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Personal Care Products – Is it worth paying more?

May 2, 2017

Did you see this?

Suave is a Unilever brand and is sold across the USA as a drugstore brand that retails for a couple of dollars a pack – Almond and Shea Butter shampoo and conditioner combo $4.98, Walmart  . Recently Unilever got a hunch that that maybe, just maybe their brands amazeballs hair-washing-and-conditioning results are being missed out on by a large trendy demographic thanks to a mega dose of brand snobbery in the haircare space.   Drug store brands just don’t cut it?  A $2 shampoo must be harsh and rubbish?  Hairdressers won’t recommend a regular product!  You name it, that muck has been slung at this brand.  So, Unilever decided to run an ad campaign in disguise using sleek new packaging, a new name and the allure of a higher price tag.  The results?  The influencers loved it as you can see in the above video.

OK so that’s that, but what about you brand owner guys sitting at home worrying about what this means for you and your market share?  And what about you, the public who are sitting there confused and frustrated with the whole thing?

Let’s break this down slowly.  First up price point.

Unilever is a massive company, one of the largest in the world for personal care. They have mega buying power and as such can command the lowest prices in the world (often) for their raw materials.  They can also have materials created for them, can tie up good materials in patents and can access global R&D resources and strategic alliances.  Your average mum-and-dad brand developers can’t compete in any of those ways so a shampoo that costs Unilever $0.50 to make could well cost mum and dad $5.00 – 10 times more.   This would translate to an on the shelf price around the $20-$25 per bottle rather than the $2-$3 for Unilever.

What this means for consumers is that it is true, multinationals can make good quality products that do what they say on the label for a cheap price.


Second – what are you actually buying/ investing in?

Gone are the days when we just purchased from companies without question. These days we want to know if they are sourcing raw materials sustainably, carrying out animal testing,  are an equitable employer,  are local and connected to our community,  care about recycling,  use the safest ingredients possible (and not necessarily the cheapest), are responsible global citizens, are truly innovative and so on and so forth.  While not everyone can afford to buy in accordance to their ethical wish-list a growing number of people can and do and for these, it is unlikely that a multi-national can tick all of the boxes better than a niche or local brand can.  The more we demand from our brands, the more likely we are to value a deeper and more personal connection to them, this opens up the door for smaller, niche players who have less of the constraints that global brands have.

Third – Sometimes it is just a question of taste, adventure and experimentation…..

The third and last thing I’d say about this is that most of us (me included) know that we can live without 99% of the personal care products we buy. We know we don’t have to wash our hair every day,  put make-up on,  smell like a tarts handbag, straighten, spray, gel or wax our hair but we do it anyway.  We do these things because they give us pleasure, make us feel celebrated, special,  sparkly and fresh!  How much is that worth?  For me the answer to that is it’s priceless.

For me what this ad campaign has reminded me is that cheap products can be great products and that pleases me as why should feeling and looking good be only reserved for the wealthy?  However, what it has also reminded me is that this wonderful industry that we are all a part of in some ways is about so much more than just that and that is what keeps me hustling year after year.  Invest wisely good people and enjoy x


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