How ‘social listening’ helped Church & Dwight keep its brands agile during lockdown

Church & Dwight’s beauty brands had a successful lockdown period, but this wasn’t without plenty of work behind the scenes, as Michael Benson reveals

Michael Benson

Church & Dwight, headquartered in Princeton, New Jersey, is a leader in the fast-growing consumer products and personal care industry, with a portfolio that includes Batiste, Nair, Femfresh, Waterpik and Arm & Hammer. Its UK subsidiary, Church & Dwight UK Ltd, is its largest outside the US.

The coronavirus lockdown and rise in at-home salon alternatives impacted its brands positively, however successes were additionally driven by quick decisions aided by Church & Dwight UK keeping a keen eye on social media activity.

Now, with lockdowns easing and a gradual return to normal on the cards, how is the company ensuring that momentum picked up during lockdown continues?

Michael Benson, Group Marketing Director at Church & Dwight UK, gives Cosmetics Business his insight.


What are Church & Dwight’s key beauty brands?

Church & Dwight has 19 brands in its portfolio, and the key brands in our everyday beauty essentials portfolio are Batiste, Nair, Femfresh, Viviscal and Toppik.

We acquired Batiste in 2010 and it is now the world’s number one dry shampoo, with two cans sold every second globally. Nair is our innovative, challenger brand, which has a strong heritage in the wax and depilatory cream market. Femfresh is the market leading brand offering PH balanced everyday washes for intimate skin and Viviscal was acquired in 2017 adding to our offering in hair care. Toppik, meanwhile, provides a topical solution for both men and women experiencing thinning hair.

How did the coronavirus lockdown impact demand for Church & Dwight’s beauty essentials products?

Whilst frequency of use for some brands, like Batiste, initially changed due to limited social interaction and a move to working from home, our consumers re-engaged with the brand as styling at home became key when they were unable to visit their hairdressers and new lockdown habits formed.

It became increasingly important to feel presentable for Zoom calls. Also, many people exercised daily, so saw dry shampoo as the product they needed to provide an instant refresh. In August, the launch of a new TV advertising campaign, Press Refresh, highlighted this.

We also saw increased conversations around waxing and hair removal at home, which we were able to tap into for Nair.

These conversations, which started on social channels, became more mainstream with segments on national television. A beauty slot on This Morning covering the subject generated over two minutes of airtime for Nair.

At-home beauty solutions became a particular growth area with salons closed. This trend may continue as we see the economic impact of Covid-19 on spending power.

How did the company adapt to accommodate these changes in demand?

We pride ourselves on being agile and responsive to the needs of the consumer. We honed our brand communications across all social channels. Social listening became key to identify and spot trends.

We adapted our advertising messaging on some brands to focus on the at-home beauty solution. The adoption of a TikTok style in our Batiste Press Refresh advertising campaign became even more resonant with consumers who were spending increasing amounts of time on the app early in lockdown.

We also rapidly looked to drive more sales online and worked hard to improve our online presence. We have also been advertising online to drive sales.

Lockdown also saw us pivot our manufacturing processes. Church & Dwight UK’s manufacturing facility is based in the Folkestone area. The Operations Team there introduced a number of operating systems to keep our 336 employees safe and also ensured we could maintain production requirements to meet consumer demand.

Our team rose to the challenge and not only did they maintain production levels (even achieving record production levels) they also produced over 20,000 bottles of Hand Sanitiser, which were donated to local care homes.

Given that we are in a tentative return to normal, how is Church & Dwight working to maintain both new and boosted custom?

As a business we will continue to remind our consumers of the at-home beauty solutions we offer. Many of our consumers may find themselves with decreased incomes and having experienced such great results with at home depilatory products, will continue to purchase Nair, rather than scheduling monthly salon appointments.

We are also continuing to celebrate the great results our products deliver, with Batiste becoming part of the solution to new everyday occasions, like Zoom customer meetings and team calls, that for many of us are here to stay.

We will also continue to focus on the growing importance of e-commerce and digital platforms for the business.

What are Church & Dwight’s ambitions going forward?

Our focus is on growth and strength. We aim to recruit new consumers into our essentials portfolio and ensure we have a presence where our consumers shop, which is now increasingly online.

With a continued focus on Research & Development we are seeking to meet new and evolving consumers’ needs with exciting new products. Folkestone is home to Discovery House, our dedicated R&D hub in the UK which is driving global innovation for Church & Dwight.

I will also continue to support and nurture a group of forward-thinking marketeers.

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