Unilever’s doctor brand – founded in 1989 in Los Angeles by UCLA professor, dermatologist and pharmacist, Howard Murad MD – is aiming to build its presence the duty free and travel retail channel. As Murad steps onto the TFWA World Exhibition stage in Cannes this week, Kevin Rozario gets some insights from Murad Director of International Marketing Robert Burns.

The Moodie Davitt Report: Can you tell us how you have progressed with the Murad brand since it was acquired by Unilever in September 2015?

Robert Burns: We have been very busy at Murad since being integrated into the Unilever Prestige division. However our priority has not shifted from becoming a top-ranking skincare brand everywhere we play. A lot of time and effort has gone into understanding the brand DNA to get the right message at the right consumer touchpoint. We continue to open strategic markets abroad – most recently Germany and China.

Burns: “Travel retail will be an important cornerstone of our strategy to reach these consumers, particularly as destinations and traffic patterns shift.”

What is the brand’s current exposure in travel retail and what are your expectations in the coming 12 months?

Currently Murad is in Copenhagen Airport. Travel retail represents the ‘ultimate testing ground’ as we will be exposing our brand to every nationality around the world. Expansion into the channel will provide us with critical insights as to how to better serve our new and existing customers globally. Our expectations for the coming 12 months are that we are going to learn a lot!

Are there specific country markets or duty free sub-channels where you want to make headway?

In the immediate future, we plan to focus on airports as more than one billion international travellers pass through them each year – and that number is expected to grow +5% annually, according to projections. In airports, consumers of every nationality are exposed to beauty brands that may have otherwise gone undiscovered.

We are particularly looking at travel corridors frequented by consumers from key emerging markets. We recognise that many consumers from emerging markets are introduced to our brand while travelling or abroad. Travel retail will be an important cornerstone of our strategy to reach these consumers, particularly as destinations and traffic patterns shift.

Do you see ‘doctor brands’ as a beauty segment that is ripe for exploitation in the channel – and why is now a good time to do that?

The Connected Beauty philosophy starts with Dr Murad’s key question: “Who are you at your core?”

We are entering an era where the consumer is savvier than ever. They are no longer content with their specific skincare concerns being generalised. They want customised solutions for specific issues – acne, anti-ageing, dehydration – which require the knowledge, research, and science of experts. This offers the perfect opportunity for true doctor brands to take centre stage in travel retail.

We believe the skincare segment is ripe for brands that focus on connected beauty. At Murad, we understand your skin is connected to every organ in your body. What you eat, drink, think about, and do, impacts how healthy your skin is – and how healthy you feel. This inspires our philosophy that we call Connected Beauty, where cutting-edge product formulations connect with positive physical and mental lifestyle practices, plus professional treatment for beautiful skin.

Think of it like this: goji berries are antioxidant powerhouses full of vitamin C. Vitamin C is essential in collagen synthesis – the process that keeps our skin firm and plump. So, eating goji berries gives your body the tools it needs to support healthy collagen synthesis. Simply put, you really are what you eat.

The Connected Beauty philosophy began with Dr Murad. In fact, the first question he asked in his dermatology practice still differentiates us today: “Who are you at your core?”. This approach is how we’ve preserved youthful skin from the inside out for 28 years.

Catchy names: Ready Radiant Glow (left) and Prep in a Flash sets.

What is Murad’s price position vs competitors and, in travel retail, will any be exclusive to the channel?

Multi-vitamin infusion oil from Murad.

Murad will be competitively priced within travel retail, while defending its prestige positioning and abiding to collection-specific characteristics. As space is at a premium in the duty free environment, we will customise the best product portfolio for consumers based on the specific location. Currently we do not have any exclusive offerings but we see this an opportunity with huge potential.

Murad, as you mentioned, is part of Unilever’s prestige division. What does that bring you?

I think Dr Murad said it best: “We’ve always looked for ways to reach more people with our message of inclusive health. By leveraging Unilever Prestige Division synergies, we have been able to broaden our reach and significantly grow our brand while remaining faithful to the founding principles of Murad.”

Over the medium term – say three years – what proportion of Murad’s sales do you hope will come from travel retail?

We will have certain KPI’s (key performance indicators) in place for the first year in travel retail to gain a better understanding of what is the true potential for Murad over the short- to medium-term.