Hawaiian Tropic and Banana Boat Adjust Marketing for a Different Sort of Summer

Parent company Edgewell Personal Care prepares for sunny days without the beach

hawaiian tropic candle
Hawaiian Tropic has released a scented candle meant to remind people of the beach. Edgewell Personal Care
Headshot of Paul Hiebert

Temperatures are rising. Memorial Day is around the corner. Cool summer cocktails on a lazy afternoon feel just a moment away.

With states opening up again, Edgewell Personal Care is increasingly optimistic about its ability to move its seasonal grooming products despite the pandemic being anything but a distant memory.

“As we assess consumer demand in this Covid-19 environment, we anticipate growing headwinds in our North American sun care business, particularly in the event of a prolonged impact on the summer travel and holiday season,” said CEO Rod Little in an earnings call with analysts earlier this month.

To date, he added, there have been “no initial indications of any changes in retailer focus or prioritization, which is very encouraging.”

In its 2019 fiscal year, Edgewell’s sun and skincare segment, which includes Hawaiian Tropic and Banana Boat, generated 22% of the company’s $2.14 billion in net sales. (Edgewell’s multiple product offerings include razor purveyor Schick and feminine care brands Carefree and Playtex.) Recent SEC filings state that, due to the seasonal nature of this segment and the impact of stay-at-home measures on travel plans and outdoor activities, Edgewell expects a decline in demand this time around.

Last year, brands within the sunblock category dedicated the vast majority (87%) their total marketing spend to May and June, according to ad intelligence firm MediaRadar.

Additional figures from online analytics platform SimilarWeb show that, while search trends have been ticking upward as restrictions begin to ease, online searches for “sunscreen,” along with related keywords and phrases, are about 45% lower than they were at this time in 2019.

Anastasia Tobias, director of marketing at Edgewell Personal Care, said much of the company’s strategy going into this season has been reassessed due to the rapidly changing landscape brought about by the pandemic.

“We had to adapt a lot of our messaging, in tonality and in visuals, to be more sensitive to the fact that people aren’t going to be going out to concerts or crowded beaches this summer,” Tobias said.

On the brand level, that’s meant thinking of new ways to reach consumers and revamping creative assets.

Hawaiian Tropic has released a candle that emits the product’s signature smell. Titled Beachside (Inside), the limited-edition candle is available on eBay for $25. The brand is donating all proceeds to the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the nation’s beaches.

Scented candles have become a popular promotional tactic over the past year, with brands such as KFC and Dunkin’ introducing their own versions. And while Hawaiian Tropic has contemplated making a themed candle in prior seasons, it’s always passed on the opportunity—until now.

“With Covid-19 hitting, we just felt it was really the right time for the brand to lean in and do something,” Tobias said. “It’s a way for you to bring the outside in. Not everyone’s comfortable and wants to go to the beach at this point in time.”

To help market the product, the brand has shipped the candle to a handful of influencers and plans to post about it on its social platforms.

Another Edgewell brand that depends on people heading outdoors is Banana Boat. This time last year, Banana Boat’s social channels were promoting the hashtag #LetsGetOutside. In 2020, the brand is taking a different approach.

In mid-May, the sunscreen line debuted a campaign called #ProtectTheFun. A 15-second video features scenes of parents and children running through a sprinkler in the backyard, skipping rope on the sidewalk and splashing around in an inflatable pool. The spot was created by MullenLowe and is scheduled to appear on network TV, digital and OTT.

Banana Boat

According to Tobias, this was not the initial creative vision. Originally, the ad contained footage of life pre-Covid-19, such as people at an amusement park. In light of the outbreak, her team decided to replace all material deemed inappropriate with more accurate representations of what people will likely be doing this summer, such as sticking closer to home.

Ultimately, Tobias would like to see Edgewell’s products freed from the summer months.

“Sun care is skincare,” she said, “and we believe that people should be using skincare all the time.”

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@hiebertpaul paul.hiebert@adweek.com Paul Hiebert is a CPG reporter at Adweek, where he focuses on data-driven stories that help illustrate changes in consumer behavior and sentiment.