Unilever’s Suave Prank Proves the Power of Packaging and Perception


Suave / evaus blogger

Unilever pulled a fast one on some beauty bloggers to show the power of packaging and price. Its Suave brand t went undercover to prove a point: premium results shouldn’t cost a premium. The verdict?Beauty bloggers love Suave—they just had to try it.

How it went down: In a social experiment, the company chose a group of young women who are millennial influencers (aka beauty bloggers) to try a new shampoo, evaus, for two weeks, sending them product matched to their hair types from five new evaus beauty collections.

“All of them had a chance to try it, then opt in if they were pleased with the results and wanted to attach their names to [the brand],” said Jen Bremner, director of marketing at Unilever.

Suave / evaus shampoo collection

The evaus bottle designs combined white and a soft peach evocative of Millennial pink, and a minimalist label with a simple font. After two weeks, the bloggers were invited to an evaus event in New York, only to be informed that they’d actually been using its name spelled backwards: Suave.

The campaign video shows them calling the evaus products “game-changing,” with one blogger saying “I instantly fell in love with these products,” and “they left my hair so strong and healthy.”

“We’re asking women to look past the label and reconsider Suave,” said Bremner. “Give it a try. We’re confident women will love their hair, and they’ll love what they paid to get that hair. We want to prove to women that they don’t need to spend a fortune to look and feel beautiful.”

Research shows that 92% of millennial women say they’d buy a lower-priced hair care product as long as quality was not sacrificed. “The truth is, many millennials are still playing financial catch-up and they don’t want to overspend,” says Farnoosh Tarobi, a millennial personal finance writer. “Products and services that are high quality and with an affordable price tag are the perfect hybrid for them.”

While it might beg the question of why not rebrand and make the products look more contemporary and chic so the Suave brand can boast style and substance at an affordable price point, the point of the experiment was to show these young women that price, labels and packaging were not necessarily indicative of quality—and not as important as what’s inside the bottle.

“My advice for shopping for a hair product is don’t judge a book by its cover,” said Suave Professionals Celebrity Stylist, Jenny Cho in reaction to the evaus campaign.  “I feel like in this case, you get WAY more for what you pay for and feel smart about it.”

“Actually—and ironically—people aren’t really interested in a new brand form or flavor as much as they are interested in how a brand can change, impact or improve their lives,” said Debbie Millman, author and chair of the graduate branding program at New York’s School of Visual Arts. “They want brands around them that make them feel special and provide some social cachet or confidence.”

“‘Money’ is never about money,” she added. “It’s an intellectual exchange for something that you believe will make you feel better.”

Hear what real beauty bloggers had to say after trying Suave (undercover). Trying is believing. #SuaveBeliever

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Packaging is an extension of that. “The packaging is the first interaction you have with a personal care product, and it’s often the reason you buy it the first time,” said Karen Young, founder of marketing agency Y Group and a former marketing exec at Lancôme and Estée Lauder.

“Today—given the power of social media—if a product is ‘Instagrammable,’ that may be enough to help build the brand. If the packaging looks great and also contributes to the function of the product, it’s a double win.”

Food for thought in a week that brought us the made-for-social, Instagram pink Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino.