Olay Brand Experience

Skin Deep
Posted October 6, 2006

Procter & Gamble calls it “the first moment of truth.” It’s that point at which the shopper evaluates the brand and decides to buy. Or not to buy.

Even a brilliant international brand marketer like P&G acknowledges that it cannot gain enough access to that moment. So the Cincinnati-based company has set up a freestanding “brand experience” counter in a local mall for its Olay skin care line on a three-month trial run. It’s designed to gather intelligence and spread information – but not to sell. The freestanding Olay “brand experience” that it has installed at the Kenwood Towne Centre in Cincinnati, Procter’s back yard, is strictly a learning experience.

“We need to find out how the consumer reacts to our brand,” says John Brownlee, the Olay brand manager.

Olay is a “mass-tige” brand, the higher end of the skin care products sold off the shelves of mass market destinations like Wal-Mart, Target, CVS and Kroger. Naturally, P&G has done tons of market research on customer preferences and reactions, but Brownlee acknowledges that that’s not always reliable. “Focus groups tend to be a bit artificial,” he concedes. “People are not in a buying situation. And they sometimes tell you what they think you want to hear.”

The freestanding counter, conceptualized and designed by Benchmark (Cincinnati), clearly states the Olay name and brand position and is set up to engage shoppers in conversation. It’s also located where the Olay market shops. Kenwood Towne Centre is the area’s premier fashion mall. And the 130-square-foot booth is in an aisle populated by Aveda, Guess, Express and Abercrombie & Fitch leading to a Parisian store.

Stanchions at all six mall entrances announce Olay’s presence with large model photography and a simple copy line: “Experience Olay like never before.”

“It’s a different environment for a familiar brand,” says Camille Popplewell, vp and market leader of Benchmark’s beauty and fashion group. “We think the unexpected – coming upon Olay in such an unfamiliar setting – will stop shoppers and encourage curiosity.”

“It also had to have strong brand identity,” says Maria Deacon, Benchmark’s senior environmental designer. “So the Olay logo is large and clear and backlit on all four sides of the space. It’s very Chanel-esque, and shoppers will identify with it.”

The space is open, with room for movement and counterspace for consultations and information. But it won’t be only trained beauty consultants having those conversations.

“This is primarily a learning opportunity for us,” Brownlee insists, “so we’ll have P&G marketing people there and product development people and even finance people. For three months, we’ll be finding out how well we’ve read the market, how much explaining our Olay products require and how well we create impact at the point of sale. You never get to control this kind of real estate in the store.”

And if a shopper wants to buy product? “We’ll sell it to her,” he says, “or we’ll give her a coupon for the nearest Kroger or CVS or Wal-Mart, or wherever she shops for Olay.”

Client: The Procter & Gamble Co., Cincinnati

Michael Kuremsky, vp, global Olay & North America skin

Lia Braaten Hager, associate design, P&G beauty; global identity director, Olay

John Brownlee, North America Olay brand manager

Design: Benchmark, Cincinnati - John Carpenter, president and chief creative officer; Beth Harlor, creative director; Camille Popplewell, vp, market leader, beauty & fashion; Maria Deacon, senior environmental designer; Wendy Hunt, director of client services; Jacque Baker, account executive

Fabricator: Array, New York

Furniture: Voltage, Cincinnati

Laminates: Arpa, Jacksonville, Fla.

Wilsonart Intl., Temple, Texas

Chemetal (a div. of The October Co. Inc.), Easthampton, Mass.

Visualizations: Harlan Graphics, Cincinnati

Photography: Mark Steele Photography, Columbus, Ohio