Beiersdorf | Nivea (Germany)

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Beiersdorf may not itself be a household name, but its lead brand certainly is. Nivea claims to be the world's #1 personal care brand, sold in more than 200 countries and encompassing a vast range of products ranging from skin creams to deodorants, and from shampoo to cosmetics. It has a dominant position in its home country of Germany and a strong following throughout most of the rest of Europe as well as in selected other global markets. Beiersdorf's other leading brands include the Eucerin and La Prairie skincare ranges, as well as Labello lip balm, Atrix handcream, Hansaplast medical dressings, and Tesa adhesive tape. After several years as a potential takeover target, control of Beiersdorf was acquired in 2003 by the Herz family of Germany, also owners of Tchibo. The strength of its core Nivea brand has allowed Beiersdorf to hold onto its independence at a time when many other medium-sized personal care marketers have been snapped up by the likes of P&G and L'Oreal. Assuming Beiersdorf's sales continue on their current growth path, there should be no need for the company to sell up, and it is protected from hostile takeover by its family-dominated shareholder structure.

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Beiersdorf website


Nivea Tesa
Nivea Baby 8x4
La Prairie Elastoplast
Florena Eucerin
Nivea For Men Hansaplast
Nivea Sun Slek



Recent stories from Adbrands Update:

Adbrands Daily Update 27th Jun 2019: A rift has developed between Beiersdorf and long-time global Nivea agency FCB. According to a confidential internal memo sent by FCB CEO Carter Murray to staff, the agency will resign the account at the end of the current contract, due to expire later this year. FCB and its predecessor agencies in Europe, orginally known as Wilkens, have managed the business for more than a century. However, friction has apparently been rising since 2017. According to AdAge, it boiled over earlier this year when a creative execution from FCB which showed "two men's hands touching", planned to run during the current LGBTQ+ Pride Month, was rejected by Beiersdorf. "A person on the client team allegedly remarked, 'we don't do gay at Nivea' on a call with FCB creatives," reported AdAge. Murray's memo says that FCB will retain smaller Beiersdorf brands including Eucerin and Hansaplast, and that it may be possible for some regional FCB agencies to continue to manage local Nivea business. FCB Germany, for example, is actually now an independent agency which uses the network brand under license. However, the main FCB network has already informed Beiersdorf of its decision to resign the global account.

Beiersdorf issued a statement in response to the story, acknowledging that this is "the right time for a new beginning in Nivea's brand management and creative work". However it appeared to deny the homophobic allegations: "We understand that emotions and news interest are intensified when a longtime business relationship comes to an end – however, we ask for understanding that we don't comment on unsubstantiated speculations around this matter. Nonetheless we wish to express our concern on the reported allegations as they do not reflect the values of Beiersdorf, Nivea and our employees worldwide. No form of discrimination, direct and indirect, is or will be tolerated."

Adbrands Daily Update 14th May 2019: Beiersdorf is bolstering its portfolio with the acquisition of iconic American sun care brand Coppertone from Bayer. The price tag is $550m, equivalent to a little over twice the brand's annual sales of around $215m. First introduced in 1944, Coppertone was America's first homegrown sun cream. It was acquired by Bayer in 2014 as part of the Merck & Co consumer health portfolio.

Adbrands Social Media 16th Apr 2019: "There's Only One Sun". I posted a spot earlier today that was the epitome of everything we expect from Thai advertising: surreal, sentimental and slightly abrasive. Well here's one that's the epitome of British advertising: droll, deadpan, slightly odd and pleasantly old-fashioned. We're used to more straightforward Euro-pudding advertising from Nivea, made in Germany but designed to appeal to any regional audience. Well, now FCB Inferno gets the chance to put a distinctively small island spin on that marketing, probably because only the pale-skinned British would ever be foolish enough to consider going out in the noon day sun without any protection. It's like the sun baby from Teletubbies grew up and is now a lanky teenager.

Adbrands Weekly Update 4th June 2015: Ads of the Week "Doll". You can tell we're getting near to the Cannes Lions Festival when marketing case studies keep popping up everywhere. FCB Brasil is hoping to get two in a row for Nivea (they won the Grand Prix for mobile last year) with its latest clever idea, a doll that gets sunburn if it doesn't have regular applications of Nivea suncream. This latest idea is arguably even cleverer than the same team's mobile-trackable kids' wristband last year, so FCB probably has a strong chance of collecting some metal at the end of the month.

Adbrands Weekly Update 19th June 2014: FCB made a rare but welcome appearance on the Cannes Lions winners podium, awarded the Grand Prix in the Mobile category. For cornerstone client Nivea, the local office of FCB developed a clever press insert carrying a tear-out wrist band, to prevent kids from wandering off on the beach. Trackable by mobile app, the band issued an alert as soon as junior strayed too far away, and also offered a directional radar. Pure genius.

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Free for all users | see full profile for current activities: This Hamburg-based company was founded in 1882 when pharmacist Paul Beiersdorf applied for a patent for a new kind of flexible medical adhesive dressing made from plaster gauze and Gutta percha rubber. No businessman, he sold his invention eight years later to Dr Oskar Troplowitz, who kept the Beiersdorf name but set about about branching into other products. One of the first of these, launched in 1897, was an adhesive he named Cito. Too powerful to be used on human skin, it was marketed instead for the repair of bicycle punctures. Four years later, using a gentler adhesive, he launched Leukoplast, the first adhesive dressing to also prevent irritation of the skin by incorporating zinc oxide into the adhesive compound. (It was superseded by Hansaplast in 1922). In 1907 Troplowitz introduced Labello lipcare sticks. 

However, the company's most important discovery came in 1911. That year, the Beiersdorf research department perfected Eucerite, the first emulsifier which allowed water and oil to be permanently combined. This was a huge improvement over most other creams, which were created from animal or vegetable fats and quickly went rancid. Troplowitz added a few other ingredients and a mild fragrance, and named his new product Nivea (from "nivius", the Latin word for snow). Originally marketed as a cosmetic product, the Nivea concept was completely overhauled in the 1920s by new chairman Willy Jacobsohn. The famous blue tin with a white logo was introduced in 1924, and the product was retargeted as a general purpose family skin cream. Sales rocketed, and the group quickly expanded its business into other countries in Europe and even Latin America. During the early 1930s there was further diversification with a range of sun creams, shaving creams and shampoos. At the same time insurance company Allianz bought a large stake in the business.

By now however, the shadow of Germany's new National Socialist government had begun to fall over the company. Executive chairman Jacobsohn, a Jew, was forced out in 1933, along with several other Jewish board members. He fled to the Netherlands where he took over management of the group's international operations. However, the Second World War brought major problems for Beiersdorf. New chairman Carl Claussen attempted to maintain a distance from the Nazi regime, but during the war, foreign rights to the Nivea brand were seized by local companies, which then marketed the product as their own. Throughout this period, all of the brand's advertising in Germany was overseen by Elly Heuss-Knapp, a staunch opponent of the Nazi government. After the war, her husband Theodor Knapp was appointed as the first president of the new Federal Republic of Germany, and she became first lady. 

Although it retained ownership of Nivea in Germany after the war, Beiersdorf was obliged to devote a good deal of the next 50 years to the repurchase of international trademark rights to the brand. In the UK, for example, the trademark had become the property of Smith & Nephew. Beiersdorf bought it back in 1992 for £46.5m, although Smith & Nephew retained distribution rights, as well as a handsome royalty on sales. The final stage in the worldwide buyback was completed in 1997 when Beiersdorf acquired control of Pollena-Lechia, the holder of the trademark in Poland. In the mean time, Beiersdorf had formed a strategic partnership with Japanese manufacturer Kao Corporation to launch Nivea in Japan in 1971, and raised further funds through the sale of a large minority shareholding to coffee and tobacco group Tchibo in 1977.

The company took a strategic decision in the 1990s to focus its principal attention on its core brand. The Nivea name was successfully spun off into a number of other sectors, with launches in the Nivea Baby, haircare and men's markets, as well as further development of long-established Nivea Suncare range. Nivea Beauty products were launched successfully in France in 1997, and were rolled out in Germany, Austria and Switzerland in the spring of 1998. The rest of the portfolio was bolstered with small acquisitions. To establish a presence in the luxury skin care segment, the group acquired Swiss cosmetics brand Juvena in 1990, followed by La Prairie a year later. In 1996 it bought US bandage brands Curad, Futuro and Curitas from Colgate-Palmolive. In 1998 the group announced an agreement with Kao to market the latter's Biore skin cleansing strips in mainland Europe under the Nivea Visage label. The strips debuted in France, before launching in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Portugal and Greece. Beiersdorf also took a 10% stake in Kao's hair care marketer Guhl Ikebana. 

In 2001 the group restructured its relationship with Smith & Nephew, taking back distribution rights to Nivea and buying the British company's leading woundcare brand Elastoplast. In return the two companies formed a joint venture, BSN Medical, to market more specialised woundcare dressings. Also in 2001 the group acquired French shaving foam brand Nobacter and cosmetics line Onagrine from Boots, as well as an initial minority stake of under 25% in former East German cosmetics manufacturer Florena. A year later, Beiersdorf bought out the shares in Florena it didn't already own in order to take full control of the business.

In 2002 it was reported that insurance giant Allianz had put its 44% stake in the company up for sale, sparking interest from a number of potential bidders, not least L'Oreal, which reportedly offered €10bn for the whole company. Those negotiations subsequently stalled, and later that year Procter & Gamble was also rumoured to have begun talks. However, the German Herz family, who controlled a 31% stake through their holding company Tchibo, were also keen to take full control of the business. In October 2003, a consortium led by Tchibo and members of the Herz family acquired the Allianz stake for €4.4bn. Rolf Kunisch, CEO of Beiersdorf for several years, retired in 2005, as did Uwe Woelfer, the board member with responsibility for brands, sales and marketing. See full profile for current activities

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