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Clearasil Case

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Clearasil Case
In 2006, the stealth skincare brand Clearasil®, along with its parent company Boots Healthcare International (BHI), was purchased by Reckitt Benckiser, Inc. Since the acquisition, Reckitt Benckiser has faced considerable challenges in increasing Clearasil’s market share and growing the Clearasil brand — currently the #4 Young Skin Care (YSC) brand in the U.S. The management team at Reckitt Benckiser has charged the Brand Team to reevaluate Clearasil’s entire brand structure and improve performance with the goal of ascending to the #3 position (overtaking Clean & Clear®) in the next five years.

The Brand Team’s attention is focused on Clearasil’s target consumers and positioning – components that were identified early on as most challenging and critical to Clearasil’s future success. However, to formulate the winning strategies needed to get to a #3 share position, the Brand Team understands there are three fundamental issues that need further refinement and management alignment: Who should be Clearasil’s core consumer target moving forward? What optimal/ownable positioning can withstand changing market conditions and take Clearasil to #3 market share spot in the next five years?

How to bring the “new” Clearasil brand positioning to life through a few key go-to-market strategies?

In the early 1950’s, U.S. marketer Ivan Combe developed Clearasil after talking to teenagers and pharmacists about the need for an acne cream that worked. He asked chemists to create a formula that dried up acne and covered blemishes with a flesh-tinted cream. The cream was named Clearasil to capitalize on every teenager’s dream of having clear skin. The first Clearasil products – a bar soap and a medicated ointment in a tube – were launched in the U.S. in 1959. In 1961, Combe sold Clearasil to The Vick Chemical Company, which later became RichardsonVicks. The Clearasil brand grew steadily through the 60’s and 70’s, launching across Europe, Canada and Japan. New medicated washes were added to the line and by 1982, Clearasil
was the market leader in the U.S., Japan and Germany.

Proctor & Gamble acquired Clearasil in 1985 for $1.24 billion. Under the Proctor & Gamble tenure, Clearasil sustained its leadership position as the #1 brand in acne treatment, and expanded the brand in over 70 countries.

During the early 90’s, Proctor & Gamble strategized to grow the brand with a broadened scope of product offerings for its teen target. In lieu of more treatment-focused products, Clearasil introduced a new range of acne prevention products that acted against blocked pores, bacteria development, and excess oil production. This range included a face wash, dual action pads, medicated moisturizer, and a handy pen applicator that delivered powerful medication directly onto a pimple without affecting over-drying the surrounding area. However, during the mid-to-late 90’s, Clearasil sales declined due to a flattened market and the entrance of Neutrogena, a new mega brand into the YSC category. In 2000, Proctor & Gamble put 50-year-old Clearasil on the block for sale. While profitable, Clearasil accounted for only 2% of Proctor & Gamble’s beauty care division sales, and executives at Proctor & Gamble decided to focus resources on a range of their top-tier beauty brands instead. BHI acquired Clearasil that year for approximately $340 million. In 2006, BHI was purchased by Reckitt Benckiser and now Clearasil is a part of the RB portfolio.

PRODUCT PORTFOLIO, TARGET CONSUMERS & POSITIONING EVOLUTION BHI acquired Clearasil with twelve products on the market. They reportedly spent £50M globally positioning Clearasil as a teen brand (according to PR release from Brand Republic dated September 10, 2002). One global ad campaign used humor to support this repositioning, with a teenage boy falling off his skateboard in front of a group of teenage girls. The tag read, “Clearasil can’t help you with some embarrassments, but it can help tackle the three main causes of spots.” In 2003, Clearasil added the Total Control platform to reach outside the teen demographic and take aim at 18-24 year-old females. Designed to maintain clear skin and tackle skincare problems on a daily basis, these seven new products, including Foaming Cleansing Cloths and a Daily Mattifying Moisturizer, featured more sophisticated packaging, a refined Clearasil logo that streamlined the arc shape, and lighter blue background.

To offer consumers a maximum strength premium line, Clearasil introduced the Ultra platform in January 2004. Promising clearer skin in three days with a money back guaranteed if not satisfied, Clearasil Ultra was introduced with two new treatment creams available in both the traditional tinted format, and a vanishing format that blends into skin.

BHI continually looked for opportunities to expand the Clearasil franchise. This time, Clearasil targeted 18-24 year-old males to tap into the growing men’s grooming market and retain teen males as they grew older. In July 2004, BHI introduced the Clearasil for Men line which consisted of a body wash, an energizing face wash, a shave gel and shave balm. All products contained acne-prevention properties (e.g. salicylic acid) to tie back to Clearasil’s heritage as an efficacious acne skin care brand.

Total Control was discontinued in 2005 due to poor sales performance. To replace it, two new lines, Clearasil Daily Oil Control (OC) with green tea and peppermint, and Clearasil Daily Blackhead Control (BHC) with natural sea salt, were launched in January 2006 right before Reckitt Benckiser took over BHI in February, 2006). New color schemes were also introduced for Oil Control (in Green) & Blackhead Control (in Purple) to attract more females. By the time Reckitt Benckiser took over Clearasil, the Clearasil portfolio was reduced to four sub-lines: base line (packaged in Blue), Ultra, Oil Control & Blackhead Control. At that juncture, Clearasil’s base line products were also repositioned under the banner, Daily Cleanse. Clearasil leveraged use of the term “daily” across the Cleanse, Oil Control and Blackhead Control product platforms to diffuse the impression that Clearasil
products were too harsh for daily use.

In 2007, Reckitt Benckiser updated Clearasil’s look and feel. The base line graphics were changed to a darker, more prominent blue, and base line name was changed from “Clearasil Daily Cleanse” to “Clearasil Deep Cleanse”. In the same year, Clearasil launched under the base line – Clearasil Deep Cleansing Scrub, and under the Ultra line – Ultra Acne System Solutions (a kit regimen) and Ultra Acne Clearing Gel Wash.

In 2008, Reckitt Benckiser repositioned Clearasil’s base line by renaming it Clearasil StayClear, introducing three new products in the line — Skin Perfecting Wash, Daily Facial Scrub, Oil Free Gel Wash –, as well as new formulas, logos, graphics and packaging for existing products. This marks the third new base line product name and packaging graphics in three years. The repositioning of Clearasil StayClear, and its tag “Clearer Skin, All Day, Every Day,” were intended to connect with consumers seeking a product to maintain healthy looking skin and prevent breakouts. Clearasil Ultra also revised its claim from “Clearer Skin in 3 Days” to “Starts Working Instantly,” to align with consumers who want to deal with breakouts right when they begin to surface. The new packaging also reflects this proposition with cues designed to appeal to both sexes, skewing slightly more male. Due to poor sales performance, Clearasil Blackhead Control and Oil Control were discontinued as of second quarter 2008. At present, Clearasil’s product portfolio is streamlined to only the StayClear (base line) & Ultra two platforms (see Exhibit 4).


Historically, teens have always been Clearasil’s target consumer. In 1957, Clearasil made advertising history as the second brand to sponsor the popular teenage dance and music TV show American Bandstand with the “Jet-a-way Sweepstakes,” a contest promising to whisk 15 boys and 15 girls on a two-week cross-country adventure. Some 20,000 runner-ups would receive record albums containing the most popular tracks of the day. When American Bandstand host Dick Clark claimed Clearasil would, “drink up oil, help dry blemishes, and help you to look better,” teens responded in droves, sales skyrocketed, and Clearasil quickly ascended to lead the category in acne treatment. In 2004 the executives at BHI realized that more than half of teens spent a considerable amount of time online (according to Pew/Internet & American Life Project), and launched an online snowboard simulation game
that used geo-targeting and content management tools that allowed players to see a specific version of the game based on their location.

In 2005 and 2006, the core brand message “Clearasil gives clear skin for the important moments in life” focused more on everyday scenarios, and corresponding ads depicted teens in transitional moments, such as a first interview, or an older brother giving skin care advice to his younger brother. In 2007, “Clearasil gives clear skin for the important moments in life” gave way to a more spirited, inspirational communication “Clearasil May Cause Confidence,” which conveyed the message, “Clearasil gives you clear skin so you have the confidence to make a bold, irreverent, unthinkable move.”

Focused equally on males and females aged 11-24, the idea was to modernize the brand with an expandable concept that would appeal to both younger and older users, and stretch across targets and products without mimicking clichés often employed by the competition. Three edgier TV spots were developed under the “May Cause Confidence” campaign that took a more daring, playful approach in elevating the brand message beyond a generic product benefit, to focus on the end benefit of confidence. The spots stood apart from the typical smiling, all-American approach employed by the major competition, and succeeded in generating considerable media buzz. Unfortunately, this campaign did not drive significant in-market sales lifts.

The “May Cause Confidence” campaign continued in 2008 with two spots supporting the launch of new StayClear products. One depicted a young female who was so confident because of her clear, smooth and soft skin, she greeted her friends and strangers with a cheek rub. A new spot for Clearasil Ultra also aired in the second half of 2008 (all “May Cause Confidence” spots are included in the folder).

The marketing support behind the “May Cause Confidence” campaign consists of primarily TV, brand website update and market entry sampling given its limited budget level (Reckitt Benckiser management decided to retrieve marketing spend on Print previously employed by BHI). While Clearasil main competition focused on appealing to consumers through integrated 360 degree

The Young Skin Care (YSC) category is comprised mainly five product segments: Washes (40% of category share), Scrubs (22%), Treatments (14%), Pads (10%) and Kits (10%). Neutrogena has leadership positions in all four segments, except Kits, where Acne Free® holds the number one spot.

The total U.S. YSC market in 2008 is estimated at $1.13 billion (estimate based on Nielsen scanning and panel data) in retail sales (including Proactiv®). The category is fragmented withThe YSC market is expected to become more competitive with expansive new business models, new segment entries and various brands that attempt to carve out a market niche through various product positionings.

Proactiv centers around a three-step system of products, appealing to 16-35 year old males and females who suffer from severe acne. Neutrogena’s strategy is to own the dermatologist recommendation with both acne and general skin care products for females aged 14-40. Attracted by Proactiv’s lucrative direct-to-consumer model, Neutrogena launched skiniD TM in May 2008 as the first personalized acne solution system to directly compete with Proactiv. Clean & Clear is tightly focused on younger females aged 12-24. Their position as a “girl’s best friend” promises “beautiful skin that’s clean & clear and under control.” Clearasil’s emphasis has changed over the years. It started out with teen-focused treatment only product portfolio, and today offers a wide range of products both for rapid pimple treatment and for everyday prevention, catering to teens aged 11-17 and young adults aged 18-24 (see Exhibit 2). Clearasil is the only brand in the U.S. that sources its sales equally from male and female.

A Usage and Attitude study conducted in September 2006 uncovered the key points below: Skin conditions
Pimples/zits are the most common skin condition experienced by consumers, primarily young people aged 11 – 17. Oily skin and blackheads are more likely to be experienced by 18 – 24 year-olds.
The key needs driving usage of skincare products among teens (11-17) are effective acne products that demonstrate speed. Young adults (18-24) are more likely to extend to daily use products – hence increased usage occasions.

The relationship between level of concern, frequency and severity of skin condition is complex
o Severity correlates with frequency – suffering frequently counts as severe o Concern, however, does not correlate with either severity or frequency By the critical age of 15, half of the total consumers have entered the facial skin care market.

Treatment vs. Prevention
There is evidence to support market segmentation on the basis of treatment vs. prevention, however approximately half of the market seek to BOTH treat and prevent skin conditions as the objective of the facial skin care regime. These are the people most involved in the market.

There is no evidence of a prevention / treatment spectrum as consumers are more worried about their skin condition – treaters are not necessarily more ‘active’ than preventers. Preventers, about a quarter of the market, seek to maintain, deep cleanse, and control their skin. They are more likely to experience milder skin conditions and less frequently. Treaters also account for about a quarter of the market. They experience more severe skin conditions more frequently and aim to “get rid of” and “zap” pimples. Consumers Psychographic Segments

In YSC market, consumers typically fall into two psychographic segments – people who tend to have higher anxiety about breakouts and people who are likely to have lower anxiety.
Higher anxiety consumers seek immediacy & maxim efficacy. When they get a pimple, they want to get rid of it as fast as they can.
Lower anxiety consumers believe daily skin maintenance is the way to avoid pimples. They want the product to be efficacious but not drying out their skin.

In-market Sales Drivers
Efficacy and quality are key drivers in the YSC market. Consumers are looking for trusted brands “that really work” and are “most effective at dealing with pimples”. Brands suitable for everyday use, are gentle on skin, and that work all day long are also driving consumer purchase choices.

In 2008, Clearasil again scored highest on total brand awareness. In terms of Brand Strength, Clearasil is perceived to be a brand for teens with particular equity in pimple and treatment. In reality, however, according to TNS Usage Panel (2007), while Clearasil still leads teen males in brand share of category usage occasions, Neutrogena leads in teen females (see Exhibit 7). The most recent Brand Equity Tracker (ending Jun 2008) confirmed that affinity, trust and modernity are more important to consumers, and are areas that Clearasil should focus on (see Exhibit 8).

Compared to StayClear, Ultra is associated with stronger attributes, but both Ultra and StayClear are fundamentally Clearasil and as such positioned closer to each other than to competitors (Thus far, the Clearasil team has been trying to target Ultra for higher anxiety consumers and StayClear for lower anxiety ones. The efforts have yet met any significant success).
Both StayClear and Ultra users seek to ‘control pimples’ as a main objective of their facial skin care regime. Ultra users are more likely to ‘fight’, ‘get rid of’ and ‘zap’ pimples through their skin care products.

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