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June 17, 2004: Looking Good

Content and community are key for health and beauty sites.

How do health and beauty-related companies differentiate themselves online? Are they doing anything innovative and unique to draw traffic to their respective sites -- and spread their corporate gospel via viral marketing and other branding techniques?

Two well-known companies, Revlon and Weight Watchers have rolled out a number of Web-based interactive bells and whistles to create more of a brand buzz for their respective products and services. Another company, AstraZeneca, is not exactly a household name domestically, but some of the multi-billion dollar company's products have gleaned a lot of publicity via some of the promotional platforms launched online. Here are snapshots of what they're doing:


Unless you have been living in a cave the past few decades, odds are you have used a Revlon product. The New York City-based, publicly held company posted $1.299 billion in sales last year. Revlon was founded in 1932 by brothers Charles and Joseph Revson, and a chemist, Charles Lachman (he contributed the 'L' to the company name). The company's cosmetic, fragrance and personal care products are sold in more than 100 countries worldwide. Key brands include: ColorStay®, New Complexion®, Almay®, Ultima II®, Flex® and Charlie®.

Kiki Rees, vice president, media and internet, says Revlon's Internet strategy is part of an overall "360-degree branding strategy to address the needs of consumers." Revlon uses its Revlon and Almay sites primarily to market each brand. Each site features current product and promotional information, and is updated regularly to promote new product launches and promotions.

Although the company has not used Instant Messaging and chat forums to help heighten product interest, one promotional platform has proven successful as a Hollywood tie-in. The 'Revlon on the Red Carpet'  program is being integrated through print, online and in-store channels.

The online 'sitelet' features quarterly promotions that are tied to a marquee event. During the first quarter of 2004, the theme was the Oscars®. This quarter the theme is summer movies. When viewers go to the sitelet, they can enter a contest -- top prize is a trip to Hollywood to meet celebrities (the contest doesn't specify which ones) and attend a private screening of the summer movie, 'Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow,' starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law and Angelina Jolie.

Rees says the company launched the sitelet in conjunction with AOL, and features AOL's exclusive content each quarter based around Revlon's themes. It's accessible by typing in an AOL keyword, or going directly to the Revlon sites. Revlon also created a print ad campaign to help drive sitelet traffic.

Revlon also recently launched a new channel on MSN -- utilizing streaming video.

"We're continuing to roll out streaming video to contribute to the launch of our new ad campaign that debuted in April," says Rees. "We're running two minute 'mini-movie' commercials on MSN's streaming video, both as a content piece and as ROS advertising."

Weight Watchers, also based in New York City, launched its Web site in1999 to serve as an online gateway for the 40-year-old company. operates 18 sites in 15 countries, offering subscription-based dieting products in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany.

The site has grown dramatically. Its first sales were in 2001, and online revenue totaled almost $80 million just two years later. Nielsen//NetRatings currently ranks in the top ten in its health, fitness and nutrition category. It's also one of the stickiest sites, with average site visits often double those of others in this category.

So what's the key to this rapid growth? Kevin Eberly,'s chief marketing officer, says the site is able to leverage the Weight Watchers brand, which includes its meetings business, magazine, cookbooks, food products and other licensed products. The company invests more than $20 million annually in site development.

"We get a steady flow of traffic at little or no cost, and the company can aggressively grow its marketing investment to further drive acquisition and traffic," Eberly says.

This competitive advantage is spurred by constantly offering a wide array of interactive weight-loss tools. Two of these are Weight Watchers Online, geared for independent dieters who can't attend meetings, and Weight Watchers eTools, an optional service for meeting members. Both are fee-based and pre-paid -- the former is $59.95 for three months, and the latter $29.95 for three months.

Some of the most popular interactive site features include:

Community -- Primarily a collection of more than 30 chat and message boards that enables participants to discuss how they dropped all those pounds -- or didn't. Viewers can also swap recipes and get cooking tips.

Points Tracker -- The site maintains a huge database of more than 20,000 food items, so users can keep track everything they eat during the day.

Recipe Search -- Allows users to search more than a thousand recipes. They also can create a personal online recipe box and store them there.

Eating Out Guide -- Provides tips for dining out meal plans, and a drop-down menu provides an opportunity to customize meals.


It's often difficult enough to get your child or significant other to down medicine, especially pills. So how do you push pills online?

AstraZeneca, based in Wilmington, Del., is one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies, with sales of more than $18.8 billion. The company was formed in 1999 by the merger of Astra Pharmaceuticals and Zeneca Pharmaceuticals. Well-known products include Nexium®, that ubiquitous purple pill for people with acid reflux disease, and Crestor®, a cholesterol-lowering medication.

According to David Albaugh, who heads up public affairs for the company, providing knowledge about a particular product via user-friendly Web-based tools helps break the ice.

One of the company's sites provides a wealth of information for parents and caregivers of children with asthma, while soft-selling Pulmicort Respules®, an inhaled corticosteroid medication that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved for kids as young as 12 months.

Click on the "Kids Unlimited™ Online" link, for instance, and after filling out a brief enrollment form, families can participate together in learning more about asthma. An interactive "asthma trigger test" helps children identify common asthma triggers and suggests how they can avoid them. When a child clicks the "start" button, it generates a cartoon image of a kitchen. When a child clicks on an image of some roaches on the kitchen floor, up pop a number of recommendations, e.g., "close cabinet doors," "spray bug repellent," "cover food and use bug traps," "bugs make good pets" and "get a clue."

AstraZeneca's Nexium® site also provides interactive tools to help people learn more about acid reflux disease. Links such as "common tips & triggers to help manage acid reflux disease," "questions to ask your doctor" and the "heartburn symptom diary" are most popular. The latter is available for all hand-held Palm devices. Click "on the go" and you get a blank screen to fill in with your symptoms in precise detail. The advantage, the company says, is that users don't have to struggle to remember what they experienced and when -- they jot it down on their Palm and it is automatically committed to memory and available for them at any time, anywhere. And subliminally, of course, AstraZeneca hopes you'll remember Nexium® if you have acid reflux.

Neal Leavitt is president of Fallbrook, CA-based Leavitt Communications, an international marketing communications company with affiliates in Paris, France; Hamburg, Germany; Hong Kong; London, United Kingdom; Bangalore, India; and Sao Paulo, Brazil. He writes frequently on Internet and high technology topics. Contact him at, 760/639-2900.

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