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Thursday, Dec 26, 2002

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Getting a facelift

Purvita Chatterjee

Raymond's JK Helene Curtis is revamping the Premium and Park Avenue toiletries brands to show that it means serious business.

JUST when there was widespread speculation that JK Helene Curtis, part of the Rs 1,400-crore Raymond group, was putting up its brands for sale, there have been a spurt of launches to make the company get more noticed. While industry insiders still insist that Raymond is contemplating the right price for its almost-heritage brands, considering their strong equity in the market, JK Helene Curtis is busy dressing up Park Avenue and Premium, making them problem-solution brands offering certain value added propositions.

At the helm is ex-Shaw Wallace and UB man Rajesh Srivastava, who recently took over the reins from Nanu Mehta, the Managing Director of JK Helene Curtis who was primarily responsible for the growth of the company in the past. Today Srivastava, who has been appointed as Director, claims to enjoy his present job of finding solutions to people's needs with the help of the RK Swamy-promoted Hansa Research in a bid to find the need gaps in the market.

He seems to have found a temporary solution for both his brands - Premium and Park Avenue - by hitting upon these `need gaps'. Stresses Srivastava, "Today we are not just into launching brands but solutions for people's problems. After all customers do not buy brands, they buy solutions."

With this `problem solution' aspect in mind, its unisex family brand of Premium has recently evolved into a winter shield cream, with anti-itching and anti-aging properties with natural active ingredients to provide that `invisible sweater' which people seek for their skins.

"We realised that the problem with cold cream was that it clogged the pores, making the skin itchy. The new cold cream is for those who aspire to use natural products," states Srivastava. There are also innovations in packaging whereby its winter cream is now a stand-up tube with a flip-flop cap, making it convenient to carry around.

Assigning a new agency (FCB Ulka) recently to devise a strategy for its new products, JK Helene Curtis is estimated to spend around Rs 5-6 crore on media, a meagre amount compared to the stalwarts in the same line of business.

In fact, with the launch of its new winter shield cream, the 40-year-old company will be competing with Pond's and almost attacking the Hindustan Lever brand with its own `non-chip-chip' proposition.

Claims Shashi Sinha, Executive Director, FCB Ulka, the agency handling the account, "While JK Helene Curtis may not have the muscle in terms of distribution or media spends compared to Hindustan Lever, it is indirectly taking on Pond's through its new non-sticky cream." On the anvil are more products with new value propositions which will be meant for the masses and will always have a `natural' value proposition in them.

Today, with an array of products to cater to homes and families, Premium continues to have a varied portfolio ranging from talcs and deodorants to room fresheners. According to industry observers, "The brand has extended itself into categories which have no synergy and the same brand cannot stand for all the varied segments."

Much as Srivastava does not like to comment on this aspect, he makes it a point to claim that Premium is a leader in the room freshener category. Thus doing away with a product just because it does not have synergies with the rest of the portfolio does not seem like a possibility with the Premium brand.

But most of all, it is the Premium brand name which is possibly the most defeating factor in terms of the growth of the brand. "The brand name itself is too generic and there is dissonance between its core values and its name," says Jagdeep Kapoor, Managing Director, Samsika Marketing Consultants. The name Premium should obviously apply to products of that nature and considering the company has decided to approach the masses with its products and pricing, surely the `Premium' name cannot connote the same. Adds Kapoor, "The brands have been around for a long time and have been drifting. The company has now got to take some strategic decisions regarding branding, positioning and segmentation."

Even Park Avenue, in spite of being the `guide to a well-groomed male', lacks a distinct positioning and rides more on its clothing brand for recall. Apart from pricing, which differentiates both its brands (Park Avenue is slightly more expensive), a distinct positioning strategy for the brands is required since there are product overlaps between the two for soap, after shave lotions and shaving creams.

However, today Park Avenue is moving up the value chain with a more premium offering. By sourcing fragrance from a renowned fragrance house in France - Robertet S.A, JK Helene Curtis is finally breaking away from the run of the mill lotions and deos with its first premium eau de parfum offering.

`Genuine French' Eau De Parfum, reads the label on the latest Park Avenue offering. Apart from the `genuine French' fragrance itself, the value additions are in terms of specifying the `pulse points' which act like `mini-fragrance pumps', with visuals on the pack specifying the areas the perfume is meant to be applied on.

Through Hansa Research, the company discovered there was still no major brand of male perfume in the market which was dominated by ladies' or unisex brands. Besides, common problems voiced by customers indicated that Indian climatic conditions were not suitable for international perfumes which were mild and that existing perfumes had fragrances which did not last long enough. They desired quality French fragrances since perfumes were associated with France and the grey market never assured them a genuine one.

Says Srivastava, "Common problems voiced by consumers indicated that the existing men's perfumes had fragrances that did not last long enough and the locally produced variety did not provide the genuine experience." Park Avenue's Genuine French comes with a fragrance-retention guarantee certificate with a validated claim that the fragrance has a longevity of four hours.

By providing a `brand experience' of Park Avenue by highlighting the method of usage, JK Helene Curtis is at the same time taking on the onus of growing the category by educating the consumer not only about the usage of its own brand but also of the category itself.

The male grooming and toiletries brand of Park Avenue continues to ride on Raymond's formal wear range under the same name and not much advertising is needed for the former. Besides, the Park Avenue range of products continues to enjoy a retail presence at some of Raymond's company-owned showrooms, adding to the normal distribution network of JK Helene Curtis.

Today the Rs 50-crore distribution and marketing company of JK Helene Curtis expects to grow at 15-20 per cent in the FMCG business. Srivastava has his hands full rolling out new innovative products and widening the distribution network with intentions of making the FMCG brands `serious' business for the Raymond group.

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