, the Israel-based skincare brand, has made the skin-nourishing benefits of the Dead Sea available to all. Since its inception in 1988, AHAVA Dead Sea Laboratories, the sole cosmetics company located in the Dead Sea region, has been dedicated to its mission of revealing the mystical, revitalizing properties that the minerals of the sea possess. Already an established brand with an extremely loyal following, AHAVA underwent a complete re-positioning in 2011 in an effort to streamline its product offerings and better communicate the brand’s message to its customers.
The re-launch of AHAVA was executed in several stages. To begin the re-branding, AHAVA’s facial and body care products were organized into cohesive collections. The restructured lines for facial care are arranged by skincare concern and include Time to Clear, Time to Hydrate, Time to Smooth and Time to Revitalize, while the body care products are organized by key ingredients: Deadsea Water, Deadsea Mud, Deadsea Salt and Deadsea Plants. For easy reference, a stripe-based system was placed on the packaging of the facial care line to signify the product’s level of intensity. A single stripe denotes the most basic level of care, while additional stripes indicate a heightened degree of treatment. Representative images on the body care cartons, from a smudge of mud to a sprinkle of salt, depict the chief ingredient of the product.
Along with the restructured organization of its product collections, AHAVA unveiled its new, nature-inspired packaging. Not only was this reflected in its crisp appearance, but the packaging itself is more eco-friendly by using less plastic than before.
While many of AHAVA’s product formulations remain unchanged, several formulas experienced an update for optimal performance. Furthermore, all products are now produced to be paraben, sulfate-, sulfite-, SLS/SLES-, petroleum- and GMO-free.
The re-introduction also incorporates re-vamped marketing materials, complete with a new slogan, and a relaunch of AHAVA’s Web site.
Beauty Fashion met with
Beauty Fashion: Why was there a need to re-launch AHAVA, and what were the goals of transforming the brand?
: There were several different rationales for the re-launch and transformation of the brand. From a strategic point of view, North America is the key growth market for the brand for the next several years. To realize our growth objectives in the North American market, we needed to elevate the brand’s position and strengthen the
communication of the brand’s unique story, proprietary ingredients and point of difference. Streamlining the product line-up, re-designing the packaging and marketing materials and creating a new product architecture were the outcomes we chose to support these objectives.
In addition, we wanted to more clearly communicate with the consumer about the natural and “skin-friendly” orientation of our line, which comes from one of the world’s natural wonders, the Dead Sea, and incorporates the natural elements of the environment around it coupled with high performance skincare ingredients. Therefore, we chose to re-formulate the line to be free of parabens, sulfates, and GMOs. We started to promote the fact that we don’t test on animals and that our packaging is recyclable.
Finally, while we are known for body, we are actually a full service line of products for Face Care, Body Care and Sun Care. Through the re-launch, we have also taken the opportunity to strengthen our face portfolio, organize our facial skincare line by key customer concern and add two new ranges of anti-aging products.
BF: What has been the consumer response from the re-branding?
: Honestly, at first the customer was confused and concerned. The packaging was such a departure that she was confused and concerned that we had taken away her favorite products and changed the formulas drastically. For the first eight weeks or so, both online and in-store, the customer was lost.
What we did to help address this situation was a lot of education. We used conversion charts from the old line to the new line in our merchandising at point-of-sale and online. We kept the old line in a section called “last chance” on our Web site.
After about two months, however, we started to see a major turnaround in the business. New consumers started to take notice of our new look, and loyal customers found their products and were happy with the consistent high quality performance we have always delivered. We were also doing a great deal of direct sampling and public relations to talk about the brand, and the two actions together started to have traction. Consumers have now had a very strong, positive reaction to the re-branding, and it’s bringing a lot of new consumers to the brand. Our retail results are the proof to this pudding.
BF: Have there been any notable changes in AHAVA’s sales numbers since the re-launch?
Yes, we are seeing very high, double-digit growth in many of our key accounts including Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor, ULTA, Blue Mercury and Beauty 360 among them. We had the most successful second half and holiday season in our history.
BF: Last year, AHAVA debuted its new tagline, “My Skin Reborn.” How has the new slogan resonated with the customer?
: The slogan was ideated to convey the feeling that your skin has after it has been immersed in the magical waters of the Dead Sea. As most consumers don’t have the good fortune (and time) to have exposure to the Dead Sea regularly, we wanted to articulate what that experience feels like for your skin. The jury is still out on how the customer is reacting to the tagline specifically, and if she understands it. We have however started working with a wonderful new agency to help us continue to do strategic work to strengthen our ability to communicate our brand story and creative work to demonstrate it visually and verbally in the clearest way possible to the consumer.
The agency, Agence Air, is an expert in this type of work, and our goal is to continue to evolve the brand to achieve success both in North America and around the world.
BF: The updated products were first introduced on HSN in March 2011; what has been the experience of selling through this channel? How has the HSN customer reacted to the re-launch?
: HSN is an important vehicle for the brand. Last year, we launched the new brand first on HSN and gave them all new launches first, as a way to build consumer awareness across all channels via the high visibility of HSN to over 70MM viewers. In addition, for a brand that comes from a specific place and has a unique and authentic story, HSN is the perfect venture to share pictures of the region and tell the story of its magic and proprietary minerals and their performance on the skin. We had our biggest year in our four-year history of being on HSN. They have been wonderful, nurturing and supportive partners. The customers have now acclimated to our new look, and they are loving our special offers on favorite existing products and coming to expect that they see our new items first.
BF: What are AHAVA’s digital initiatives for the upcoming year?
: AHAVA’s digital initiatives over the course of 2012 are focusing on a few things:
1. Getting to know our online customers one-on-one in order to give them what they need, when they need it, in their daily skincare lives. We’ll be launching a mobile site, a new custom skincare regimen creator, specialized preference options for email subscribers, wish lists and rewards for brand loyalists, additional video and skincare tips and much more.
2. Providing a beautiful, relaxing and naturally renewing environment in all of our online channels. We will be going beyond “launching” new products and instead inviting our visitors to really experience our latest innovations in a visual way; from unique ingredient stories to engaging in daily tips, we want our customers to be a part of our journey with each new product.
BF: What is the brand’s social media strategy?
: Our social media strategy is really just one thing: listening. We want to hear what our fans and followers have to say and act on it. And act quickly. If what we’re saying isn’t resonating, we want to bring the conversation to them by asking questions and engaging in what they want to talk about right now. Along with our overall digital initiatives, we want to bring a sense of beauty, renewal and relevance into our social media channels.
BF: In what countries is AHAVA currently available? Which markets might be the right fit for expansion?
: AHAVA is currently sold in 33 countries worldwide. We are the leading local brand in Israel and have 9 free-standing stores there, in addition to an exclusive distribution agreement with the retailer Super-Pharm, a Shoppers Drug Mart like concept where all Western Prestige Brands are sold. We are sold throughout Europe and can be found at Sephora, KaDeWe and other leading European chains and independent retailers. Outside of North American expansion, key growth markets for the brand include several Eastern European countries. We are currently also planning our further Asian expansion—today the brand has six stores in Singapore and a presence in Japan.
BF: What are some of the plans for the future development of the brand?
: Let me answer that in four parts:
Our first goal is to ensure that we are continuing on the path we set out on last year, which is elevating our position in North America and strengthening the brand’s story to communicate our point of difference. We maintain dedicated to stay on this course and as part of that quest will be continuing to explore new communication vehicles—especially in the second half of the year. We have incredible opportunity to raise our brand’s awareness and want to make sure that, as we raise awareness, consumers walk away understanding the brand and its unique story and performance based on point of difference, focused around the unique skincare properties of the minerals from the Dead Sea.
What goes hand in hand with our growth strategy is the need to increase the business in both our current distribution and seek some new distribution. Our priority channels are specialty and department stores and direct-to-consumer—ahavaus.com; direct TV and beauty dot-coms.
As part of our North American growth strategy, we will be adding additional staff to our current team—nearly doubling our number of employees by the end of 2012.
While we have a full range of face and body products, we will be strategically rounding out the product line where gaps occur and forging new ground with unique technological discoveries. For example, this spring, we are introducing a new eye cream in the Extreme line, which was launched in the fall. Extreme Eye Cream addresses lines, wrinkles and firming around the entire eye area from brow to under eye. For body, we are bringing to market something that consumers have been asking for, for years—scented body lotions to accompany our ever popular Mineral Botanic Cream washes. In addition, we are launching a new men’s line—first with key influencers and then as an exclusive with Beauty Brands. Future developments include additions for sensitive skin, one of our technological expertise, and body firming.
In addition, this spring we have worked with the very hot accessory Designeron a major late spring/early summer co-branded promotion. Look for it in our key accounts like ULTA, Lord & Taylor and Nordstrom.