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How to Make Moisturizing Man's Work

A Moment With... Wayne Zink

May 30, 1996|LAURIE DRAKE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Men's skin care is the mission impossible of the cosmetics business.

Convincing guys they need cleanser and moisturizer as much as women do is a challenge few companies have met--although many want a piece of this market (women's skin care products bring in more than $1 billion world-wide).

One is Zirh Skin Nutrition of Scottsdale, Ariz. Named after an ancient Sumerian warrior (in a vision that came to the company president while meditating), the product line debuted in April at all 14 Barneys stores.

Two floors and several light-years away from the retailer's cosmetics department in Beverly Hills, where in a few hours shoppers will walk on imported marble and lean against bleached sycamore cabinets, a Zirh sales training session is underway.

"Good morning," says Zirh President Wayne Zink to the assembly of 16 women and two men, all dressed in varying degrees of black. They do not laugh when he tells the meditation story (having probably heard similar tales of spiritual awakening from customers).

Zink introduces what he irreverently calls "the goop in the tubes" and expounds upon its virtues. Then he says something amazing: "It's a little unrealistic to claim that our product is the answer to all your customers' needs. So please don't tell anyone that Zirh will help them get all the chicks."

Pointing to a chart, he explains how male customers fall along a bell curve. "On the left is a little group that's very savvy about skin care. They aren't loyal to one brand but will cherry-pick items--a zit stick here, an eye cream there.

"And on the other side are men who wouldn't use skin care if you paid 'em. They wash their face with whatever is on the sink, even if it's Lava. But in the middle is a large group who buy nice suits, work out regularly, and watch what they eat and drink. And yet, we've found they don't know how to approach skin care!"

So keep it simple, he advises. Toward that end, Zirh labels its core products in third-grade terminology: Prevent, a skin nourishing vitamin; Clean, a face wash and shave lather; Correct, a post-shave skin soother; and Protect, a moisturizing sunscreen.

Zink explains that men often resist changing the way they shave. "They learn it at their father's knee and that's that," he says, "which is why we don't position Clean as a shaving cream. The way to sell it is to say, 'Here is a wonderful menthol / lemony cleanser that, oh by the way, you can shave with.' "

He coaches the salespeople to avoid beauty-industry lingo: "Words like 'tone' and 'exfoliate' make men uncomfortable," Zink says. But they relate to car and sports analogies, like "fuel your body with vitamins" and "tackle pimples."

And boy toys can be as useful as macho language. "Men like the concept of kits--think of a toolbox or fishing tackle," Zink says. "So that's why we like the Zirh starter kit," with four items that cost 40% more when sold separately.

Three other products targeting men with special problems, such as pimples and wrinkles, might be considered Zirh's varsity squad. There's Scrub, for weekly exfoliation; Fix, to clear acne; and Restore, an under-eye puffiness reducer.

"Ask the customer, 'Is your under-eye puffiness occasional?' If it is, then it's probably due to water retention, and Restore works great. But we can't work miracles on someone with fat pads under his eyes," Zink says, adding in a whisper, "for that you need surgery."

With that, an audience member pipes up: "Send them up the street," referring to Camden Drive, the plastic surgery row of Beverly Hills.

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