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In a Complicated Market, Unilever Goes Simple
By: Rosann Fisher
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Nature-based products are increasingly growing in popularity as consumers become more educated about the products they put in, and on, their bodies. Up until recently, most retail shoppers have had basically two options when it comes to selecting personal skincare products in brick and mortar stores: 1) Pick something off the nicely glistening shelf, or 2) Go to the small and sometimes dusty section labeled “Natural.”

Now there may be something in between. Unilever is launching a new advertising campaign around its skincare brand Simple in the United States. As its name suggests, the ingredients in the Simple skincare line are basic; they’re made without the dyes, artificial perfumes, or harsh chemicals that commonly irritate sensitive skin. The Simple brand, which is has been sold in Australia and Great Britain for years, was part of a 2011 acquisition of Alberto Culver Company by Unilever. According to the company’s press release, “58% of women have sensitive skin” and Simple serves to “fill a void that currently exists in the mass skincare market.”

Although the introduction of Simple may be the first of its kind for Unilever, they are not the first large consumer company to recognize the "natural space" as a potential vehicle for growth. Earlier in 2011, Johnson & Johnson introduced Neutrogena® Naturals, a line of skincare products that similarly promises to deliver results without “harsh chemical sulfates, parabens, petrochemicals, dyes or phthalates” per their website.

In both cases, the marketing message is much more about what’s not in the products than what is. However, the way Unilever is advertising the product is unique. First off, instead of solely focusing on the ingredients, they’ve positioned it as the solution for women with “sensitive skin.” That may be because a few of the products in the line contain parabens, but regardless, it’s a strong platform because it’s so problem-solution focused.

Also, instead of using a celebrity spokesperson, Unilever is leveraging Simple’s position in the UK (it’s the number one facial skin care brand) as a way to a way to encourage U.S. consumers to take it for a test drive. The assumption is that consumers will take this mean that the product is credible and works — it’s the “if it’s number one, it’s got to be good” mindset. In addition, Simple has real-life video testimonials of UK women discussing their positive experiences on their website. One user, Emma, started using Simple before her wedding and said it “made my skin feel fantastic.” Now the only question is if US. consumers will feel the same way.

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About the Author
Rosann Fisher is an Integrated Marketing Manager. She enjoys running and doodling (when appropriate). Connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter@rosann.
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