St. Ives Hits Refresh

Alberto Culver is looking to create a sexier image for its St. Ives brand via a new body care campaign.

The push, created by Arnold, New York, is the first new work by the agency since it landed creative duties on Alberto Culver’s St. Ives, Nexxus and Noxzema brands in June. Until now, the consumer products company, which is being acquired by Unilever, had mainly advertised St. Ives body wash and facial care products. In fact, there hasn’t been a campaign for St. Ives body care products in nearly four years.

Despite limited ad support and flat sales in the lotions category, “consumers kept coming back to our products,” said Cynthia Rolfe, vp of skin care at Alberto Culver. Rolfe said consumers are drawn to the brand’s use of natural ingredients — such as cucumber, cocoa butter and aloe — and the end result: “Skin that looks and feels great.”

But getting that message across to consumers will be a challenge. The skin care sector is mature and “it’s not so easy to innovate in,” said Mintel senior beauty analyst Taya Tomasello.

Rolfe is aware of the category’s limitations. Current lotions on the market are either “too greasy” or have a “medicinal or therapeutic smell,” she said of common consumer complaints. When they do seek a lotion and its moisturizing benefits, Rolfe added, it’s mainly for refreshing or preventing aging.

In its new campaign, Alberto Culver showcases the benefits of St. Ives — mainly natural ingredients and value — but with a flirty twist. One TV spot, for instance, relays the happy and healthy feeling consumers get from applying St. Ives lotions by showing dancing “hands, shoulders, knees and toes.” (TV spots have started airing already.)

The ads are different in tone from the usual St. Ives advertising, said Mintel’s Tomasello. “When you think of the St. Ives brand, you don’t think of sexy, fun or flirty, but the ads plays up that image for the brand,” she said. “[Younger consumers] realize that skin care is not something that she needs to be super serious and negative about, especially not when it comes to body care.”

Television aside, Alberto Culver is running print ads in the November issues of Self, InStyle and Real Simple. One ad highlighting its Oatmeal & Shea Butter product shows a woman relaxing in a hammock. The copy reads: “It’s not just what you put in your body — what you put on your body counts too.”

Playing up the good-for-you aspects of St. Ives is a smart move, Tomasello said. According to the analyst, the “natural” product pitch is a top category driver.

Alberto Culver spent $7.7 million advertising its St. Ives business in 2009, though most of that spending went toward its facial skin care business, per the Nielsen Co. Through July of this year, the brand had $4.3 million in measured media spending, excluding online.

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