this year P&G’s U.S. hair care market share slipped to second, behind
Unilever, for the first time in more than a decade. Walter Geiger, tapped to
head P&G’s North American hair care business in mid-2011, discussed with
Beauty Insider how the maker of Pantene will close the gap with hair care’s
current leading player.

Top of mind for P&G’s Walter Geiger in
reclaiming the leadership position in U.S. hair care is getting the right product
mix onto shelves and partnering with key retailers to get the items to stand
out from a “sea of launches.”

“The most important thing in retail in the U.S. is you have to be very
close to customers. Like Walmart, which is 30% to 35% of most companies’ business,
we must be close to them and meet their needs. And of course meet the needs of
the consumer. The great news is that we have been able to strengthen that.”

Walter gave an example of a successful partnership with the world’s
largest retailer, such as when P&G launched Pantene Moisture Renewal Silky
Moisture Whip.

“We showed how we were getting behind a treatment, a third step,
something that grows the category. The actuation of the program was key, which
included claims in store and putting products on a pedestal to make the items
bigger, because without shelf talkers or claims, a new launch can get lost. The
execution went very well. It’s selling so well now I can’t make enough.”

Of course part of that success was the relevance of Silky Moisture

innovation by the industry hasn’t necessarily been in growth areas, such as in diverging
demographics, salon heritage and anti-age. We’re launching items in all three
of those areas.”

On tap is Pantene Expert Collection AgeDefy, such as a Hair Thickening
Treatment, which is already garnering rave reviews on blogs such as
makeupalley.com.  For salon-to-home,
P&G is bringing Vidal Sassoon back to the U.S. in January with Vidal Sassoon
Pro Series, a collection including shampoo, conditioner, styling and color care

“Prior to coming to the U.S., I was leading Sassoon in Asia and it’s a
big success in China. I have a good understanding of the brand’s DNA and we’re
taking what we learned around the globe and creating a unique U.S. proposition.”

Also in salon-to-home is new Pantene styling items that were created
by celebrity hairstylist, Danilo. P&G is also upgrading its Pantene Relaxed
& Natural offering for African Americans.

“We have much more opportunity [to drive sales of ethnic items] because
many of those purchases are outside the retail universe. Again it’s a category
growth area,” Walter said.