For generations, the Mennen brand, now part of Colgate-Palmolive, was synonymous with mens’ and babies’ products, from baby oil to Speed Stick, Afta to Skin Bracer. Today, as the Colgate-Palmolive board meets for its annual meeting, it would do well to reconsider the value of the Mennen brand and company legacy, and do a better job nurturing it.
The New Jersey company Mennen, which for most of its life as a company was family owned, was known for blockbuster products from a small company. Like other personal care brands, it grew out of a single pharmacy, which is the model for most pharmaceutical companies. Even into the later decades of the 20th Century, there were multiple niche companies in the personal care and perfumed products field, including Noxell, Williams, and Shulton, maker of Old Spice. Today Keihl’s has done that trick again, going from pharmacy to top valued cosmetics and skin care brand.
Mennen’s products were more than household names. They were cultural shorthand. The trademark “By Mennen” was not the only one. Skin Bracer, the aftershave, had the tagline, “Thanks I needed That.” That line came from the ubiquitous ads where a man slaps himself after putting on after shave. The campaign also involved others’ slapping men, in ad settings that included boxing matches. The campaigns were so effective that “Thanks I needed that” became a playground tease, accompanied by a slap in the face, as if re-enacting the ad.
Below, a 1972 ad of the product with Mennen Skin Bracer “skin tighteners and chin chillers.” The ad always ended with a very hard slap, though children in playgrounds made it much harder.
The Mennen brand, launched in 1878 by Gerhard Heinrich Mennen, was family owned until Colgate-Palmolive purchased it in 1992 for $670 million. Since then, the Mennen brand has been diminished by Colgate-Palmolive in the U.S. market, though its products, including Speed Stick and Mennen baby soap (in Mexico), still survive. The price was around $670 million, according to UPI. The sale helped to increase Colgate’s personal care market share, though Speed Stick is pretty much the only major product that has survived under the company’s leadership.
At the time, Mennen had hopes that Colgate would be able to grow the brands. Instead, the brands, and the Mennen name, have been mostly diminished. At the time, Mennen had hopes that its legacy would continue, but instead Colgate shuttered their factory.
‘We and the family are pleased and proud that a fine company like Colgate-Palmolive has recognized the important values and strengths of Mennen,’ said L. Donald Horne, chairman of Mennen. ‘Colgate’s greater resources will help us compete even more successfully than we have as an independent company, and we believe our well-established brands — combined with Colgate’s enormous international marketing power — will lead to a new, even brighter future for Mennen.’United Press International, Feb 13, 1992
The Mennen brand still has equity, and should be used. It could be as big a market as Old Spice, which was almost forgotten, and then revived by Procter & Gamble. Today, Speed Stick is the sole big product associated in the public mind with Mennen, though the name has disappeared from the product. In Central America, Mennen is a baby and family soap wash brand in Mexico, where it is still well known. Old Spice, too was forgotten, until Procter & Gamble added new varieties, and redesigned packaging using the old formulas and designs as springboards to new versions and markets.
There are other precedents for revivals of these World War II era products. Barbasol has made a giant comeback, and a slurry of new, smaller niche shaving and baby care brands, founded by eco-friendly entrepreneurs, have thrived at retailers like Target, where they now occupy a full aisle. Mennen could be that sort of brand, again, if it looked at its history, products and packaging. Starting with baby care (perhaps a more masculine approach to boys lotions?) and taking it through to shaving and scents would do the trick.
In the middle of the 20th Century, Mennen was associated with baby products, including Mennen Antiseptic Baby Oil, Powder, Cream and Soap. In 1980, they also had top men’s colognes, including Mennen Trouble, Mennen Millionaire and Mennen Hawk.
The company had many competitors, including talc brands Mexsana Medicated Powder, Ammens Body Powder and Shower to Shower. Each brand had a certain scent and following.
Complicating this is the banning of talc after lawsuits; trial lawyers have ruined what was considered a safe product, even back to ancient Egypt. They now must rely on corn starch for powder, which is not as good at dryness, and leaves a sticky feel if you sweat. It is not a good substitute, and people who rely on talc will need to find it overseas.
Mennen offered a number of deodorants other than Speed Stick, whcih used to be in a white plastic package. “Get off the can, and get on the Stick” and the “Wide Stick” that would “Give you the Edge.” There was also Teen Spirit, just for high schoolers, Real (feels as good as it works) and Lady Speed Stick for women.
To start, in should reintroduce classic Mennen Speed Stick in its original white container, with minimalist design. The Mennen brand looks best when the name is written in the deco looking Mennen font, which was on the front of their factory in New Jersey before it closed.
Keeping Trademark Alive
The Mennen name is no longer on Speed Stick, though the company sees value in the name, as it filed for a 2017 trademark registrationi for Speed Stick Irish Spring by Mennen. The name Mennen is also a fairly recent trademark used for underarm deodorant; the first use cited there is 1899. The company is actually paying attention to the value of the trademark. This fall it updated the attorney name at Colgate-Palmolive who represents the brand. While this does not sound like a big deal, it happens more often than not that companies ignore these old brands, and simple things like contact information.
When the company advertised at the Super Bowl a decade ago, the commercials had moved from men doing sports and outdoor things, to a guy who happened to pick up a girl’s panties at a laundromat. The “Handle It” hashtag and slogan pushed out any mention of Mennen, which was a key part of the brand name.
1960s ads had the slogan, “Wherever you find men,you find Mennen.”
Colgate does have some smaller brands that it keeps in production even though they are not market leaders. Ultra Brite, more often found at Dollar Tree, seems to be sold as a discount brand, though it is priced at a premium on Amazon. It even has the Colgate label on the top band, but only in relief. A brand like Ultra Brite can run on the same factory lines as Colgate, at times with the higher margin product is not in production.
The “By Mennen” slogan appeared at the end of every Mennnen commericial. Pianist Brian Turner even has a video of the “By Mennen.” jingle. Jingle writer Doug Katsaros wrote the “By Mennen” jingle. He said taht the double ententre was that you would also “Buy Mennen.”
There is enough pop culture references to By Mennen to make it worth a comeback, including Seinfeld, Family Guy, Oprah, Scrubs, as well as many comedic references.
The brand still exists around the world, including Mexico, where Colgate-Palmolive sells Mennen Baby Magic.