Nivea: Managing an Umbrella Brand

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‘In many countries consumer are convinced that Nivea is a local brand, a mistake which Beiersdoft, the German makers, take as a compliment.’ (Quoted on leading brand consultancy Wolff-Olins’ website,

An ode to Nivea’s success
In May 2003, a survey of ‘Global Mega Brand Franchises’ revealed that the Nivea Cosmetics brand had presence in the maximum number of product categories and countries. The survey, conducted by US-based ACNielsen, aimed at identifying those brands that had ‘successfully evolved beyond their original product categories’. A key parameter was the presence of these brands in multiple product categories as well as countries.

Nivea’s performance in this study prompted a news article to name it the ‘Queen of Mega Brands’. This title was appropriate since the brand was present in over 14 product categories and was available in more than 150 countries. Nivea was the market leader in skin creams and lotions in 28 countries, in facial cleansing in 23 countries, in facial skin care in 18 countries, and in suntan products in 15 countries. In many of those countries, it was reportedly believed to be a brand of local origin—having been present in them for many decades. This fact went a long way in helping the brand attain leadership status in many categories and countries (see Table 3). Table 3 Nivea: market positions

CATEGORYSkin careBaby careSun protectionMen’s care
The study covered 200 consumer packaged goods brands from over 50 global manufacturers. The brands had to be available in at least 15 of the countries studied; the same name had to be used in at least three product categories and meet franchise in at least three of the five geographical regions.

In its home country Germany, too, many of Nivea’s products were the market leaders in their segments. This market leadership status translated into superior financial performance. Between 1991 and 2001, Nivea posted double-digit growth rates every year. For 2001, the brand generated revenues of €2.5 billion, amounting to 55 per cent of the parent company’s (Beiersdoft) total revenue for the year. The 120-year-old, Hamburg-based Beiersdoft has often been credited with meticulously building the Nivea brand into the world’s number one personal care brand. According to a survey conducted by ACNielsen in the late 1990s, the brand had a 15 per cent share in the global skin care products market. While Nivea had always been the company’s star performer, the 1990s were a period of phenomenal growth for the brand. By successfully extending what was essentially a ‘one-product wonder’ into many different product categories, Beiersdoft had silenced many critics of its umbrella branding decision.

The marketing game for Nivea

Millions of customers across the world have been familiar with the Nivea brand since their childhood. The visual (colour and packaging) and physical attributes (feel, smell) of the product stayed on in their minds. According to analysts, this led to the formation of a complex emotional bond between customers and the brand, a bond that had strong positive under-tones. According to a my article, Nivea’s blue colour denoted sympathy, harmony, friendship and loyalty. The white colour suggested external cleanliness as well as inner purity. Together, these colours gave Nivea the aura of an honest brand.

To customers, Nivea was more than a skin care product. They associated Nivea with good health, graceful ageing and better living. The company’s association Nivea with many sporting events, fashion events and other lifestyle-related events gave the brand a long-lasting appeal. In 2001, Franziska Schmiedebach, Beiersdoft’s Corporate Vice President (Face Care and Cosmetics), commented that Nivea’s success over the...
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