`Old Spice' Makes New Bid for Younger Customers

PROCTER & Gamble, the nation's largest consumer-goods company, is trying to spice up one of its best-known and most successful product lines.

Old Spice's famous ``Mariner Man'' - the jaunty, rugged fellow in the television commercials with the peacoat, nautical cap, and burlap bag - has been given a new wardrobe.

Today's ``contemporary'' Mariner Man now carries a gym bag and wears a baseball cap. His clipper ship has been sunk for a sleek racing yacht.

``We're keeping the same sense of adventure that Old Spice products have always illustrated, but we're now reaching out to younger consumers,'' says Jon Hall, associate advertising manager for Old Spice.

Changes in men's cosmetics may not seem all that important - until one remembers the dimensions of the highly competitive personal grooming market. The total market for women and men is estimated at around $20 billion. Slightly less than one-third of that amount includes grooming products for men.

``We estimate the current men's market [in North America and Europe] at around $6 billion,'' says Michele Szynal, a spokeswoman for the Boston-based Gillette Company. ``And we expect the men's market to double during the remainder of this decade, reaching about $12 billion by the year 2000.''

Shaving blades and razors represent about one-third of the men's grooming market, with Gillette holding a commanding lead in that sector.

Procter & Gamble is out front in the ``fragrance'' segment of the market, which includes after-shave lotions and cologne. Old Spice is still the No. 1 men's after-shave, although sales have slipped.

Mennen, owned by Colgate-Palmolive in New York, is a strong competitor in the fragrance market.

For the most part, companies that make personal-care products have lagged in the stock market this year, writes Alice Beebe Longley in a recent study for Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Inc., a New York investment house. But, she says, the group remains attractive given increasing sales abroad.

Personal-care product producers are trying to position themselves for stepped-up global expansion. Demographics are shifting in the United States as immigration continues to change the customer mix.

Companies are discarding unprofitable product lines and refining advertising campaigns to reflect a more contemporary look.

Gillette, for example, has introduced a new line of toiletries this year, which it says has a ``classic fragrance with a modern reference.'' It also has come out with new clear gel versions of some of its deodorants and antiperspirants. Many men today want a splash of scent without the sting of the alcohol, says Mr. Hall of Procter & Gamble.

Old Spice advertisements and commercials also have been updated. The former television commercials stressed seagoing themes, and while water will continue to serve as a backdrop for many of the new commercials, new Old Spice advertising campaigns will focus on contemporary activities such as cycling and professional beach volleyball.

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