Dove’s biggest stretch yet: Men+Care?

Dove's £12million launch of its Men+Care range of body washes, cleansing bars and deos will be Unilever's biggest UK launch of 2010 according to Talking Retail. The range has already been launched in France. Many people watching are asking "Can the Dove brand stretch into male skincare?" Brand Channel's answer seems to be "no", and they say: "Men do not respond well to products typically
thought of as feminine."

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This is the sort of question that marketing folk could spend hours, days or even years debating. But in my view its actually the wrong question. The question we should be asking is can Unilever make any MONEY out of stretching Dove into male skincare? Looked at this way the chances of success are actually pretty good.

1. A big opportunity: Firstly, there is a large and growing market for "male grooming" products, which according to Mintel will be worth almost £900million in 2010. Unilever's only presence in this market is Lynx/Axe which is teen-focused. 

2. Never mind the sizzle…. Importantly Nivea for Men and L'Oreal for Men have both shown that guys are prepared to buy products (or have them bought for them) from brands built with female "sizzle" i.e. a female target and brand personality. This is on 2 conditions: i) you fine tune the pack design and comms to have a more male take on things, which Dove has done, ii) the product sausage is good… which brings us on to the next point.

Picture 23. Brand added value: Dove's skin care technology does seem to have an added value in the category. According to the Talking Retail article "51% of men saying that current body washes don't care for their
skin and 38% of men citing ‘does not give dry skin' as the most
important skin care product characteristic". And the brand has a nice bit of product sausage to answer this need in the shape of "micro-moisture" technology.

4. Business model: this is the killer point. And its why Dove Men+Care has a better chance of success than the brand theorists might suggest. Unilever have fantastic competence in skin cleansing and especially deodorants, where they are world leaders with the Dove, Rexona/Sure and Axe/Lynx brands. They have economies of scale, master the route to market, have good presence on shelf and negotiating power with retailers. Also, these categories have long-term strategic importance, and so the launch is likely to get sustained support, not just "launch and run" support.

Net, my money is on Unilever pulling it off on the strength of the business model. After all, I bet a lot of male grooming products are actually bought by women. And there are a lot of happy Dove ladies who are probably going to be more then happy to stick Dove Men+Care in their shopping basket. And if the product delivers, they'll be back for more.