Q&A: Perfect Time For Manly Men Products?

On The Job

You know what real men have been missing? A soothing hand lotion made just for them -- one that helps heals all those scrapes they get firing up chainsaws and banging on wrenches, and moisturizes too.

Or at least that's the way Joseph A. DePreta, VP/Marketing for Wharton Innovative Products, which is launching a new product called On The Job Hand Lotion, sees it. "There's a considerable trend away from metrosexual products for men, and a strong migration to more masculine, manly man products," he tells Marketing Daily. So far, the new product is sold in Meijers, the Midwestern grocery chain, and such hardware stores as Ace, True Value and Do it Best. "The timing, psycho-graphically, is ideal." DePreta is determined to see it launched nationally, and tells us about the journey so far:

Q: So how did you get involved with this launch?



A: Back in 2005, folks from Wharton came to see us. At that time I was the managing partner at North Castle, a 120-person agency, handling brands like Hershey and Ocean Spray. But the elevator pitch for this product really grabbed me: "Skincare for the working guy ...sold where the working guy already shops." So I spent a lot of time on it there, and, eventually brought it with me when I went to Dentsu, still believing there was potential. We started testing in 2008. And then I joined the company in April 2009, but I've been with the brand since its infancy.

Q: Do he-men really want soft, smooth hands?

A: There really is a big market for this. We tested the brand in Kansas City -- a totally unknown brand with zero awareness. After just a week of advertising, we were selling between 9 and 11 units per store per week. There really is no other product like this -- it promotes healing, and these guys have banged-up hands.

Q: How is it different?

A: It's that it contains a healant. There is a dual tube inside the product, so when you squeeze it, one side is an antiseptic, and the other is moisturizing. It absorbs quickly, and it's scent-free. Whether it's a tradesman, a do-it-yourselfer, or a sportsman -- it solves an ongoing problem.

Q: So you've stuck with the same launch model?

A: No. We've changed that "sold where the working man already shops" a little. And we still plan to have all the hardware stores for distribution, but we are not pursuing the Home Depot and Lowe's as we once were. Instead, we're going much more after the "mass class" chains -- CVS, Target, Walgreens.

Q: But don't mostly women shop there?

A: Yes. But women make about 80-plus percent of the personal care product purchases for men. And there's a little of that Irish Spring thing going on with this product -- women are using it, too. The level of brand evangelism is really high.

Q: What are the obstacles to national distribution?

A: It's hard to understand this product -- it's a very disruptive brand. When we met with the execs at large chains, who have to go through such an extensive vetting process for new products, it's hard to explain. They look at Vaseline Intensive Care for Men, for instance, and see it sells only a half unit per store per month. So that's their point of comparison. But this is a different product. I think it's like Axe -- no one was sitting around waiting for a body spray for young men. But with smart marketing, this became one of the most successful launches ever for Unilever.

Q: So what's next?

A: We have a national ad program ready to go; the print campaign, which we used in the Kansas City test, just won a gold ADDY. But we can't implement it until we have truly national distribution, and we're feverishly working to do that. In the meantime, we're also readying a national online campaign and a robust ecommerce site, which we expect to be up by Aug. 1. We've got a strategic manufacturing alliance with a larger company, DMI, a national manufacturer and packager, so we have the capacity to produce massive amounts. We need to name it, claim it, and stake it nationally to be pre-emptive.

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