar needs — far more than any one segment represents. In addition to better serving our consumers, when we begin to focus on the total needs-benefits market and how to solve for those unique issues, we also start to see new avenues for growth. For all of us, it’s win-win.
Our greatest success as a company has come because we have been consistently unwavering in our passion for our communities in reimagined marketplaces. I believe our greatest success as an industry will come when we collectively embrace the concept that every consumer deserves the best options for their needs, whether in product development, marketing or merchandising.
The idea here is not to reach alignment or consensus around our approach. It is to help our industry peers and partners think differently about strategies to develop new and different solutions for how we all serve our consumers — not just a few or the largest segment, but all of them.
I hope you’ll join us on the New General Market journey.