The Power of Packaging

November 9, 2005

As competition increases in the personal care market, manufacturers are relying more on packages to get their products off the shelves and into consumers' hands

As competition increases in the personal care market,
manufacturers are relying more on packages to get their products
off the shelves and into consumers’ hands.

Packaging plays an important role in all segments of the consumer products industry. The success of most products, ranging from cola to cookies to shaving cream, often depends on how they are packaged. Personal care product packaging is a key element in luring first-time buyers. Even though the efficacy of a product is paramount to establishing consumer loyalty, it is the packaging that first speaks to the consumers and entices them to look further.

According to packaging manufacturers Happi spoke to, several trends are driving packaging in the personal care market. For one, manufacturers, both large and small, are keeping a close eye on costs. Realizing the effect even a small dip in earnings can have on investor confidence, larger, publicly traded companies, such as Estée Lauder, Procter & Gamble and L’Oréal have shied away from the more expensive custom molds in favor of dressed up stock packages to house their products while keeping costs down. Meanwhile, small companies, who cannot afford ornate, custom packaging have continued to choose stock options.
At the same time, a new retail segment has entered the category. Dubbed the masstige, this new category is a mix of the mass market and prestige segments. It seems the mass market is becoming a little more upscale while the prestige market is lowering its prices to attract more consumers.

For instance, the Neutrogena and Oil of Olay cosmetics lines launched last year feature upscale metallic packaging inspired by higher end department store looks. These products cost slightly more than typical mass market brands but have still been able to register strong sales since their introductions last year. Mean-while, Estée Lauder’s Clinique brand, with prices lower than those typically found in department stores, remains the leading prestige brand.

A final trend affecting the packaging of personal care products is the emergence of the open-sell environment made popular by Sephora and other retailers. Consumers are able to help themselves to see and hold products up close before purchasing them, something that isn’t always possible in department stores.

Even in the less exciting segments, packaging plays a key role. After company research recognized that 25% of liquid hand soap purchase decisions are made at the shelf (versus 13% for bar soap) Colgate-Palmolive recently introduced new packaging and graphics on all of its liquid hand soap and body wash products. The line now features a wider, consumer-preferred bottle to align with the feminine and caring equity of the Softsoap brand, according to company executives. It also features an ergonomic wide-head pump for easier use and convenient dispensing.

Crafting Color Cosmetics
The formulas for many color cosmetic products such as foundations, lipsticks and blushes contain more water to allow the products to offer hydrating benefits. As a result, airtight packaging components must be used to keep these products from drying out.

“Application is becoming easier and easier and lasting longer and longer,” remarked Yves St. Laurent spokeswoman Lis Guiney. “This calls for perfectly water-proof components that don’t interfere with formulas. Since it isn’t always easy to find suitable packaging solutions, our packaging development team works closely with our formula development laboratory.”

YSL’s long-lasting lip product, Rouge Singulier, is housed in a waterproof tube to protect its water content. To make the product more sensual, the company used a feminine round shape for the tube, which is coated in two shades of gold.

Elizabeth Arden’s Lip Lip Hooray lip color, which contains a patented water-emulsion system to deliver all-natural, water soluble ingredients, also requires airtight packaging. “To package a more hydrating lipstick, one must be careful of the moisture barrier properties of the case,” remarked Elizabeth Arden design consultant Michelle Nahum-Albright. “The specifics are relative to the formula and density of the pomade.”

While attention was paid to protecting the water content of the formulation, Elizabeth Arden executives also took pains to ensure the packaging fit the brand image. Lip Lip Hooray is packaged in Arden’s signature black case but is set apart from the company’s traditional lipsticks with a green banded center to denote the product’s mintiness. “A lipstick and compact become the central identifying elements of a color line,” Ms. Albright said. “These should be items a woman is proud to be seen using. A customer recognizes her brand instantly.”

Lancôme Paris executives faced the task of maintaining high water content in their latest compact, Teint Idole Hydra, which contains 30% water. The high water content required the company’s packaging experts to develop a special sealing system in the compact, which features an extra inside lid to maintain the powder’s freshness.

Besides an increase in water content, cosmetic manufactures have also considered the consumer’s busy lifestyle when choosing the package for their latest products. The result is portable products that can fit easily into shoulder bags and withstand travel conditions. This trend is probably most evident in the growing number of companies, including Chanel, Clarins and L’Oréal, offering stick foundations, blushes and shadows that swivel up for a wipe-on, no mess application.

“This stick item is really formula driven,” said Chanel’s Mary Duchene. “It is harder to find packaging components for their silicone-based formulas. You need the proper seal to prevent evaporation problems.”

Chanel further addressed portability needs by developing a brush-on powder, eliminating the powder’s tendency to stray. Poudre Caresse Powderlights brush-on powder features a built-in brush so users can shake the powder out and brush it on in one simple step.

Indie Invasion
A slew of nouveau, trendy color cosmetics companies have been using offbeat and funky packaging to lure consumers. These brands, such as BeneFit, Stila and Urban Decay, are often sold in open-sell environments, such as Sephora, so consumers can examine their components before purchase. These companies often use alternative packaging forms not commonly found in the personal care segment, such as medicine bottles, metal pots or paint cans, to house their wild shade ranges and unusual product forms.

“A lot of packaging probably wouldn’t have been considered if we hadn't broken initial ground,” said Wendy Zomnir, executive creative director, Urban Decay. “We were the first cosmetic company to look at a medicine bottle or metal pots for cosmetic products. We pushed the industry to look at alternatives to packaging.”

These alternative styles, such as Urban Decay’s medicine bottle nail polish containers, have been replicated on mass market shelves and department store counters alike, according to industry observers. This shift has also reinforced to manufacturers how important the package is in selling a product.

“The function of the package of a color cosmetic product is not only a vehicle to make the product portable but also as a point of differentiation,” said Kierna Terrisse, assistant creative director, Stila.

Even some of the most upscale companies on the market are confessing to considering these new funky styles. “In addition to our basic products, we plan to offer new cutting-edge products for the brand with great added value in terms of performance, formula technology and packaging,” Ms. Guiney said. “This will include limited edition products that are more playful yet aim at triggering strong, but short-lived fashion trends.”

Skin Issues
Skin care is another personal care segment in which technology is driving packaging trends. Age-defying formulas containing sophisticated and often unstable ingredients warrant more complex packaging.

For instance, the use of pumps is on the rise as more manufacturers look for dispensing options that prevent contamination. Furthermore, packages need to present an image that exudes confidence so the consumer will trust the product. Therefore, many companies have chosen simple packaging to deliver an upscale look.

Procter & Gamble recently created a pump product for consumers who typically want thick creams often packaged in jars. The package for Oil of Olay Total Effects anti-aging product is shaped like a jar but contains a metered dispensing pump.

“Women prefer the inherent benefits of a pump package but also recognize that pump packages are typically used for lotions while jars are typically used for creams,” said Michael Karumsky, marketing director, Oil of Olay. “Thus P&G developed one product that had all the benefits of a cream and a lotion and therefore needed a package that could satisfy the two user groups. The discovery of the Olay Total Effects package, which we call a pump jar, did exactly that. The jar-like package delivers a thick/highly moisturizing product via its positive displacement pump.”

The pump dispensing option provides metered dosage, an important benefit in age-defying and other sophisticated products for which consumers want consistent benefits from day to day. The closed system prevents undue product exposure and dramatically reduces the chance of cross contamination. The plastic resins in the packaging help prevent water loss as well, according to the company.

Total Effects, which claims to fight the seven signs of aging, including wrinkles, skin texture, skin tone, surface dullness, pore appearance, age spots and dry skin, retails for $18.99, considerably higher than typical mass market prices. Both the sophisticated formula and the packaging justify the price, assured Mr. Karumsky.

“The technology at the heart of Total Effects is a true age-defying breakthrough and therefore the cost of the formula, the package and the unique manufacturing process are reflected in the overall price,” he said.

The Power Gets Stronger
Packaging will continue to act as the link between the product and the consumer and manufacturers will continue to invest heavily in time, research and money to make sure their products look good enough to buy. A product’s packaging will remain critical in influencing purchasing decision, protecting the product and projecting a desired brand image. If these three factors are not in sync, sales could be sharply affected.

A personal care package has to look good enough for a women to keep it on her dresser or counter and she’s not going to buy a product that doesn’t fit in with the look she’s trying to portray to the outside world.

“Packaging is what the brand ultimately is,” opined Urban Decay’s Ms. Zomnir. “If the brand is funky, you don’t want dowdy packaging and if the brand is luxurious you don’t want cheap packaging.”

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