Big Kids Want Their Own Stuff
Rumor has it 20-year-old California Baby rakes in $20 million per year in Target alone, but that doesn’t mean founder Jessica Iclisoy thinks she has it all figured out. For starters, she cluelessly resisted—for years—ardent pleas from her customers to just please grow up already.
“I can be a little slow on the uptake sometimes,” she says, laughing, as she chats with a journalist while zipping down the L.A. freeway. (Perhaps not the ideal multi-tasking scenario, but she’s a busy entrepreneurial bee.) Though long-time fans of her all-natural, irritant-free infant and toddler hair and skin potions kept asking Iclisoy for products that skewed older, it wasn’t a front-burner priority for her.
Evidently, once the pint-sized end-users of such beloved items as Overtired & Cranky Everyday Lotion and Super-Sensitive Shampoo & BodyWash learned to read, the jig was officially up.
“Moms would say, ‘My 7-year-old sees ‘Baby’ on the label and doesn’t want to use it anymore,’” Iclisoy recalled. “And I would reply: ‘Oh, just scrape it off.’ That was my big solution—scraping the labels off.”
We all know where this story is going, right? By the time you read this, California Kids—a full-blown, 10-SKU range of personal care products aimed at the 6 to 11 crowd, will have made its debut on the California Baby website and at least one other major partner, most likely Diapers.com.
“Moms would say, ‘My 7-year-old sees ‘Baby’ on the label and doesn’t want to use it anymore.”
Different End Users, Different Retail Partners
Why not Target, given California Baby’s longstanding relationship with the mega-retailer? Iclisoy wants to test the big-kid waters first and get a little proof-of-concept under her belt. After all, one of the sub-groups under the California Kids umbrella, #Superclear, is a bit of a ground-breaker: a plant-derived anti-acne range that’s a nod to the ever-younger age children in the U.S. who are going through puberty and developing problem skin.
“You throw that into Target and it doesn’t have a track record, it goes on the shelf and then it goes off the shelf,” Iclisoy says. “I’m not interested in that.”
But another indie industry player with her eyes on the big-kid prize—Cozy Friedman—was more than happy to see her cheerfully packaged, salon-worthy SoCozy shampoos and conditioners debut at Target this past spring. And in the buzzy, high-traffic adult haircare section of the store, no less. “SoCozy isn’t an extension of Baby,” says Friedman. “It’s its own category.”
According to Friedman, SoCozy—along with the well-established L’Oréal Kids and Suave Kids—is part of the opening salvo in Target’s muscular new push into children’s haircare. “There’s a [signage] fin that says ‘Kids’ now,” she notes. “They never had that before. They’ve created a ‘Good, Better, Best’ setup with us being the best, and Suave at the lower end of the totem pole.”
Though L’Oréal Kids and the Unilever-owned Suave Kids trade on the massive equity of their parent brands, SoCozy haircare has something else in its corner: provenance as the house brand of the 20-year-old SoCozy children’s hair salons. A New York institution, the two outposts bracket Central Park (one on the Upper West, one on the Upper East) and recently passed the 1 million–haircuts mark. And Friedman, a bonafide expert in her field, has penned a bestselling kids’ hairstyling book, and regularly pops up on the network morning TV circuit to talk back-to-school trends.
In other words, Friedman’s the real deal; there’s a backstory to her brand that imitators, no matter how committed, can never replicate.
Look Who’s Talking—and Selling—on TV
If you have major cred and a genuine story to tell—and have recently gussied-up your 10-year-old brand with a new look, sophisticated scents and gap-filling SKUs—it only makes sense to add HSN as an arrow in your world-domination quiver.
In May, after plenty of prep, Friedman stepped in front of the cameras in HSN’s St. Petersburg, Florida, studio for the first time. “I’ve done a ton of TV, but never sales,” she notes. “This is a whole different animal, a totally unique way of speaking. Every message you give has to be packaged three different ways. Like if you want to say something is soft, you say: ‘It’s like a cloud,’ and a ‘cozy slipper.’ It’s very interesting. And I really want to do well.”
Like Target, HSN wants to fill some of the white space around premium kiddie hair care. “HSN doesn’t really do any children’s at all,” says Friedman. “And they’re really excited. They’ve expanded their [adult] hair business in the past year, and they said they might develop a whole new category.”
While children’s personal care (baby and big-kid) is a sliver of the total global beauty business—now hovering at the $400 billion mark, depending on which Intel firm is crunching the numbers—it is, without question, poised for growth. According to market researcher Canadean, children aged 9 and under are responsible for 9.5 percent of makeup and skin care consumption globally. Bigger kids—from 10 to 15—account for 7.1 percent of global consumption. Together, their buying power (as purchase-influencers for Mom and Dad) tallied close to $14 billion in 2013, and is expected to climb north of $18 billion by 2018.
So, yes, the market is there. But what will these notoriously fickle creatures actually want to buy? Or, more to the point, have their parents buy?
London-based market research firm Mintel Group, which estimated the U.S. children’s personal care (CPC)market at $686 million in 2013, recently compiled a wish list of products American dads are hoping to be able to nab for their kids at the local Rite-Aid in upcoming years. Imminently practical, their wants included bath and shower products with sunscreen, and body lotions that soothe weary muscles after grueling afterschool football games and soccer matches. Good ideas, for sure. But to be successful in winning over both the parents and the offspring, new offerings will have to be able to check off at least a few of these key boxes and show that they’re able to:
- Solve a Real Problem: With her #Superclear California Kids products, Iclisoy’s mandate was to fight acne gently, via botanicals like willow bark and tea tree oil. “I was hearing about all of these kids who were starting to break out at 7 and 8, and going through puberty earlier than ever before,” she says. “But what were they using? Proactiv, which is too harsh for them.”
- Appeal to Big-Kid Vanity: That goes for the packaging, which shouldn’t read “baby” in any way, shape or form, as well as the product performance and end result. SoCozy Behave Styling Gel Medium Hold, for instance, lets little dudes craft the faux-hawks and other spiky looks they love.
\”Although children’s personal care (babyand big-kid) is a sliver of the total global beauty business, it is poised for growth.\”
- Help Them Fit In…Chemical-free sunscreen? Fabulous. Chemical-free sunscreen that leaves a chalky, zinc-y film on your skin that everyone can see? Not so much. That’s why Iclisoy labored over a lightly tinted mineral-based block that doesn’t leave a youngster with a nerdy, Casper-y glow. “Kids who are on the playground all the time need sunscreen,” she says. “But it’s kind of all about being cool, right?” Right.
- …Or maybe stand out: In the marketing deck Friedman and her team created for retailer presentations, beneath bold graphics reading, “Red hair Short hair Curly hair Pink hair” a quote by Cozy herself says it all: “Being you is our idea of cool.”