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Hair care.

If clothes are a teenager's most important means of expressing style, as many teen marketing specialists contend, then hair is a close second. One advantage that hair has over apparel is that the modest cost of most hair care products and accessories makes it possible for teens to experiment with different looks on a frequent basis.

That kind of experimentation is an important part of a teenager's developing sense of style and self-image, and it can present opportunities to drug chains that make the effort to merchandise to this trend. Teens are avid consumers of a variety of hair care products, including shampoo, conditioner, styling aids, accessories and even hair color.

The same diversity of taste that characterizes teenage attitudes toward fashion and beauty in other product categories is evident in the hair segment. Chicago pollster Leo Burnett calls the teenage practice of mixing styles from different times and backgrounds "trend surfing."

Trend surfing's appeal permeates hair care. For example, while a poll by Burnett Co. finds braided hair popular among 66% of youths from 11 to 17 years old, a growing number of the same youths occasionally experiment with the "rave" look.

A recent fad in the Midwest has teens dying their hair outrageous colors using Kool Aid. The wild colors are part of the appeal, but the temporary nature of the dye job is just as important, notes teenage trend consultant Irma Zandl.

Cosmair Inc.'s L'Oreal unit may be looking to leverage those same qualities to make its new Exuberance hair coloring line a hit with teens. While the colors it's offering - ranging from light gold to deep burgundy - may not be quite so "outside the box" as lime-green Kool Aid, the semipermanent nature of the product, which rinses out in about a week, provides the same kind of temporary "kick." With a suggested retail price of $5.99, the product is also proceed right to appeal to teens.

Kool aid hair coloring notwithstanding, the bulk of teenage hair care expenditures goes for products found on the shelves of drug chains across land.

"Teenagers are the trendsetters of society," notes Rand Youth Poll president Lester Rand. "That's always been the case. The teen years are a time to experiment, but teenagers are also forming the buying habits they will carry with them through a lifetime of consumerism."

Marketers have always believed that intuitively, but now there's a growing body of research that affirms the importance of the teens as brand-building years. For example, snack food giant Frito-Lay Inc., a subsidiary of PepsiCo Inc., attributes about 15% of its sales to teens and is seeing a rise in the snack chip eating habits of adults.

What holds true for potato chips holds true for shampoo, or so some big marketers are convinced. Such hair care giants as Procter & Gamble Co. (P&G) and Helene Curtis Industries Inc. have mounted major efforts to pitch mainstream products to teens, often with edifying results.

"Pantene Pro-V shampoo is an absolute hit among teenage girls," observes Zandl, whose company regularly polls teenagers on their hair care brand preferences. "A quarter of the girls in our surveys list it as their favorite shampoo."

"That's a very good way to reach teens," she notes. "They love new products, but they're very risk-averse financially. Since Pantene is a high-end product relative to other shampoos, removing some of the financial risk in this way was a smart move on P&G's part."

However, hair care marketers targeting the teen market in a brand-building effort should be prepared to follow a zigzag path to brand loyalty rather than a straight line to the top. "Teenagers are fickle," says a P&G spokesman. "They like to try new products, and they change brands easily. Part of the reason is they are still relatively inexperienced as consumers. They may also be more easily influenced by ads."

Yes and no, says Peter Zollo, president of Teenage Research Unlimited. "Teenagers do pay attention to advertising, but that can be a double-edged sword," he adds.

His company's studies show that 80% of teens talk about the ads they like with other teens, which can result in powerful word-of-mouth advertising. But they turn on products whose advertising they deem condescending, dishonest or otherwise suspect - and spread the word among their peers about those ads.

Teen hairstyles run the gamut from the short, "techno" look inspired by rave on one end of the spectrum to the long, natural look typified by popular actresses on the other. In between, teens embrace everything from perms and waves to bangs and back-length straight locks.

An important part of the hair care mix, especially among teens, is hair accessories. "Long hair is always popular with a large percentage of teenage girls, and accessories play a big role in long hairstyles," says Diana Lesanics, merchandising manager of fashion hair accessories at Goody Products Inc.

The enduring popularity of the natural look in hair is playing a big role in the accessories market right now. "The trend now is toward the young, sweet and innocent look," Lesanics points out.

Teenagers use bobby pins, barrettes, novelty ponytailers and pony scarves to achieve that look.

Along with ponytailers, Wilhold (the hair accessories division of American Greetings Corp.) reports growing demand among teenagers for professional, salon-style brushes and novelty plastic barrettes. Reflecting the diversity of influences affecting teenagers' perception of fashion and beauty today both Goody and Wilhold are seeing increased interest in their accessories that feature different cultural and ethnic motifs.

Goody's Cultural Exchange collection includes accessories in exotic print designs and colors that reflect the influence of a variety of cultures.
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Title Annotation:Teen Beauty is Hot Stuff!
Publication:Chain Drug Review
Date:Mar 27, 1995
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