Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Olay

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Olay (known as Oil of Olay until 1999 in South Africa and North America) is a Procter and Gamble brand, based around facial moisturizer skin care products.

  • 1949 Olay began life in South Africa as Oil of Olay, by Graham Wulff (1916-2008), an ex-Unilever chemist from Durban. The name "Oil of Olay" was chosen by Wulff as a spin on the word "lanolin", a key ingredient.
  • It was unique in the early days because it was a pink fluid rather than a cream, packaged in a heavy glass bottle. Wulff and his marketing partner, Jack Lowe, a former copywriter, had tested the product on their wives and friends and were confident in its uniqueness and quality.
  • Olay’s marketing was also unique, since it was never described as a moisturizer, nor even as beauty fluid. Nowhere on the packaging did it say what the product actually did. Print adverts used copy such as “Share the secret of a younger looking you” and talked about the ‘beauty secret’ of Oil of Olay. Other adverts were written as personal messages to the reader from a fictitious advice columnist named Margaret Merril. They ran in Readers’ Digest and newspapers and often looked like editorials.
  • Wulff and Lowe, who ran the company under the banner of Adams National Industries (ANI), did not sell the product to the trade, but waited for pharmacies to ask for it based on consumer requests.
  • 1958 Olay was first introduced to the UK.
  • As the company began to market the product internationally, it was decided to modify the name of the product in each country so it would sound pleasing and realistic to consumers. This led to the introduction of Oil of Ulay (UK and Ireland), Oil of Ulan (Australia) and Oil of Olaz (France, Italy, the Netherlands and Germany).
  • 1970 ANI opened a test market in USA (Chicago), and was expanding into northern Germany.
  • 1999 It was decided to unify the brand under a global name. Thus, Oil of Ulan and Ulay became Olay on a worldwide basis, except in German-speaking regions, where it remained Oil of Olaz. In the Netherlands, it was renamed just Olaz.
  • 2008 Olay is available in a variety of formulas around the world.

Sources of Information

  • [1] Wikipedia
  • [2] Procter and Gamble UK and Ireland