Expert's Opinion

Succeeding in Skin Care

By Nicole Desir, Vice President, Brand Management of Beanstalk | May 19, 2014

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The skin care market is immense. Thousands of brands provide endless options for every conceivable skin care concern.  But as consumers become savvier, they are demanding that new brand entrants do more than provide basic skin care.  In order to succeed in today’s saturated market, brands must present a clear point of difference relevant to targeted consumer groups.
Brand credibility and product efficacy are key consumer sales drivers. Utilization of clinical evidence as well as dermatologist branding or endorsements continue to be significant dynamics in the skincare segment.  These tactics create instant brand trust and establish product performance. Dermalogica and Dr. Dennis Gross are great brand examples of this trend.  With the International Dermal Institute as its critical R&D and testing division, all Dermalogica products rely on clinical research and science-based claims to prove efficacy. The Dr. Dennis Gross branded skincare portfolio utilizes Dr. Gross’ reputation and expertise as a celebrity dermatologist to prove brand credibility.  The consumer sees these brands as “experts” and therefore trusts the brands will deliver on their promise.  
On the other end of the spectrum, many skin care brands are touting the use of exotic, interesting or trendy ingredients to provide a point of difference for consumers. Although science-based claims provide instant credibility, ingredient stories create intrigue and provide brand owners with compelling distinction in the marketplace. For example, Lush touts the use of only fresh, vegetarian ingredients in the product line including little or no preservatives.  As a result, many items must be refrigerated and have tremendously short shelf lives, creating a perception that it is “the vitality and freshness of whole ingredients that makes it work.” Nuance Salma Hayek also utilizes an ingredient story, relying heavily on Hayek’s grandmother’s Mexican recipes and exotic extracts to create differentiation for the consumer.  The brand promotes ingredients such as prickly pear and tepezcohuite, a tree extract used in Mexican burn units to regenerate tissue and promote creation of new skin cells, to engage consumers and provide them with “special” ingredients not otherwise available in that marketplace.
In today’s post-recession economy, consumers are looking for more than low price – they seek some definition of perceived value, which is critical for engagement with them at every tier of distribution. For many consumers there is little room for frivolous spending, thus every product needs to have a clearly communicated value proposition whether sold in high-end boutiques or mass-market drug stores. For example, mass brands such as L’Oreal claim to utilize the same ingredients as department store brands, but at a fraction of the price.  Or conversely, Crème de la Mer, widely known as one of the most expensive skincare brands, addresses their $155 per ounce price point by claiming efficacy is achieved through only a small amount per application, proving value beyond the ingredient list.
However, capturing luxury at an accessible price point remains enticing to consumers and the collection of “masstige” products continues to surge. Mass market retailers continue to look for brands that allow them to compete with premium offerings at department stores and boutiques such as Johnson & Johnson’s RoC and Olay’s ProX. Both brands offer products that provide luxury ingredient solutions at a cost more palatable to the average consumer. Heavily involved beauty purchasers know that they can achieve the same or similar results with a $45 eye cream as they can with a $120 serum.
As beauty and health remain key drivers for both young consumers concerned with aging and older consumers seeking products to help them age as well as possible, skincare will continue to be a significant segment of the beauty market place.  The category is only becoming more and more saturated, thus to succeed, brands must strive not only to deliver highly efficacious products, but to separate themselves from the sea of competitors with a clear and compelling point of difference for savvy beauty consumers.

About the expert
In her role at Beanstalk, Nicole Desir has served as the lead on strategy development and program implementation for diverse clients such as Procter & Gamble, Salma Hayek, Mary-Kate and Ashley, Carmindy, among others.  For more information, contact