CLOSE-UP: ADVERTISER OF THE WEEK/SUPERDRUG - Will Kolor be enough to lift the Superdrug brand? The high-street retailer is working on increasing its appeal, Jenny Watts writes

When Superdrug decided five years ago to eschew the impossibly flawless people that traditionally front health and beauty advertising in favour of 'real' folk shot using a home-video format, it was hailed as a welcome departure.

When Superdrug decided five years ago to eschew the impossibly flawless people that traditionally front health and beauty advertising in favour of 'real' folk shot using a home-video format, it was hailed as a welcome departure.

Now the retailer is hoping to underline that approach with a series of ads supporting Kolor, its new, own-label cosmetics brand. The ads, which display the range's shades to the strains of the 70s disco tune Popcorn, clearly aim to remain true to the irreverent spirit of the brand that was established in the previous work.

Patricia Manning, the head of marketing at Superdrug, describes the company's advertising as being something its target audience of 'real' people can relate to.

Miriam Jordan Keane, the client services director at Bates, the agency that created the ads for Superdrug, says it is an extension of the previous brand strategy. 'It is still about enjoying life. It has consistency, but is for a new and different brand,' she explains.

However, the latest campaign is also intended to invite reappraisal of Superdrug itself. 'It's about rediscovery, so that consumers can look again at the Superdrug offering,' Manning says.

The retailer is right to rethink its offering at a time when its positioning is increasingly unclear. But whether a new FMCG product will be enough to help the company stand out is doubtful. In fact, the issue of what constitutes the Superdrug offering is up for debate.

Mike Godliman, a director at Verdict Research, believes that Superdrug is trying to reinvent itself by going through a period of transition. 'In the past, it was a price-led retailer in the health and beauty sector. Now it has been hit by grocers who are increasing their ranges so that people buy health and beauty products at their store.'

It is difficult, therefore, for Superdrug to carve a position for itself in an environment that seems to have all options covered.

Mark Earls, the planning director at St Luke's, who works on the Boots account, finds the new campaign 'fun and informal - you can see the spirit of Superdrug in it'.

However, he believes that the issues facing the company are more about its marketing than its advertising.

'I am not convinced that launching a range of colours is going to change someone's behaviour. It's not as though Superdrug doesn't have a range of colours in its stores anyway,' Earls says.

It seems that Superdrug, which is defined by its success among high-street mass shoppers, could have a hard time moving on from its teenage following.

Superdrug itself is clear about where it wants to position the new range.

Press ads for the brand will run in the beauty magazines Marie Claire and Elle. 'It's where women go to get tips on health and beauty. Superdrug wanted to hold off until the offering was so right that it could sit next to the established high-quality brands,' Jordan Keane says.

But is establishing a high-quality cosmetics brand really enough to bolster Superdrug's offering? Godliman believes otherwise. 'Its weakness is its pharmacies in-store,' he says, referring to the fact that only 27 per cent of Superdrug stores handle prescriptions.

Manning concedes that Boots has a long history as a chemist under its belt. However, it's not just in dispensing medicines that Superdrug has some catching up to do. Boots' own Number 7 and 17 cosmetic ranges are very well established as standalone brands.

The introduction of own-label brands such as Kolor signifies a concerted effort to take the Superdrug brand forward. The company has also embarked on a comprehensive overhaul of its stores - not only improving them, but also moving into the city centres.

The recent restructuring of parent company Kingfisher might also signal an opportunity for Superdrug to reinvent itself.

Previously, the management had covered four brands in the Kingfisher portfolio - Comet, B&Q, Woolworths and Superdrug. It has now been split into two, which could provide an opportunity for management to focus solely on Superdrug and Woolworths.

However, the jury is still out as to whether own-brand offerings such as Kolor will be enough to carve a position for Superdrug alongside the more established health and beauty brands.

'The new Kolor range says that Superdrug is up to date and in touch with customers who want a brand that is stylish and high quality,' Manning says.

The stronger management team bodes well in terms of a growth of the brand's offering. But with grocers selling more beauty products and Boots maintaining its market share, Superdrug will need a whole host of initiatives and activities such as Kolor to carve itself a distinctive niche in the health and beauty sector.

Godliman believes that the brand needs to differentiate itself.

'Superdrug has lost its positioning,' he explains. 'The public needs a reason to go there and not to a Boots or an Asda.'


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