Suave Gives Its Marketing, and Consumers, a Makeover

In a departure from its usual emphasis on TV advertising, Unilever Home & Personal Care began an integrated marketing campaign last month for Suave hair care that includes an online sweepstakes, guerrilla marketing and a traveling “pop-up” salon as well as print and outdoor advertising.

The theme, “Can You Tell?” refers to Suave's challenge to women to see whether they can tell the difference between Suave and more expensive hair-care brands. In the campaign, women can compare Suave with other brands for themselves at temporary salons in several cities, and they can compare images of women whose hair has been washed and styled with several hair-care brands at a dedicated Web site.

“In [the] recent past, Suave focused primarily on television advertising,” said Allison Harmon, Unilever Home & Personal Care senior manager-marketing communications. “However, there is so much competition in the category, and in order to truly stand out we felt the brand could make a greater impact and reach more consumers with a print, outdoor and Web campaign. To add further impact and awareness for the campaign, we decided to layer on experiential and guerrilla elements to the campaign in order to really penetrate with Suave's performance message.”

In a temporary salon on East 42nd Street in New York City from Feb. 22-26, women had half of their head washed, conditioned and styled with Suave products and the rest with shampoos and conditioners from salon brands such as Matrix and Nexxus, both of which cost more. Manicures also were offered that included having one hand moisturized with Suave lotion and the other with the more expensive Lubriderm.

To promote the salon, Suave dressed 60 women in T-shirts printed with “Can You Tell?” and styled their hair, after which they walked around New York.

Women who received a haircut or manicure left the salon with a sampling of Suave hair, skin and anti-perspirant/deodorant products as well as a coupon. All salon visitors, whether they received a service or not, got sample-size products and a coupon for $1 off any Suave product.

Suave cut or styled hair for about 240 people in New York City, and another 300 received manicures. The salon moves to Chicago March 15-16 and Minneapolis March 29-30.

For people who can't visit one of the pop-up salons, Suave launched a dedicated site,, on Feb. 22. Visitors can watch a series of images of women and pick which ones they think used Suave hair care. Once they complete the quiz, the following message appears: “See? You really can't tell. Suave gives you the same great look as the more expensive brands, but at a fraction of the price.”

Next, site visitors are invited to answer a few questions about themselves in order to be entered into a contest for which the grand prize is an all-expenses-paid trip for two to New York City. The winners also will receive a head-to-toe makeover. Also, each week of the sweepstakes, which began Feb. 22 and runs through April 30, five entrants will win a free subscription to a Condé Nast publication of their choice. Everyone who enters the sweepstakes receives coupons for savings on Suave Professional hair care.

Along with monitoring sales in the markets where the campaign takes place, as well as overall sales, Unilever will measure Web traffic and brand awareness to determine the success of the campaign, Harmon said.

Chantal Todé covers catalog and retail news and BTB marketing for DM News and DM To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting

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