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Clairol, Inc.'s Herbal Essence was a top-ranked shampoo in the 1970s. Although it retained a following in California, by the 1990s it had dropped in popularity elsewhere. In 1994 Clairol introduced a new Herbal Essences brand that offered a variety of shampoos and conditioners made from organic materials. Other Herbal Essences hair-care products followed. Instead of imitating the marketing strategy of other shampoo brands, Clairol, a subsidiary of Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, wanted to advertise the sensual experience of washing hair, not how its shampoo made hair shiny or silky. Hoping to increase sales and make the Herbal Essences brand stand out against the noise of competing advertisers, Clairol introduced a campaign titled "Totally Organic."
The print, television, and radio campaign, created by the ad agency Wells Rich Greene BDDP in New York, was released in 1994. Adweek estimated its budget to be between $15 million and $20 million. The natural makeup of the new shampoos was a strong selling point, but it was advertisements using sexual humor that helped Herbal Essences gain recognition over other environmentally sound competitors. Commercials featured women who simulated sexual ecstasy while shampooing their hair, usually in a public setting such as a crowded super market. The campaign shifted its strategy in 2000, when pop singer Britney Spears recorded a song for Herbal Essences titled "I've Got the Urge to Herbal" and posed for print ads. Her contribution lowered the campaign's female target age range from 18 to 49 down to 16 to 49. Despite the brand's ownership changing hands and the campaign being transferred to a second ad agency, "Totally Organic" continued until 2004.
While using sex in advertising was a controversial, or in some views anachronistic, approach, incorporating humor made the Herbal Essences ads contemporary and effective. The "Totally Organic" campaign was considered a solid success by Clairol executives, and it inspired a relaunch of another Clairol standard, Nice 'n Easy hair color. "Totally Organic" helped the brand triple its market share between 1994 and 1999—making Herbal Essences the second-largest shampoo brand in America.
In 1994 Clairol, a division of Bristol-Myers Squibb, introduced Herbal Essences, a collection of four shampoos and four conditioners sold in 12-ounce bottles for $3.29. Marketing began in 1995 with approximately $20 million in print and television advertising. Styling products—gels, mousses, and spritzes—and body-wash products were added to the line in 1996, and in 1997 Herbal Essences products were introduced to the United Kingdom and other markets.
The new product traded on the name recognition of a previous Clairol product, Herbal Essence, which was ranked the number three shampoo in the early 1970s, with an 8 percent market share. That share had fallen to 0.1 percent by the 1990s, however. Herbal Essence was not a natural product, while the new Herbal Essences products were made almost exclusively of herbs, botanicals, and other plant ingredients derived from renewable resources. The formulas were biodegradable and not tested on animals, and the packaging material was made out of recyclable plastic.
Clairol said that the old Herbal Essence would be continued because it retained favor with Hispanic consumers. To avoid confusion between the two products, however, it would be merchandised separately from the new Herbal Essences line.
An association with nature was part of the original Herbal Essence shampoo's appeal, but the product's green credentials were more image than fact. "Consumer research has shown us that people remember Herbal Essence as a natural product, even though it really wasn't," said Jeanne Matson, Clairol's marketing director for hair care. The new Herbal Essences products, said to be 99 percent natural, were created and marketed with environmentally informed consumers in mind. "With...