P&G incubates new Gen-Z hair care brand with Walmart

P&G is staking a claim on multi-cultural Gen Zers.

In early August, P&G formally launched its newest hair care brand, Nou, which stands for “Next of Us” and addresses the needs of 3A-4C hair types. It is currently sold exclusively through Walmart.com and will expand to stores in October. The retailer helped to co-create the brand in under a year, according to Lela Coffey, Procter & Gamble vp of North America hair care and multicultural brands. The eight products (all priced at $6.97) are based on the porosity of the hair strand, which influences how dry or nourished the hair is.

“[Nou fulfills] a couple of things for P&G. It’s Gen Z and it’s multicultural,” said Coffey. “More than 50% of Gen Zer are non-white, and 75% of them define themselves as having textured hair. We know that this is a phenomenon that’s going to keep happening as the population becomes increasingly multicultural.”

This is not the first time P&G has opted to co-incubate a brand with a retailer. In 2019, P&G worked with Sally Beauty to develop My Black is Beautiful hair care, its first dedicated line for Black women. In 2020, it also incubated Hair Biology, which is for women 50 and older, with Target. Walmart, for its part, is heavily investing in reinventing its beauty aisle. Walmart recently welcomed Gen Z makeup brand Lottie London in May, Uoma by Sharon C. in June and hair dye brand Brite and hair care brand Rita Hazan in July.

“Co-incubating a brand with a retailer is a viable launch strategy for CPG conglomerates, especially for those that do not have DTC capabilities because retailers have direct access to their customers’ first-party, transactional data points that can guide product development, brand positioning and marketing strategy,” said Bo Kim, Gartner senior principal analyst. “Walmart is on the right path in extending their assortment and tapping into multi-cultural/BIPOC and Gen Z customers. However, launching a [diverse and inclusive] product or a brand alone is not going to make a difference in the long run [for reaching Gen Z].”

P&G solicited about 30 of its own and Walmart’s Gen Z employees to participate in the ideation of Nou. Brooklyn-based designer Sophia Yeshi created the bottle label design. The designs incorporate 3A-4C curl patterns on the label designs so that shoppers can easily identify which one suits them best. The back of the bottles have QR codes to scan and inform shoppers about their hair porosity. In October, the products will be presented in a free-standing display.

The launch for Nou initially began in March, before products hit the shelf. The intention was to build the brand’s social following and communicate its proposition first. Its Instagram account @NextOfUs currently has 411 followers and has worked with paid influencers like Ryan Shakes (@Itsryanshakes, 180,000 Instagram followers) and Jalaiah Harmon (@Jalaiah, 665,000 Instagram followers). Coffey said that a TikTok hashtag challenge (#ThisIsMyTexture) in the second quarter of this year also garnered 40 million impressions and 300-plus pieces of user-generated content.

“This younger group of consumers is all about expression, individuality, fluidity and freedom,” said Coffey. “They are rejecting what we could say are the norms of beauty; they want to be very expressive. [And they are using] hair as a form of self-expression to be as fluid and as constantly changing.”

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