Tom Porter, CEO of Malibu Wellness, has a passion for education matched by his commitment to his product line, Malibu C.  He and his team are taking a new approach to demonstrate the effects, features and benefits of their Malibu Makeover, a two-step wellness treatment that addresses hair and scalp issues with five different systems. They have developed a brand awareness campaign that includes a television spot that will test in select markets starting in March 2015. MODERN SALON spoke with Porter about the strategy behind a direct-to-consumer approach.

MS: What was the thinking behind the development of the Malibu C spot and why did you feel the time was right?

TP: It is an overall brand awareness campaign that incorporates information that we have been researching for 30 years and that needs to be shared.  In the past, we have relied on the hairdresser to communicate it to the consumer but we have seen that what used to be an industry in which consumers bought what pros recommended is now an industry influenced by consumers telling pros what they want. That is a result of brand awareness.  Large corporations that buy millions in advertising can influence the large magazines on the consumer side.  As a smaller, privately held company, we felt it was imperative that we get our message out and that we touch the consumer and the professional at the same time. This spot educates on the products and shows the very visual results of the treatment.

My masters was in educational administration and I have been interested in the media effect of education since the 70s. In years past, this model could be seen as competitive to the salon industry but, today, the traditional distributors and salons are looking for new ways to bring brand awareness.  We have presented this spot to many of the biggest salon chains in the industry and some of the largest distributors in the U.S. and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.  They understand the intent, they see the value and I think most of them understand why we are unique—we have a service that you just can’t do at home the same way.  Also, we’re not competing with salons.  That’s in contrast to what is happening with other brands that are doing infomercial-style campaigns and are telling the consumer they can get salon results at home.  Our intention is to drive consumers to the salons.

MS: What is the main message in the campaign?

TP: We are educating on the five different systems we have, how they address issues of hair and scalp and why hairdressers need to be offering the service.  The issues that exist on the hair are getting more dramatic as environmental impact increases, women shower more, the water is hotter and more elements are put in the water. The Malibu Makeover provides more consistent color results, it improves scalp health, it dramatically normalizes swimmer’s hair, it will remedy hard water mineral issues and it will help maintain the best blondes.

Color correction is becoming a major issue in our industry because of these issues, too.  It used to be thought, ‘oh, you didn’t apply or mix color correctly,’ but it isn’t that tough to add a one-to-one ratio; the challenge is the hair. Hairdressers are artists and the hair is their canvas. They need to know that the hair they see, is often covered in a transparent film of silicone, rocks and dust particles.  Color they apply will slide right off if they don’t prime their canvas, first.

MS: How does this campaign reinforce your commitment to the salon industry?

TP: I am funding it from the company which is very challenging because we operate on cash flow but I refuse to lose control. I don’t want someone who doesn’t understand our industry telling me this is what it has to say or you have to do this because we’re giving you money.

We are dedicated to the hairdresser not just from a marketing standpoint but also that we need them and they need us. To do the Malibu Makeover, we need two things for guaranteed results—heat and proper application—and consumers still need to go into the salon for this.  As we create more demand for Malibu C, and as we receive orders, we will be sending people to salon locations where they can get their Malibu Makeover.

MS: What did you learn in the process? 

TP: It was confirming that we are doing the right thing.  We have, in fact, created a new division within our company, Direct Response Universal Salon Assets (DR US) because we did learn so much in the process and we want to partner with other companies and lead them on a path of success.


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