Unilever is jumping into the co-creation space with Walmart, with the launch of its new scalp-focused hair-care brand BHS.
BHS, which stands for “Beautiful Hair and Scalp,” targets young millennials and Gen Z. It features six shampoos for dyed hair, curly hair and damaged hair, among other hair types. It officially launched on March 1 in all Walmart stores and Walmart.com. Products are approximately $8.
Dandruff has never been regarded as sexy, and until recently, the solutions were few and far between. BHS is one of a slew of newer scalp-focused brands to arrive on the market, like Jupiter and Harry’s-owned Headquarters, which both launched in the past two years. Meanwhile, Unilever-owned legacy brand Living Proof developed a dedicated product line in 2021. The two household names, Selsun Blue and Head & Shoulders, have historically targeted men and are far from the gentle and clean formulas popular in hair care today.
Sonika Malhotra, senior global brand director of the premium hair portfolio at Unilever, said young customers, in particular, are concerned about having to compromise on product qualities like anti-frizz or color protection.
“This is the first of its kind for us. [Unilever is] a big business and [our brands] account for a third of the hair-care category sales, as reported [by third-party groups],” said Malhotra. “But we don’t have something like this just yet. So Beautiful Hair and Scalp are complementing our existing portfolio. BHS is incremental [to the business], and we are going after a big opportunity.”
Walmart has steadily expanded its exclusive and co-created brand strategy over the past 15-months, with a primary focus on reaching Gen Zers. Co-created and exclusive brands include Uoma by Sharon C, P&G-brand Nou, skin-care brand DermaGeek and an exclusive collection with Garnier that also addresses scalp concerns. According to the annual Piper Sandler Taking Stock with Teens survey, Walmart is the No. 4 most popular beauty retail destination. Unilever recently recommitted itself to expanding and strengthening its beauty portfolio to propel underlying sales growth after a tumultuous few months.
“There is a lot of potential in this [co-creation] space. As the customer continues to get pulled in multiple directions with the rise of e-commerce and social media, the destination becomes more important,” said Elle Etheredge, associate merchant for trend hair care at Walmart. “Exclusive brands are a great way to drive excitement to the hair care category and to keep customers coming back.”
Malhotra said the branding of the launch campaign using the hashtag #bhshairdare and BHS brand is vibrant, inclusive and beauty-focused. That’s compared to the clinical focus of Head & Shoulders or Selsun Blue, with their male-oriented commercials of yore. Unlike the blue and white packaging of its legacy competitors, BHS packaging includes bright pink, marigold and purple. Materials are made with 70% post-consumer recycled plastic and are 100% curbside recyclable. Unilever worked with undisclosed third-party vendors to test the efficacy of the packaging and messaging in a virtual simulation of in-store shopping. Volunteers would act as customers in a virtual Walmart store, and Unilever could test and examine what stood out to them on a shelf.
BHS is launching its first influencer marketing campaign on TikTok with the debut of BHS, working with 25-40 influencers kicking off in April. BHS will assess its market performance based on sales, as well as engagement from branded accounts and influencer partners, and earned media value from the press. Etheredge said Walmart will support BHS with editorial site stories, ads placed within the Walmart Connect digital ad network, placement in subscriber emails, in-store activations and social media posting across all major platforms, like Facebook and Instagram.
“The [packaging] and assets you create need to have that thumb-stopping impact; there is so much going on in the beauty world, not just hair care, that you need to find a way to attract [people],” Malhotra said. “We are at a time where sales do matter a lot, but what also matters is that we are able to build some sort of an affinity and credibility and trust with the consumer. If your equity is strong, sales will follow.”