Heat in the brand

Heat Group’s Gillian Franklin had a problem: consumers liked her cosmetics brand but they didn’t love it. She tells Amanda Gome how she created passion for the product and sales soared.

By Amanda Gome

Gillian Franklin’s Heat Group distributes beauty and cosmetic products and turned over $60 million in 2006. Last year Franklin, who was managing director at Creative Brands for seven years before leaving in 2001, faced two challenges:

1. Getting a dramatic increase in sales from a mature, well-selling brand.

2. Convincing giant global manufacturer Proctor & Gamble to back her bold, new marketing approach.

Here is her story:

“Five years ago when we were a start-up, my first contract was distributing Covergirl in Australia, which is owned by Procter & Gamble. The average rate of growth in the industry was 5% so we set a target of 30%. It was very bullish and I thought we have to do a great job because everyone is watching us.

Jennifer Hawkins


We doubled sales in the last five years just by getting the basics right.

We got the right product range, the right distribution and provided really good customer service. For example some retailers don’t want to sell Covergirl products attached to cards.

So we made it possible to sell Covergirl straight from shelves. We updated the presentation of the merchandising with clear visuals and also picked up the core color of the Covergirl brand (blue) and used it very effectively in Covergirl stands.

I am a great believer in totally understanding the equity of a brand.

I like to come up with three key words/things that describe the brand in different ways and then translating that into everything you do. We knew the global positioning of Covergirl is “easy, breezy, beautiful” and it was our role to embrace that in everything we presented on the brand.

We built on that by making the product range easy to understand, breezy, (time saving with clear descriptions of what the products do) and beautiful (great images in all communication and merchandising.

But research showed that while girls bought the brand they didn’t love it.

We believe in “the bathroom test”. If a girl is happy to pull out her lipstick in front of other girls in the bathroom, it means she loves the brand. We found a girl used it because it was good quality but she wasn’t proud of it. I thought wow. Imagine the growth we can get if the girls love the brand.

What is missing is an icon the girls can relate to.

All the advertising material we get is American and Australian women don’t really have as much empathy with those models as they would be with an Australian. So I approached Proctor & Gamble and suggested we use a local face and came up with Jennifer Hawkins because she epitomizes Covergirl – easy, breezy, beautiful.

We met with resistance.

Proctor & Gamble used global advertising and brands. They had never used local faces and wanted proof it would work. We told them our intuition told us it would work but they wanted more proof. So we did focus groups and mockups with Jennifer before we even approached her.

Girls told us they “loved” the brand.

In the focus groups it moved from four out of 10to nine out of 10just by putting Jen on the brand. We did the deal with Jen’s manager. We had significant PR in the first month – worth more than her annual contract. We had her in shopping centres and doing events and we made sure everyone in retail met her.

Sales are up 20% in the last six months.

And sales are growing at four to five times the market rate. We expect Covergirl to do $29 million in sales this year, up from $24.2 million. Now we are asking Proctor & Gamble to use her in other markets as well as we believe she is so perfect for the brand.


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