Cast-Off P&G Brand Gets The Restyling Treatment

Infusium 23, a brand Procter & Gamble cast off earlier this year, is getting restyled by its new owner, Helen of Troy.

That company, best known for its hair care appliances, is breaking a campaign hyping the brand  as “The One.”

The push is the first the 85-year-old brand has gotten in years. P&G spent just $600,000  promoting Infusium 23 in 2008, excluding online, per Nielsen. Helen of Troy, which makes Revlon hair dryers and Dr. Scholl’s foot spas, bought the brand in March.

Since then, the personal care products maker has been studying the needs of the modern day Infusium 23 consumer, with hopes of eventually hitting the $40 million annual sales benchmark. The effort begins with TV spots launching this week.

“Meet the one,” says a TV ad that shows models toying with their hair against a clean, white background. They compare the brand’s virtues with that of the perfect boyfriend. Infusium 23 is “the one that treats you right,” is “there for you everyday” and “the one you can’t live without,” the actresses in the spot say.

Marc Broccoli, hair care marketing director at Idelle Labs, a division of Helen of Troy, said the approach plays on the anxiety women feel when shopping in the hair care aisle.

“They are on a constant quest for the perfect product to give them a good hair day, but none of them feel they’ve found it,” Broccoli, a veteran of P&G and Clairol, said of the company’s research. “When they walk into the aisle, all they see is colors, price differences and all these claims. But what they’re really looking for is ‘the one.’”

The result is a multitude of products women keep in their bathrooms and closets. “It’s a graveyard of products they’ve tried and never use [again],” he said.

The campaign spans TV, print, digital and out-of-home advertising, with agencies KSL Media, WMI and the Madison Avenue Consortium handling the launch.

Infusium 23 started as a salon brand, known mostly for its leave-in treatments. In 1986, the brand hit retail outlets through then-owner Clairol, Bristol-Myers Squibb’s personal care products unit, which P&G acquired in 2001.

Since then, Infusium 23 has faced an uphill challenge, with new owners P&G and now Helen of Troy trying to make the brand more mainstream. At $6 to $8 a bottle, it competes with P&G’s Pantene, Alberto Culver’s Tresemme and Nexxus. Though as a brand, “it’s always stayed pretty niche,” said Ralph Blessing, a former Unilever hair care innovation director. He is now senior partner and managing director at GfK Strategic Innovation.

Blessing noted that the campaign carries a “simplicity” theme, and is therefore a “throwback” to the old days of hair care marketing, when brands weren’t so focused on segmentation. The positioning, however, may not be enough. “It just makes the claim that, ‘We’re the one. We’ve got this proven technology.’…[But] everyone is trying to say, ‘We’re the one. Buy my brand.’ But why?” he asked.

Another hitch: Infusium 23 is coming up against big name beauty stalwarts. Cast-off brands like Pert Plus, Finesse and Prell have largely failed to attain the same level of success they had under their previous owners. The reasons? A generic brand positioning, no  appreciable spending and a lack of innovation, Blessing said.

“How  many big brands have come back?” he asked, adding that Pantene, which P&G expanded from a department store brand, seems to be the exception to the rule.