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June 22, 2011

CND-RED PR Campaign for Shellac Polishes Stagnant Nail Category with First-Ever Hybrid Nail Color

By Jim Bucci

Even though CND had been the leading brand among nail professionals, it was less recognized by general consumers. But, with the introduction of "Shellac," its newest manicure system, CND saw an opportunity to reach some of the 85% of American women who don't currently go to salons for professional manicures.

To launch Shellac in a way that would appeal to the professional nail industry, attract new clientele into salons and increase brand recognition, CND retained RED PR. The allure of the product would be its durability and ease of removal. Shellac nail color lasts for two weeks, while continuing to look freshly-polished, yet comes off easily without damaging the natural nail.

"We wanted to launch Shellac in a way that would appeal to the professional nail industry, attract new customers into salons and increase global consumer brand recognition," explains RED PR owner and president Julia Labaton.

"Our goal was to invigorate a stagnant nail category by distinguishing Shellac from 'soakable gels' and to launch it as the first professional hybrid nail color—goes on like polish, is durable like gel and comes off in minutes," she continues. "We wanted to educate how Shellac is different—it's truly a power polish and not a gel. There will always be 'me too' products, but the technology in the formula sets Shellac apart."

RED launched Shellac as the first professional hybrid nail color—positioning the product as a breakthrough that had been in development for five years—like the first hybrid car aimed at eco-conscious drivers.

But, before this could be done, Shellac needed to be established as a fret-free, 14-day manicure with no damaging application or removal.

The Strategy: Attract the attention of general consumers—women who don't seek out salons for professional manicures: To appeal to grooming-conscious women who seek value for their salon investment, RED PR emphasized a series of key messages. For busy, on-the-go women, Shellac would be a time-saver with its quick application and removal process, result in fewer trips to the salon and its "round-trip wear" would offer fret-free travel. With fewer trips to the salon, consumers would also save money—an added pocket book boost. Shellac is also hypo-allergenic—free of formaldehyde, Toluene, or DBP—won't damage your natural nails or leave a chemical odor.

"We sought to build early-adopter buzz by inviting select high, profile consumer media and trade press that influence other news outlets to 'take the 2-week manicure challenge,'" says Labaton. "We also targeted influential editorial and celebrity nail professionals to generate industry buzz and endorsements prior to and during the launch phase."

Top trade and consumer press and key industry influencers were given advance introductions to Shellac before launching on a larger scale, while select trade editors were invited to participate in a two-day training in San Diego for an exclusive look. And then three months prior to the product's official launch, influential New York City-based journalists from publications including Vogue, Town and Country, The New York Times, Style.com, Yahoo.com and NBC's "The Today Show" received private Shellac services.

The Challenge: Extensive media buzz causes enormous demand for Shellac product, creating backorders: PR efforts created such a storm of interest for Shellac that CND couldn't keep up with the product orders, which caused backorders to pile up. The delay in product delivery resulted in a backlash from frustrated nail professionals who expressed concerns via social media that threatened to drive business to competitors.

To quell the anger and discontent over delayed orders, RED PR coordinated a crisis communications team with social media representatives to monitor sentiment about shipment delays and respond to customers promptly. They utilized Facebook to illustrate that CND cared about customer frustration, posting weekly production and supply updates from the company's CEO and co-founder. To soften the most negative voices, they facilitated personal calls from CND's executives.

Another hurdle included delayed product production, which put launch timing in limbo, leaving minimal time to implement actions. "Also, in the previous two years many CND competitors had launched products with similar claims," says Labaton. "We needed to avoid the 'me too' effect."

In addition, "a premature global product leak through the blogosphere due to inconsistent national vs. global corporate training dates threatened our well-crafted media relations strategy," she says.

The Results: Shellac is a global hit, sells out supply, garners top media placements and celebrity A-list clients: Within six weeks of its introduction, a one-year global supply of Shellac was sold out. Shellac received 1,053 editorial placements, including 81 print, 261 television and 711 websites and blogs. The New York Times featured Shellac prominently, while the product was also featured twice on NBC's "The Today Show."

Consumer coverage included placements in top women's lifestyle magazines such as Better Homes and Gardens, Brides, People, Redbook, Woman's Day, Women's Health, Glamour, Ladies' Home Journal, People StyleWatch, Star and InTouch. VIP nail professionals introduced Shellac to their A-list clients including Katy Perry, Rihanna, Salma Hayek, Janet Jackson and Lady Gaga.

Secrets for Success: Read on as Labaton offers more tips and explains why this campaign won Silver in "Best General Consumer Campaign" at the 2011 Bulldog Awards for Excellence in Media Relations and Publicity.

Come up with a vocabulary of words to associate with your brand. "Establish a brand lexicon that's clear and relatable," she says. "And use it consistently."

Build early buzz by offering product exclusives to trusted industry pros. "Exercise the theory of innovation diffusion by seeking out innovators and professionals in your industry to preview the product and create buzz before it becomes available to the masses," she offers. Also, "having Katy Perry, Rihanna, Salma Hayek, Janet Jackson and Lady Gaga as fans certainly helped fuel the buzz."

Have a back-up plan at the ready if your best laid plan doesn't work. "Have a back-up plan and be ready to act quickly if Plan A doesn't go as expected," she explains. "Information travels fast on the Internet. When we realized we had an out-of-stock crisis due to our PR success, we needed to abruptly change our course. Social media platforms allowed us to listen and respond quickly."

Winner's Profile: RED PR is a New York City-based boutique communications firm that specializes in beauty, fashion accessories and lifestyle brands.

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