A Portfolio Approach: Unilever’s Dove Segments with Scent

A Portfolio Approach: Unilever’s Dove Segments with Scent

A walk down any retailer’s Health and Beauty aisles reveals a dizzying assortment of personal care products. Unilever’s Dove brand alone offers 23 body washes and 15 body bars, along with additional facial care, deodorant, lotion and hair care products.

These offerings might be considered part of a confused product portfolio, except for one fact: 40% of consumers like their personal care products to be scented, enjoying the way the scent makes them feel. Conversely, another 40% prefer fragrance-free products. This is shown in the chart below (Green is significantly higher than total US population, blue is similar to total and red is significantly lower than total).

Scent lovers and scent avoiders

To compete for market dominance, Dove must appeal to both scent-lovers and scent-avoiders. These segments require completely different products. Compare these two reviews for the same Dove Men+Care Odor Guard Body Wash:

Unfavorable: “I am a huge Dove fan. I don’t like the scent and the fact it sticks around all day, it is just too overpowering for me. I prefer the regular Dove body wash I use. This is just not the right product for me.”

Favorable: “My husband used it and really liked it. I could smell it while he was using it and then later that night. Lots of scent.”

As detailed in my article, “How Procter and Gamble Sniffed Out New Markets,” for scent-lovers, choosing a personalized scent can be a powerful motivating factor in purchase decisions. The Dove Go Fresh line of scented women’s personal care products, which targets scent-lovers, promotes four different scents such as Pomegranate and Lemon Verbena. Even within scent lovers, there are preferences for different types of scent, as demonstrated by the wide range of perfume types available.  And, within scent-avoiders, there is a subgroup who believe fragrances and scents trigger allergic reactions.  This subgroup may be larger than the actual ‘medical’ reality, as a full 30% of consumers believe they have sensitive skin.

Scent segmentation drives more product and branding decisions than would initially appear obvious. Brands seeking mass appeal must address the opposing preferences of large portions of the population. A typical approach is to offer a portfolio of products, with scented choices and fragrance-free or lightly scented offerings.

Additionally, 50% of consumers consider themselves highly sensitive to unpleasant odors—so they believe they are particularly discerning when it comes to scented products.  This can be important for products that help consumers resolve unpleasant odors.

50 percent sensitive to odors

What does this mean for your brand? While segmenting by scent can be a powerful differentiator, know that both scent-lovers and scent-avoiders are large, mutually exclusive segments.  “One size fits all” solutions will miss the mark with at least 40% of the population.  If your organization has the resources, a portfolio approach with both scented and unscented offerings will allow the needs of both segments to be reached. This can be done either with one brand and a sub brand or alternatively, two brands, depending on the organization.

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    Michal Clements

    Michal is co-author of Tuning Into Mom and an experienced consultant. Michal develops winning growth strategies and detailed go to market plans for some of the world’s outstanding organizations including McDonald’s, Gatorade, Abbott, Barilla, Tylenol, Clorox, Key Bank, Eagle Ottawa, Quaker and the Baker Demonstration School.

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