Men’s hair care: virile growth

Global men’s hair care sales continue to surge forward in 2003, valued at US$2.4 billion, up 4% versus 2002. Men’s hair care exemplifies the way in which men’s grooming products are increasingly influenced by factors such as media exposure.

In Japan, for example, hard-setting hair wax and the newly developed hair gum format benefited from the elaborate hairstyles worn by young men imitating celebrities such as pop stars. The football World Cup, held in Japan and South Korea in 2002, also left its mark, with products encouraging many young men to go for the “Beckham” look.

Making headlines

Demographic factors such as the rising number of single-occupancy households, as consumers delay committing to marriage and children, have led to a growing number of men doing their own shopping, with more disposable income to spend on themselves.

Moreover, the range of magazines targeting fashion-conscious young men, including GQ, Maxim, Stuff, Men’s Health and the Japanese BiDan (Beautiful Man), has expanded significantly, stimulating interest in male-specific hair care both through features on men’s grooming and via high-profile advertisements.

Manufacturers such as Mandom, L’Oréal and Shiseido have, therefore, been increasingly inclined to invest in the development of products aimed specifically at men. Product innovation strategies have increased in intensity, and new product developments through 2003 spurred growth in the sector in a number of major markets, like the US, Germany and Japan, despite unfavourable economic conditions.

Big in Japan…for now

Japan scoops almost half of the global sales of men’s hair products, although having declined since 2001 to stand at US$1.15bn last year, this market is clearly showing signs of maturity in addition to suffering from the dampening influence of the wider economy.

Notwithstanding this, colourants have helped shore up sales here, being hugely popular amongst both the young and old. While younger men catch up with fashion; “creating” naturally messy hair, the older generation is busy preventing the first grey hairs from catching up with them. This trend seems more apparent now than ever before, with post-war babies increasingly conscious of their looks.

Bleach it like Beckham

Amongst the Japanese young, the trend for colouring hair started even before the 2002 football World Cup which saw many fans colour their hair in order to stand out in the crowd at the stadium. These days men are still bleaching their hair and colouring it with striking colours such as brown or ash blue. And 2003 saw Japanese men opt for the messy look, with strands of hair spiked together, and styling products, especially wax, helped achieve this.

The versatility of this look was not lost on manufacturers, who quickly launched products for specific hair lengths. Market leader Mandom led the way with a host of new products to tempt the young and fashion conscious, including Lúcido Spike Hair Wax. The company’s Gatsby Wild Styling Solid promised “wolf-style” hair for medium-length hair with a hard and dry finish, whilst Gatsby Ultra Hold Styling Solid aims to help short hair twist and stand up in bundles, and Gatsby Mat & Creamy separates hair but with a smart finish and less shine.

Not forgetting the less adventurous older man, Mandom also introduced a wax that contains powder, promising a lighter style while retaining hair volume and moisturising without the stickiness of conventional wax. Eyeing Japanese men’s particularity about their hairstyle, Shiseido even added a special comb to its Geraid brand, to add further volume to hair.

Separating the men from the boys

The US, the world’s second largest men’s hair care market, enjoyed substantial gains in 2003, largely due to a litany of new products geared toward younger men. Sales for the year rose 12.4% over 2002 to surpass US$727 million. Here too, sales have been sustained as increasing numbers of young men are interested in capturing the highlighted and edgier looks of media stars while older men have paid more attention to keeping the colour and thickness of their hair during their younger days.

The rising use of colourants by men to both cover grey or emulate the hippest fashions is also promoting the use of more expensive shampoos and conditioners, specially formulated for coloured hair, though few mass-market brands specifically market men. Seeing this void, Maxim plans to build on the success of its hair colourant products and has extended its hair care line aimed at the same young, image-conscious men who already buy Maxim products.

While men’s hair care benefited from increased use of colourants by US male consumers, substantial gains were caused by a rash of new male-specific products in hairstyling gels, mousses, waxes and pomades. US men often pay more attention to the styling products they use in their hair, as opposed to shampoos and conditioners.

Makers used this fact to their advantage, first attracting them styling agents that promised to help create the hippest new hairstyles, and then extending their brand to include shampoos and conditioners under the same brand. Men who had previously purchased value brands of shampoos and 2-in-1s found themselves trading up to these speciality lines believing they would achieve optimal result by using styling agents, shampoo and conditioners by the same brand.

Emblematic of this strategy has been the success of Colomer’s American Crew hair care line. The brand includes a wide selection of hair care items, including shampoos, conditioners, styling products and hair thickening agents, as well as shaving and skin care balms, and shower gels.

Many men first began using American Crew styling agents after receiving recommendations from barbers and stylists on maintaining their hairstyles. Satisfied with the results, they begin trying more products offered by the brand. This trend has prompted many men’s grooming lines to offer a full range of products, as men become more comfortable with purchasing items which promise to keep them looking their best.

In the UK, many manufacturers launched into the men’s hair care in 2003 to try and chip into the dominance of Sara Lee’s Brylcream. Dendron Ltd launched its Bblonde for Men range, including a hair lightening kit, a spray-in lightener and a lightening shampoo. Tigi Bed Head launched a hair wax with berry fragrance, Boy Toys, aimed primarily at the male market.

In May, Zirh Skin Nutrition (Shiseido) launched its lightweight water-based styling wax, Control, designed to focus on texture and shine. L’Oreal expanded its popular hair care range Elvive to include two shampoos especially for men. Elvive for Men Thickening Shampoo was launched specifically at 30-50 year old males with thinning air; in addition, Elvive for Men Anti-Dandruff Shampoo and 2-in-1 were also launched.

Young bucks

Young men have clearly become the key target group for manufacturers in this sector. The increasing time-span between gaining financial independence and setting up a family is one significant factor in the burgeoning importance of young men as a consumer group. However, even before financial independence is attained, young men are able to exert an increasing amount of purchasing power due to declining birth rates in many developed markets.

In these markets manufacturers are increasingly eyeing 15 to 25 year-old consumers especially, as the number of children in the population falls and the proportion of household expenditure invested in their upbringing increases. Children are also able to tap into their grandparents’ resources, thus earning in Japan the title “six wallets”, indicating their unparalleled spending power.

The undeveloped purchasing habits and lack of established brand loyalty of younger consumers is another significant aspect of their appeal to manufacturers, which are attempting to drive an emerging sector through the expansion of specialist hair care offerings. This, and the continued desire of ageing baby boomers to conceal their thinning and greying hair younger men to colour their hair for fashion reasons should guarantee strong sales gains in this sector for the foreseeable future.