Mention Ahava in Israel, and consumers might associate the name, meaning "love" in Hebrew, with skin creams in general, according to Maxine Segal, head spokesperson for Ahava North America. Born 30 years ago on a kibbutz and derived from Dead Sea minerals, the international skincare brand quickly penetrated the Israeli retail market before spreading to the US via tourists. It has since capitalized on consumers' thirst for a tighter affiliation between beauty and health and wellness.
Segal explains that the brand has always been rooted in health and wellness. However, in the past four years, it's rebranded and launched new products as a result of its growth and need to communicate its message in a market now infiltrated with products making health claims.
"We've always incorporated the Dead Sea in the [PR message]," Segal says. "It's now more about helping customers understand the benefits. The timing is good because there's the growth of [mineral makeup] in the marketplace."
Spreading the message
In December 2007, having already tapped actress Kristen Davis as the new spokesperson for the brand, the company hired 5W PR to further spread the message about the Dead Sea and its beauty and health benefits for skin ailments, including psoriasis and eczema.
"[The US] is such a vast marketplace. There was a sales team behind the brand, but the push wasn't as intense as it has been in the past couple of years," Segal says. "It's about the excitement and buzz, and we want to [focus on PR] to reach a broader audience."
5W is working with Ahava on creating buzz around new product launches and building credibility in beauty magazines. The agency is reinforcing Ahava's industry recognition - from magazines such as Redbook and Self - by reaching out to blogs, health and lifestyle outlets, and trade publications; employing interactive tactics, such as consumer polls; and enhancing the features on its Web site. The team is also focusing on event and store partnerships.
"A lot of our positioning is on just getting people to recognize how healthful the Dead Sea is in general," says Erika McGlone, VP at 5W, "making the Dead Sea synonymous with health and beauty."
Segal explains that a tighter affiliation between beauty and health and wellness is synonymous with a beauty market now inundated with brands that make unrealistic claims. Those claims have played a role in its drive to communicate its message. "Consumers are confused and sometimes misled," she says.
Ahava's international growth and rebranding is indicative of a shift in how consumers perceive beauty and what they demand from today's products. PR pros say this shift requires that companies communicate a clear message and incorporate a sentiment of emotion in branding and PR efforts.
Stephanie Smirnov, president of DeVries, says the beauty industry has been talking the language of wellness for years, and that the shift affected the way the agency approaches PR for its client Olay. "It's been interesting to shift from talking about beautiful skin and staying out of the sun, to a message of staying out of the sun [for health reasons]... Over the past four years we made that shift."
In a market flooded with beauty products making strong health claims, Aveeno, like Olay and other brands in the category, is using PR to reach consumers on a personal level by warning against the dangers of skin cancer. Two years ago, the 60-year-old Johnson & Johnson brand launched a sun care line. On May 2, its PR team kicked off a national summer tour called the "Road to Healthy Skin."
Working with RPR Communications, the team is traveling around the country on a bus-turned-clinic, tapping local dermatologists to provide people with free skin cancer screenings. "[The program] is something [Aveeno] has never done before," says Monica Neufang, director of PR for J&J beauty care. "It's a matter of educating consumers."
A shift in consumer knowledge and behavior over the past two years has also forced Aveeno to reevaluate the way it communicates with bloggers. "Beauty and mommy bloggers want to see the clinical results and peer-reviewed posters used at conferences," Neufang explains. "We're finding that consumers are more savvy about the dangers of sun exposure."
Ido Leffler, CEO of the Israeli-based, unisex skin care brand Yes To Carrots, attributes the increase in knowledge to the amount of information available. "In the past, our country has been information poor," he says. "[Now] our message needs to be a lot clearer and savvier."
While Yes To Carrots has only been on the market for two years, its fast growth in the US - 70% of its overall business - and upcoming move to San Francisco, reflects the overall growth of health and wellness in beauty, which affects its PR plans.
"Yes To Carrots... has personality, so for us, the best way to get our personality out is through PR and editorial testimonial," Leffler says.
He says the company's accessible, credible, and global approach contributes to its personality and success in the category.
Yes To Carrots hired Lippe Taylor in February and is working with the agency on an interactive PR strategy with a community-oriented message. "For us, the number one driver of a PR message is the Yes To Carrots lifestyle," Leffler says.
The company is always videotaping its office and team, whose members, Leffler says, live the "Yes To Carrots life;" posting the videos on YouTube; and promoting them as part of a Yes To Carrots club featured on Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube.
"[Our office] serves not only cookies, but also fresh fruits and vegetables," he says. "[Health and wellness] is something we live through and something the publications fall in love with."
Last year, as part of its goal to interact with potential consumers, the team partnered with Elle and MySpace for a contest to find a face for its ad campaign in Israel.
The team is currently planning events and outreach around upcoming launches - Yes To Cucumbers and Yes To Tomatoes - and the "Seed Fund," a charity that helps create and sustain gardens and farming.
"People are looking for brands with the ability to work with them," Leffler says. "We're 100% incorporating that in our message."
Beauty in branding
Message: Targeting skin concerns early can effectively prevent skin surface damage and improve quality
Strategy: Targeting outlets that appeal to a younger audience of 24 and older concerned with anti-aging
Message: Based on bio-dynamic farming practices, its philosophy is "beauty from beauty." For its new Biodynamic Beauty line: "naturally embracing aging"
Strategy: Communicating the brand's farm roots via new packaging and more influencer events
Message: A lifestyle brand that celebrates feeling well and living joyously
Strategy: Engaging editors by providing them with gifts to give to others