When Philips introduced its male grooming product Bodygroom into the United Kingdom, success was by no means taken for granted. British men are not known for their obsessive attention to their appearance and many of them were reluctant to discuss their grooming habits. At the same time, the product was launching into a marketplace that was increasingly crowded with alternative products such as waxing and depilatory creams.

So the company understood that it needed to get the tone of its communications precisely right, and that it need to explain the advantages of Bodygroom over alternative products. Public relations agency Manning Selvage & Lee, meanwhile, needed to cone up with a creative way of capturing the attention of a jaded media and generating mass coverage of the product.

There were several objectives: to create awareness of Bodygroom amongst the media and more specifically to generate widespread press coverage across national and regional print and broadcast media and within men’s lifestyle magazines; to communicate the efficacy and advantages of Bodygroom; to establish Philips as the category leader; and finally, to stimulate purchase intent and generate sales in the U.K.

The public relations team conducted consumer research, which revealed that British men were increasingly grooming their body-hair, but were hesitant to admit to it or discuss it. The team also identified a growing interest in male body-hair removal among sports stars and celebrities: several members of the Chelsea football team were photographed with hairless chests after a game. 

Using this research, the PR team identified the target audience as men it labeled “preeners”: men aged 20 to 35 years old with a high interest in grooming who are prepared to spend considerable amounts to look their very best. 

Three key insights into the target audience influenced the strategy and creative for the campaign: first, that men were already removing body hair, but they were reluctant to talk about it; second, that many men were using unsuitable makeshift body hair removal methods at home, often resulting in injuries in embarrassing places; and third, that masculine male role models (most notably sports stars) influence men’s perceptions of what is acceptable in fashion and grooming.

The firm decided to use humor to overcome the taboo status of the subject, to stimulate media discussion of the topic and make male body hair removal more acceptable by revealing that men are already doing it, leveraging women’s negative perceptions of male body hair to appeal to male vanity, and showing examples of sexy male celebrity role models removing body hair. Finally, the firm would encourage the comparison of Bodygroom with other hair removal methods to emphasize the advantages and key features of the new product.

Finding the right tone for the communications effort was critical to the success of the campaign due to the taboo status of the subject, so ‘tongue in cheek’ humour was used to bring body-hair groomers “out of the closet.” The creative focus was the image of a pair of kiwi fruit, intended to represent a particular male body part and to illustrate how Bodygroom could be used all over the male body, even on the most sensitive of areas. 

The pre-launch strategy targeted key long-lead men’s media and trade media. A humorous creative teaser using the kiwi theme was developed and distributed to male grooming editors to capture their attention and build anticipation. The teaser consisted of a silver box wrapped with blue ribbon and matching gift tag, containing a pair of kiwis and a branded postcard that asked “Why trust your kiwis with anything else?”

The teasers were followed up the next day with calls to each editor and to key trade press. Desk-side briefings were arranged to demonstrate the benefits of Bodygroom and to deliver a full press pack, containing press release, product fact sheet, feature ideas, photography and a product sample. These desk-side briefings were secured with 12 target publications including, FHM, GQ, Arena, Loaded, Men’s Health, Gay Times, Bent, Beauty Magazine. Coverage has appeared in 19 long lead men’s lifestyle magazines to date as well as in the key trade press.

A creative response card using the kiwi theme was developed and the product was distributed to key sports celebrities, TV presenters and actors. Among those responding were TV presenters Steve Jones and Alex Zane, and Chelsea footballer Joe Cole. 

To generate widespread media coverage, the team commissioned a national consumer survey to explore male and female views about male body hair and grooming.  The results revealed that nearly half (46 percent) of U.K. men admitted to removing their body hair and that a whopping 80 percent of women found excess male body-hair “a real turn off.”

Based on those findings, the team created launch press materials containing a strong news hook for the national and regional newspapers, broadcast and online media and emphasized the benefits of the Bodygroom product over alternative and “makeshift’ male body-hair removal methods.

Targeting national news desks on the day of launch, the team distributed the story to press along with attractive photography, and followed up all national news desks with the story, leveraging the recent celebrity examples of body-hair removal including sports stars Frank Lampard and Gavin Henson.    

The team also liaised with forward planners at leading broadcast media, suggesting ways Philips Bodygroom could be featured on their shows, such as product demonstrations comparing Bodygroom to alternative male body-hair removal methods live on the show. Coverage was secured on two national TV shows: LK Today and the Richard and Judy Show, on which host Richard Madeley—providing more information than anyone needed—admitted to shaving his own kiwis.

Meanwhile, grooming expert Steve King was secured as an independent spokesperson for radio interviews. The team worked with broadcast specialists RadioLynx to conduct radio interviews for the client and Steve King based on the survey results, which indicated that male body-hair grooming was becoming a new trend.  Interviews were secured with 16 radio stations including Radio One News Beat, Sky News, Galaxy FM and a number of BBC regional stations.

Regionally focused press releases were developed based on the regional breakdown of the national survey statistics to maximize coverage opportunities, generating coverage in 14 regional news papers.

Finally, the team worked to maintain the interest in body-hair grooming among the target audience by developing a week long competition on the breakfast show of target radio station X-FM. 

“There is always an element of the unknown when launching into a potentially taboo category such as male body-hair grooming,” says Justine Guest, marketing director at Philips DAP U.K. “MS&L capitalized on this using creative, humorous communications that successfully positioned Philips as a trend leader. Thanks to the unprecedented levels of coverage the team achieved across national print and broadcast media, we’ve gained ownership of this market. The campaign has driven footfall to the stores, resulting in high sales generated solely by PR.”

Unprecedented levels of press coverage were generated across national and regional print and broadcast media and among the men’s lifestyle magazines, creating widespread awareness and stimulating debate, with a total readership of over 73 million, a radio reach of over 8.4 million and two national TV appearances 

In just two months, the PR coverage had reached 60 percent of the target audience on average twice and with additional coverage constantly appearing this figure is still growing

Message penetration was extremely high: Philips was mentioned in 100 percent of the coverage and the Bodygroom brand in 94 percent, establishing it as the category leader in terms of share of voice. Two or more key messages appeared in 94 percent of the coverage, demonstrating that the team had clearly communicated the efficacy and advantages of Bodygroom.

The Bodygroom website received 3,342 unique visitors between April 22 and May 10, with the most popular pages being the home page (5,486 page views), product information (3,426 page views),and the grooming tips page (2,408 page views).  

The campaign also drove footfall to the stores, stimulated purchase intent and resulted in high sales in the U.K. that exceeded all expectations. Giant retailer Boots had to place urgent orders for more stock to meet demand