Revlon Needs More Than New Face to Rejuvenate

For the third time in six years, Revlon has ousted a CEO. This time it's Jack Stahl, a Coca-Cola alum who took the helm in 2002. The news comes less than a year after a marketing department revamp that failed to turn around the long-ailing beauty company.

The final straw for Stahl appears to be the disappointing launch of Vital Radiance, a cosmetics line rolled out last year to target the hot segment of women age 45 and over with evolving skin care needs.

Revlon, once the leading mass cosmetics company, has seen its market value drop more than 80 percent in the past three years. The company has been in decline for the past decade with financial woes due to inventory issues, poor retail relationships, and a general malaise in the mass beauty segment.

Marketing changes announced in the spring were designed to allow the company to move more swiftly. They included consolidating the operations of creative, brand groups, and customer marketing.

Revlon has also made frequent agency changes over the past few years--most recently moving creative duties for the Revlon and Almay brands from Deutsch, New York to Kaplan Thaler, New York. But the problem may have less to do with advertising than with a lack of relevant, modern products.



"What I hear most often [from retailers] is that there's still this whole issue around brand innovations," says Wendy Liebmann, beauty consultant and head of WSL Strategic Retail, New York. "It's generally thought that while others have gotten more aggressive, Revlon still needs to be more relevant."

Competitors Procter & Gamble and L'Oreal offer sophisticated skincare products touted to fight aging and wrinkles, as well as makeup to lessen the look of lines. Revlon seems less technologically advanced by comparison. Its last big hit was the Color Stay line of color cosmetics.

For the first time in years, there is some excitement in mass cosmetics, says Liebmann, pointing to products like lip plumpers. But Revlon just seems less relevant. The Vital Radiance launch, she says, was hindered by the absence of the Revlon name anywhere on the packaging.

Liebmann believe retailers continue to support Revlon for "emotional" reasons, because "nobody wants Revlon to go away." Still, chains such as Rite Aid and CVS didn't include the Vidal Radiance line in many of their stores.

As Revlon CFO David Kennedy steps into the CEO role, it may take more than history and longstanding relationships for Revlon to ingratiate itself with trade partners again.

"Revlon had to take the [Vital Radiance] line back and really lost credibility with retailers this time," says beauty industry consultant Allan Mottus.

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