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Tyler asks…I would just like to say if Pantene is sooo amazing and works so well them why isn’t it sold in a salon when the company could make way more money if they sold it in a salon. I’m a hairdresser and every time someone uses pantene I can feel a build up on there hair and there hair is in terrible shape. But everyone is different so if you like Pantene then fine. But ask yourself if this product line is suppose to be so good why isn’t it in a salon?
Now that you’ve heard the question let me give you a little bit of background information. The Pantene brand is the source of a long standing controversy, not only on our website but across the internet. Essentially the debate is over whether or not Pantene is good for your hair. There are those who say it makes your hair fall out, others say that it coats your hair with plastic and suffocates it, others (and this is my favorite) is that it makes your hair FEEL healthy but it’s actually making it worse/break, etc.
People are so passionate about this. We even had one fan of ours who is a hairdresser volunteer to do a blind test to see if she really could tell if hair had been treated with Pantene or not. We washed hair tresses with two different sets of shampoo and conditioner when was Pantene and another was a salon brand selected by her. The tresses were washed and dried in multiple cycles and then I even masked the scent by putting a little fragrance on the tresses so she couldn’t smell which one was which and then I sent her the tresses and had her record her guesses. The results were… she scored less than chance but unfortunately the exact details were lost in our server crash of 2013.
So despite our best attempts to refute these rumors the controversy rages on. But before we explain exactly why Pantene is not used in salons, let’s review the history of this iconic beauty brand.
By the way before somebody accuses us of being shills for Pantene, that’s not the case. They have not sponsored us in anyway we have not even received any free product samples for them. The only reason we’re taking this is because the evidence is in its favor.
The history of Pantene
1945: We tend to think of Pantene as a modern beauty brand but, surprisingly, it’s been around almost as long as modern liquid shampoo formulations have been. The brand was created in 1945 and it was based on the vitamin panthenol which is where it gets its name. It was owned by the Swiss drug company, Hoffman LaRoche. Today Pantene is as vilified as a “big beauty drugstore brand” but ironically back at its inception it was an exclusive high-end department store brand that sold for a lot of money ) in glass bottles no less.)
1960s: Being a Swiss brand it was originally only available in Europe but in the early 1960s it made the leap to the United States. It was imported exclusively by a few New York retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue. At some point along the way, I’m not exactly sure what year, Hoffman Laroche sold or licensed of the brand to the cosmetic company Richardson Vicks, makers of Vicks Vapor Rub, among other things.
1975: Of course overtime people came to realize that glass was not necessarily the ideal packaging for a product that is used in the shower and which tends to become very slippery. So, packaging shifted to plastic and in the mid-1970s it gained its signature gold cap. That’s what it looked like when I first became aware of the brand.
1985: Now here’s where things get really interesting. In 1985 the Richardson Vicks company was purchased by Procter & Gamble who really trying to make it big in hair care and they began aggressively marketing Pantene. By the way this is the same deal that gave them Oil of Olay which is turned out to be a major win in the skin care category for them. So it was a pretty sweet deal.
1987: The next pivotal moment in the brand for the brand came as a result of something happened within a completely different Procter & Gamble hair care line: Pert Plus shampoo was launched with a with revolutionary 2-1 formula. Why is this important for Pantene? Because right around the same time or shortly there after Pantene begin using a version of the Pert Plus two in one formula which means Pantene was the first brand to ingeniously give you a robustly conditioning shampoo which was really a 2 in 1 but which was not marketed as a two and one.
This is one of the true breakthroughs in hair care in the last 50 years. The use of this technology gave Pantene and edge with consumers and also allow them to push the envelope in terms of claims about healthy hair. I think this is when they went from being just Pantene to Pantene Pro V. It was also the beginning of a new marketing era remember all those beautiful hair shots in the 1980s? It included tag lines like:
“Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful” and “Hair so healthy it shines.”
1990s and beyond: Since then Pantene his grown to be a super block buster brand. It became one of P&G’s first billion dollar hair care brands in 1995. Since then it kind of peaked a couple of years ago but still certainly in the top two or three biggest hair care brands of the world. As of 2014 their tagline is “healthier hair with every wash” and now they talk about having antioxidant damage blocking technology. Still one of the best selling hair care brands in the world and that success is certainly based to some degree, on their conditioning technology. Let’s talk briefly about the science behind Pantene.
The science of Pantene
The key here is related to suspending silicone in such a way that it will deposit on hair from a shampoo while it’s being rinsed. This is called dilution deposition. As we said this technology first came to market in Pert where it was popular as a two and one but the same technology can be used to make what is known as a moisturizing or conditioning shampoo.
It’s not just the silicone there’s some work showing that the Guar helps with silicone deposition and provides some additional feel on that here. In addition to that conditioning functionality Pantene has a very finely tuned surfactant system that gives it a very creamy small bubble leather.
For years the conditioner relied on a combination of dimethicone and cyclomethicone. Talk about why this is so good. In more recent years they have moved away from the volatile silicones and more towards amino functional silicones.
Why we think Pantene is so good
So why do we think Pantene is so good? We know this technology is effective and we know that it sells really well. But we’ve also done blind testing on thousands if not tens of thousands of people across the US. Tested mass-market brands and salon brands and without fail Pantene would score at the top of the list every time. Keep in mind this was a blind test meaning we didn’t identify the name of the product and it was provided in a generic bottle and in some cases we even tried to disguise the fragrance of the product.
So that’s why we think Pantene is so good and that brings us back to her question: if it’s so good why is it not sold in salons?
Why isn’t Pantene sold in salons?
First of all, the Pantene formula has been sold in salons already. At least sort of. But it’s certainly been used in products that are sold as a salon brand – do you know which one I’m talking about? Vidal Sassoon. (That brand has since been sold.)
Why isn’t Pantene sold in a salon so they could make a lot more money? First, would they really make a lot more money? Let’s break it down and see how much more they MIGHT make IF they sold Pantene in salons.
Pantene sells 70-80 MILLION bottles of shampoo each year. Salon products sell on a fraction of that – about 14 or 15%. (Remember, a single bottle of salon shampoo sells for more money than a single bottle of mass market shampoo BUT mass market shampoos sell a LOT more units than salons do. So overall the sales of mass market products generate more money.)
Historically, the shampoo market has been somewhere around $1.5B -$1.7B per year. Pantene is somewhere around $240MM. If the salon market is about 15% of $1.5B then salons sell about $225MM.
So if Pantene was sold into salons and COMPLETELY replaced every salon shampoo in the country, then it would almost double it sales. That’s impressive.
But, it’s NOT going to replace every single other shampoo. So what’s a reasonable guesstimate? It could become one of the top selling salon brands. If it did that, it could capture about 10% of the salon market which is about $22MM. That’s a nice little bump in sales but it’s certainly not a dramatic shift for the brand. So let’s say Pantene said, yeah, I’ll take a 10% increase in sales. How would that even work?
Would they just go to Paul Mitchel and say hey Paul, will you take our Pantene formula which, people can buy for about $6 and put it in your best selling shampoo that costs about $25? What do you think Paul Mitchell or any professional stylist is going to say? “That’s mass market drug store crap, that’s not what my clients want.” Even if he DID make the change, it’s probably going to upset his loyal users.
Okay, so replacing an existing brand is not that easy. Could they start their own salon brand? Yes, but again how would that work? To be a salon shampoo you really need a celebrity stylist and, again, you have the problem of a stylist who wants to sign up for selling a drug store formula. They’re going to want to have some creative input into the product but they can’t because that would change it.
Lastly, I suppose Procter & Gamble could choose to license their formula to some salon brands so they could use it and bypass some of these issues. However, why would they bother to do this because the amount of money they would make from such a licensing agreement would be very small. Secondly, they wouldn’t want to do this because that would disclose their exact formula and may cause leaks and some of their trade secrets.
The Beauty Brains bottom line
So what’s the bottom line here? Why isn’t Pantene trying to sell itself as a salon brand? I think the answer lies in their basic corporate philosophy which is, and I’m paraphrasing here, if it’s not at least a billion-dollar business we don’t want to f*#& with it.
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