Only a few, choice brands ever reach the unique success that NIVEA has achieved since its foundation in 1911. The world’s largest skin and beauty care brand, owned by the German Beiersdorf Group, enjoys people’s trust like no other since generations.
With NIVEA Creme and the blue and white recognised the world over, and available in over 150 countries, it truly slices through geography, culture and status. The keys to its success are its quality and innovation, branding and the ability to talk straight to its consumers. We spoke to Franziska Schmiedebach-Ullner, Global Vice President for the Hair and Body Care Division.
Where up to the nineteen-sixties and seventies NIVEA had several single products, it started to expand its range over the next few decades. The result was something of a proliferation in terms of communication owing to separate approaches for each category such as skin care, shower products, and general body care. The reasoning at the time was the different specific qualities for each category, as well as the increased sophistication of the products.
Franziska: “Differentiation between products is important, but care has to be taken not to proliferate your portfolio, brand or communication as, after a while, your hard-earned consumer base will start to lose its understanding of what your brand is all about. While most people would agree that you don’t change a winning team, we decided nevertheless to introduce the biggest change at our company in decades, possibly in our history.
The challenge was to strengthen the umbrella brand while promoting individual products and their new technologies yet ensuring an appropriate balance between the two. We felt that the relation between the brand itself and the product categories were a little off-key and would benefit from a certain amount of equilibration. So, we have recently introduced a new, company-wide, communication platform known as Beauty is…, fine-tuning rather than repositioning the NIVEA brand.”
The Power of Three
Beauty is…., which was launched in Germany in August 2007, is based on three pillars.
First, the new communication platform was created to reach their primary target group: women, who are increasingly working, and who are taking on more roles than ever before: work, family, children, etc. The aim was to get closer to these ‘multitasking’ women and their needs in terms of skin and beauty care.
Second, combat the communications proliferation. Generate a consistent message across the entire brand. While leaving enough room for each product to express its benefits and technology, it would ‘strengthen the umbrella’ by making the brand as a whole more important than the individual categories.
Finally, NIVEA has worked hard to create a strong emotional bond with its consumers. Many people grew up with NIVEA, resulting in positive values and associations of love, family, friendship, happiness and authenticity. NIVEA is looking to bring these values more to life than they have done previously.
The first step in introducing the realignment was to focus on the umbrella brand. This was performed with three marketers from various countries, advertising agencies, a marketing professor and with the aid of extensive studies. These studies looked at global brand monitors, segmentation studies, advertising tests and an extensive global beauty study amongst women from all demographics.
This input was used to develop a vision and a new communication platform that work internationally and in different countries, categories and age groups. The challenge should not be underestimated, considering NIVEA’s global presence and its 14 different categories in the skin and beauty market!
Once the plan was forged, the idea was tested in the USA, Latin America and Europe to measure consumer responsiveness: the brand image before and after exposure to the new platform. Held in four countries, the brand image shift test provided clear results and led to the implementation of the umbrella brand campaign in the media and the associated rework of all product campaigns. Not for the light-hearted!
In developing the campaign, the importance of its future success could not be stressed enough. NIVEA is Beiersdorf’s ‘bloodline’, representing 70% of its business. All general managers in all countries needed to be convinced that they were doing the right thing. The internal communication process was therefore crucial for a successful implementation. Fortunately, the internal support posed no barriers, and the idea was warmly received.
Across the board
For the first time in NIVEA’s history, the company has a fully-integrated communications approach that addresses everything. All touch points where the NIVEA umbrella brand is communicated is fully integrated with the same message and visuals across all media. The company considers it a huge opportunity for delivering a fully-integrated approach for all countries involved that can be used in points of sale, PR, print, TV, and all other media.
It has also been a good chance to reinvigorate the dialogue with consumers, and the company has been actively seeking public opinion as to what beauty really is. One of the results is local and international online beauty galleries included on the site http://www.nivea.com. These contain photos and statements from consumers that they can upload themselves. This generates a vast source of information as to what people really think of the brand, reflected also through cultural differences.
The future beckons: bigger and better?
The new communication platform is only the start of a long-term campaign to strengthen the brand. While NIVEA is top in its skin care sector, it is still a relatively small player in ‘beauty-driven’ categories such as hair care and colour cosmetics. There will be a greater focus on these markets in the future. The company is looking to the men’s market next, with a similar platform that will incorporate all male products.
Yet they are aware that they must exercise caution. Franziska: “We have a huge consumer base that buys and trusts our brand. We cannot jeopardise that in any way. Therefore, our approach is one of evolution rather than revolution. Staying close to the consumer is what we are all about. We believe that our new approach is bringing our vision to life and will be effective for at least the next 5-10 years.”