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Volume 22 No. 31
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Head & Shoulders reinvents the brand

Head & Shoulders is a 50-year-old brand that’s one of 22 Procter & Gamble trademarks with more than $1 billion in annual sales. However, until recently the top-selling shampoo brand was marketed with the same pitch to men and women.


Brand: Head & Shoulders

Properties: Major League Baseball and NFL
Creative agencies: Saatchi & Saatchi (TV/print), Resource Interactive (digital), Upshot (in-store)

Sports marketing agency: Riber Sports Marketing, a Team Epic company

The goal: Marketing Head & Shoulders directly to men for the first time

Why it worked: The 50-year-old shampoo brand had always been marketed in a gender-neutral fashion until 2 1/2 years ago. Sponsorship affiliations with the NFL, and later MLB, and athletes from both sports gave men who considered it nothing more than “my dad’s shampoo” permission to buy and use the heritage brand.

Looking to update the brand, P&G sought to “genderize” Head & Shoulders for the first time 2 1/2 years ago. Women got a fairly straightforward message about product benefits; men saw the venerable brand grab a pricey NFL sponsorship and support that with humorous ads showcasing one of the NFL’s most identifiable manes: the flowing black tresses of Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Troy Polamalu. That’s worked well enough that the brand now is coming off several record sales years, and many brand equity scores also have increased — quite an accomplishment for any brand, much less a much-tenured brand in as mature and competitive a category as shampoo.

“Using sports, we’ve achieved a fun and irreverent tonality with men that’s allowed the brand to break out of the ‘It’s my dad’s shampoo’ characterizations,” said Head & Shoulders brand manager April Anslinger. It also made consumers look at the brand in a new light. “There was this huge awakening for consumers that it’s for more than just dandruff,” Anslinger said.

Since that notion had long been the biggest barrier to consumers trying Head & Shoulders for the first time, dispelling it was quite a feat. The NFL platform has been followed by an MLB marketing effort this season, with Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer. Adding MLB and Mauer, and supporting it with a marketing campaign similar to the one used with the NFL and Polamalu, has given Head & Shoulders a year-round sports marketing program.

“We’ve brought the brand to life with some very important properties — NFL and MLB — that are really where our target consumer wants to be,” Anslinger said. “It’s really made our marketing more impactful.”

That’s why a celebrity-based campaign aimed at women is Head & Shoulders’ next play.

— Terry Lefton