Expert's Opinion

Brand Therapy: Can You Hear What She Has To Say?

By Alisa Beyer, The Benchmarking Company | December 17, 2009

In today’s quickly-evolving beauty industry, concept and product testing are key, explains Alisa Beyer.

The graveyard of cosmetic ideas gone badly is vast, and filled with dozens of great products that could never seem to gain traction with consumers. What sounds great in a boardroom, or to a roomful of seasoned beauty executives, doesn’t always appeal to women quite the way we think it will. Teasing out the nuances of your overall product concept that appeal (or don’t appeal) to real female consumers is a pivotal step to avoiding this graveyard.

And even though figuring out exactly what women want or don’t want in their beauty products might not be an exact science, it is an art that can be embraced by every brand, from established category-owner all the way down to indie superstar.

3-Second Success

Research has shown that when it comes to capturing the consumer, you have three seconds to make an impression before she will move onto the next product. But why wait for such a small window to turn her into your consumer? Tapping into what she thinks of your initial concepts in a small, intimate focus group setting will not only save you consumer frustration, it could save you from spending money (even millions) on an idea that simply doesn’t work.

Focus groups (I prefer the term dialog groups) are the ideal way to explore multiple concept angles with a targeted consumer group. What does she think of your ingredient profile? Are the colors of your logo appealing to her? How about the texture? Which ingredient positioning is better, seaweed or salmon? In those crucial three seconds, does she understand your product and if it’s for her? The time and effort invested in creating concepts, and then testing them (along with potential formulations) for appeal and impact will position your new offering to hit the ground running when it enters the market, and—it will already have your target consumer’s seal of approval.

Concept Confusion

How many times have you picked up a product at the store and just had no idea what it was or how it worked? And it certainly did not scream that it was for you. Probably too many times to count. You can penetrate this divide by letting a dialog group vet out the message your products are sending. Before any dollars are spent, tap her brain and let her explore your ideas. Not only will you gain a wealth of information on what she likes about your concept (names? positioning? key claims?), you will also learn what she does not like, or what does not make sense to her, keeping your product from failing to capture her interest with a concept that isn’t compelling.

Participants will not only be excited that they had a hand in helping to guide development, they will be eager for the product to enter the market. These groups create buzz and anticipation about your brand, and make contributors feel valued and important, establishing a loyalty to your brand before products are even on the shelves. Let her tell you those needs from the start, and you will win her in the end. You want answers, she has opinions (and they might even save you some money).

Brand messages, claims and images are also ideally suited to testing with a focus group, and will go a long way to ensuring that your consumer completely understands your message. What images speak to her? Do certain words call her to take action or make her believe in your brand? Does she understand the benefits and claims, and most importantly—did it make her want to buy? By having a clear idea of how your consumer perceives even the smallest component of your concept and messages, you come closer to illuminating the white space between what she hears, and what you want her to hear.

Rather than being perceived as an unfinished idea, focus group participants are compelled by being given the chance to interact with "working" product concepts, and to offer their feedback and opinions on how the brand is shaped. Knowing that their opinions are important to you makes these consumers feel valued beyond the dollars they are spending, which will in turn help create loyalty to your brand. Plugging into consumer insights and feedback at a base-level builds a foundation for future success that is grounded in real consumer insight.

In the Mix

We’ve all been there: a newly purchased product that simply didn’t live up to its description. Maybe the texture was too thick or the smell too strong— something about the product was just not as we thought it would be from the package. As consumers, few moments are more frustrating. But as brand developers, far fewer of these moments need to happen if we have done our due diligence.

Purposefully testing out product formulations through a focus group can help ensure that your brand is not only built with a purpose, but that it will meet the expectations of your consumer. What does she think of the texture of your products? Is she happy with the smell? How about the consistency or the way it blends? Even packaging can be vetted, giving you critical information straight from the buyer’s mouth, so to speak, that is directly translatable into future success. Beauty consumers are a unique group. Not only do they want to feel a deep personal and emotional connection to their products, they also want to believe that the brands they choose are the best for their skin, and that they will see results. Knowing what components of brand formulation she finds appealing before the jars are filled will save you from an expensive mistake, and position your product for success from minute one.

Survey Says…

Getting your glorious product idea off the page and into her shopping basket is more than just clever names and packaging, as we all know. To truly get inside what the beauty consumer of today wants (and likes!), you must engage her in the process and let her voice be heard. Her insights will become an invaluable part of the development process and help you secure the ‘buy’ within those first three seconds.

About the Author
Alisa Marie Beyer works hard to know what women are doing, thinking, feeling, and buying, and what they want from their beauty brands. She is a proven serial entrepreneur who has built and sold three companies and is the founder and creative director of The Benchmarking Company (TBC). She decided to bring her “built from scratch” expertise to the beauty industry when she launched TBC in 2006 after the birth of her third child. Now TBC hosts a unique blend of beauty clients, from start-ups to multi-billion dollar companies.

Alisa works hard to know what women are doing, thinking, feeling, and buying, and what they want from their beauty brands. By interviewing and meeting with thousands of women annually on behalf of clients like Glowelle, Estee Lauder, Mary Kay, L’Oreal, L’Occitane, Fresh, Bath & Body Works, Guthy Renker and Victoria Secret’s Beauty, Alisa helps companies understand what it takes to gain customer attention, achieve brand loyalty and build a beauty business that works. Through the many planning and ideation sessions she has conducted with both small and large clients, to the complete go-to- market plans she has authored, Alisa helps shape marketing strategies and build brands. As a beauty industry expert in high demand, Alisa also serves as the Global Beauty Brand Strategist for Breakthrough in Beauty, consulting on the development and launch of new beauty care lines for DRTV.

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