CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/BRYLCREEM - WCRS's ads need to update Brylcreem in a competitive market, Mark Sweney says

It is a tricky task to relaunch a product steeped in tradition and successfully contemporise it - and a very delicate process when the core audience is the notoriously fickle youth market.

Brylcreem has been extremely successful in making its brand synonymous with hair cream - its trademark red and white pots adorn hairdressers and high-street retail outlets nationwide.

Its relaunch, which will see WCRS unveil the brand's first ad campaign in more than a year, aims to expand its product range, update its image and take a larger share of the wider men's hair styling product market.

In the specific hair-cream sector, Brylcreem trounces all comers, holding a 56.2 per cent market share in the UK for its flagship Brylcreem Red.

Its sister brand, Brylcreem Grey, is third with 7.1 per cent giving its parent company, Sara Lee, 63 per cent of the UK market. Its closest rival is L'Oreal Studio Line, which holds an 11.7 per cent share, with Wella's Silvikrin fourth with 6.2 per cent.

And the brand is well positioned for sustained growth. Creams form part of the second-fastest growing sector within the overall male hairstyling market - sales of creams and waxes are up 9.9 per cent in the past five years and were worth £10.2 million in 2001. But this is domination of just a very small part of the overall market, which last year saw £242 million spent on male hairstyling products, according to the independent research company Datamonitor.

It is in the market for gel products that the relaunch will have to work hardest; gel products is the most hotly contested category, worth £56.1 million last year. It's here that Brylcreem's new advertising needs to strike a unique chord to make ground against competitors; it ranks third with 14 per cent share against the market leader, Wella's Shockwaves brand, at 23 per cent and the second-placed L'Oreal with 18.2 per cent. With other sectors in decline, all the major brands can be expected to focus on maximising returns from the market.

Enter WCRS's new £2.1 million TV and cinema campaign, which supports the introduction of new packaging and the launch of Brylcreem's Next Generation range of gels, easy-wash wax, a wax stick and non-greasy styling cream.

The ads are designed to capture what is unique about Brylcreem - it is very English and it's the only brand solely to target males with its advertising.

The other players tend to run unisex executions across a wider product portfolio.

"We are trying something different with a new strategy for the brand. Brylcreem only makes hair products that are just for blokes," Debbie Klein, WCRS's head of planning, says. "The execution is designed to have inherent appeal to males without being laddish. We wanted to show we understand blokes - the humour is British and shows the brand doesn't take itself too seriously."

"The biggest issue Brylcreem has had for some years is that everyone immediately thinks of the red pot," Fraser Heaviside, the strategic planner at Zenith Media, which was responsible for the planning and buying of the campaign, says. "Our communication position is 'effortlessly cool', as Brylcreem is the only bespoke grooming product out there for men. It is the first time Brylcreem has used cinema and the idea was to create strong visual imagery about the new brand look and we felt the best initial route was cinema followed by well-targeted TV to hit the core 16- to 24-year-old audience." So the days of the "Brylcreem Bounce" seem well and truly over.

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