Always in Tune with the Times

The Global NIVEA Brand

The development of NIVEA Creme over 100 years ago marked the beginning of a unique success story and the birth of the World’s No.1 Skin Care Brand*. NIVEA is the product of brilliant research, outstanding creativity, and sound business acumen. In 1890, Dr. Oscar Troplowitz bought Paul C. Beiersdorf’s Hamburg-based laboratory. Troplowitz’s scientific advisor, the leading dermatologist Professor Paul Gerson Unna, told him about an innovative emulsifying agent called Eucerit (the ancient Greek word for beautiful wax). Together, they developed the world’s first stable oil-and-water-based cream that was suitable for mass production in 1911 and called it NIVEA.

The “mother of all creams” was named for its white colour, and the word NIVEA is derived from the Latin word “nix, nivis” meaning snow. So NIVEA means “snow white.” In addition to Eucerit, which was used to bind the oils with water, the original Creme also contained glycerin and a little citric acid, fragranced with rose and lily-of-the-valley oils. Despite regular refinements to adapt NIVEA Creme’s formula to the latest scientific findings, in essence it has changed very little over the last 100 years.

The NIVEA Creme tin, on the other hand, was completely redesigned just 14 years after it was initially launched. In the 1920s, or the “Golden Twenties” as they were also known, a brand new zeitgeist emerged, and “youth” and “leisure” became the new buzzwords. NIVEA recognized it, responded to it, and adapted its brand profile accordingly. The fancy art nouveau design of the original NIVEA tin was replaced by a simple, yet distinctive look. The year was 1925 and the look was the blue tin with white NIVEA lettering.

The NIVEA family continued to grow. In the 1930s, many new products were added to the range, such as shaving cream, shampoo, and skin oil. NIVEA became a global top-selling brand, partly thanks to the innovative NIVEA advertising by Elly Heuss-Knapp, wife of the man who later became Germany’s first Federal President, Theodor Heuss. Elly Heuss-Knapp recognized the charismatic potential of the blue and white brand colours and cleverly incorporated them in her commercials.

Economic miracle and competition. Despite the raw material shortages and hardships of the post-war years, NIVEA Creme had become firmly established worldwide as a classic brand by the 1950s. A new travel trend was fuelled by increasing affluence in the 1950s and 1960s, when beach holidays in Southern Europe and skiing holidays were all the rage. Beiersdorf picked up on this trend and catered to it with a wide range of NIVEA sun protection and sun care products.

The supermarket boom, the abolition of recommended retail prices, and new market players introduced tougher competition in the 1970s. Beiersdorf responded with a confident and effective advertising campaign called “Creme de la Creme.” It focused on NIVEA Creme’s unique quality, unrivalled effectiveness, and honesty.

Umbrella brand development. Studies in the 1980s revealed that consumer trust in the NIVEA brand was extremely high. Beiersdorf recognized the growth potential associated with this finding and launched a number of new NIVEA skin care products in the customary high quality. One of these was the NIVEA MEN After Shave Balsam for sensitive men’s skin.

In the 90s, NIVEA expanded to become a global brand with consistent names, products and packaging. NIVEA families, like Visage, deodorant, soft, Vital and NIVEA Bath Care were developed at this time. In only 10 years, sales quadrupled and NIVEA became Beiersdorf’s largest brand by far.

100 Years Skincare for Life. Fans around the world celebrated the NIVEA brand’s 100th anniversary in 2011 in Hamburg, where the NIVEA history began. Beiersdorf has now introduced a standard design language for the some 500 products in the big NIVEA family. When the step-by-step conversion process that commenced in 2012 concludes, all NIVEA packaging will feature the new logo, which is based on NIVEA’s distinctive hallmark, the blue tin.

Find historical clips and TV commercials at the Beiersdorf Classic Cinema here.

(*Source: Euromonitor International Limited; NIVEA by umbrella brand name in the categories Body Care, Face Care and Hand Care; in retail value terms, 2020.)