Last month in Last Vegas, Procter & Gamble wasn’t just an attendee—this year, the CPG giant took a deep dive into CES with its “LifeLab” exhibit on the show floor inside the Sands Expo Center (one of several CES locations spread out across the city). The large, interactive stand featured six product experiences ranging from P&G’s high-end properties like SK-II to its mainstays Olay, Oral-B and Gillette to what’s to come, like Opté and DS3. The LifeLab also included a theater where P&G hosted a fireside chat with Dr. Mehmet Oz about the intersection of beauty and health; panel discussions about myriad topics like AI and beauty, women in STEM and much more, and the P&G Ventures Innovation Challenge, during which three companies made live pitches to win $10,000 in cash, qualify as a finalist in a Techstars accelerator, and get complimentary attendance to the EY Strategic Growth Forum.
In addition, P&G took part in the CES “C Space” conference, where “influencers and newsmakers share stories and case studies about the unique relationships between brands, entertainment and technology,” according to the Consumer Technology Association, which organizes the massive, weeklong event that is CES. During P&G’s time in the C Space, Procter & Gamble executives took to the stage and provided insight into how the CPG aligns new world tech and its venerable beauty, personal and home care products that have been used by consumers for generations.
“We’ve been here at CES before, but we have come as individual functions, looking for ideas and insight. And we found ideas and insights, and they weren’t integrated into anything that people could really build holistic proposition around,” Kathy Fish, chief R&D and innovation officer, told the audience inside Aria, the swank Las Vegas hotel that hosted the C-Space conference. “This year we are coming in teams, we are coming with a clear definition of the areas that we are interested in working, looking for partners in technologies and ideas.”
Fish said P&G challenged its teams to leverage design and find holistic things that would not only bring to life the “functional benefits of our products, but create communication in way that makes a really emotional connection with out consumers.”
While the “E” in CES stands for “electronics,” for chief brand officer Marc Pritchard, it also means experience—something the marketing and R&D departments together are responsible for at P&G. And that’s a big bucket to carry; P&G boasts that its brands touch 5 billion consumers around the world every day.
“We’re trying to create irresistible superior experiences,” said Pritchard, who was joined on stage by his R&D colleague. “Kathy [Fish] and I are joined at the hip in doing that. We don’t think about innovation in silos, where Kathy in R&D focuses on product formula, and I focus on the advertising. What we think about is every aspect of the consumer experience and trying to make it better—the product, the package, the communication, the in-store, the online, the in-use and the after-use, and how it all comes together.”
That thinking was evident at the SK-II Future X Smart Store inside P&G’s LifeLab. Billed as a “global learning lab for new ways of exploring retail through advanced technologies,” the Future X Smart Store introduces what SK-II calls a seamless “phygital” retail environment, one where visitors explore immersive, personalized, mixed media experiences that merge the physical and digital. The end game, says P&G, is to take the intimidation and pressure out of shopping for skin care in a physical retail space and give control back to the consumer by giving her options to browse, shop and learn about her skin at her own pace and on her own terms.
How so? Through facial recognition, computer vision and artificial intelligence (AI) augmented by the brand’s proprietary skin science and diagnostics. In the Smart Store, users sit for quick skin analysis in a booth, unlock their results using facial recognition and browse product lines and make purchases with a wave of their hands.
In addition, the Future X Smart Store also provided a look at SK-II’s Facial Treatment Essence’s Smart Bottle. Still in development, the prototype packaging harnesses the Internet of Things (IoT) to enhance the users’ SK-II skin care regimen at home by responding to consumer usage habits with lights and verbal cues.
P&G’s blockbuster Olay has been actively incorporating tech, too. At CES, the venerable skin care brand showcased new personalization enhancements to Olay Skin Advisor that are designed to deliver “meaningful customization deliver meaningful customization that seamlessly fits into people’s lifestyles.”
The three new features announced for Olay Skin Advisor in the US—all of which are slated to go live this year—are:
- Olay Future You Simulation: With a basic version already live in Asia, the Olay Future You Simulation uses a proprietary visual simulation algorithm enabling users to visualize what their skin and face will look like in the future, with different scenarios (fast v slow aging, daily SPF use vs no SPF, etc.) illustrating the impact of certain skin care routines. With this knowledge, P&G said users can personalize their regimen even further to help prevent potential long-term skin concerns specifically highlighted in their individual results.
- Olay Whips Simulator: It allows users to virtually try on the products and show what their skin looks like if they used Whips products. This simulator is primarily focused on the immediate finish, look and shine of the skin.
- Skin Decoder: This month in China, where Olay is sold at department store counters, the brand is launching the Skin Decoder, a camera attachment for mobile devices that delivers improved high-resolution image accuracy, allowing a more detailed skin diagnosis which can ultimately enable tracking of results over time.
Magic Wands and More
Olay also unveiled the Olay Smart Wand (connected to the Olay Skin Advisor mobile app), and the P&G Beauty Setlist. The Smart Wand, according to P&G, is the first consumer electronic device leveraging electromagnetic technology to offer the consumer the ability to personalize and optimize skin care product benefits toward their specific skin problems on a digital platform. The wand receives information and instructions from Olay Skin Advisor in the mobile app and then creates temporary, dynamically programmable fields that drive individual ingredients into the skin, targeting the consumer’s specific skin issues. The P&G Beauty Setlist is described as personal tracking and motivational beauty coach and AI-driven platform that will help consumers quantify, track and optimize their skincare routine and meet their beauty goals.
“Personalization is playing a huge role in beauty,” Dr. Frauke Neuser, principal scientist-Olay, told Happi in an interview ahead of CES. Acknowledging that the health, wellness and medical categories were early adopters of personalization, she added, “Beauty is a bit behind, but it is here to stay.”
P&G also used CES to shine a spotlight on a Opté Precision Skincare System, which has been incubated inside P&G Ventures.
With more than 40 patents, Opté combines the “best of camera optics, proprietary algorithms, printing technology, and skincare” in one device, to scan, detect, and correct hyperpigmentation with precision application. Unlike traditional spot coverage options such as makeup or serums, Opté allows users to optimize the approximately 10% of skin that needs treatment for most women without covering the 90% that doesn’t, according to P&G.
Opté does so through four proprietary technologies: blue LED scan lights maximize the contrast in skin melanin as its scans, the camera optics to see up to 3x more pigmentation than the eye can, allowing both visible spots and not yet noticeable spots to be detected; an integrated digital camera that captures 200 skin images per second, resulting in approximately 24,000 pictures of skin analyzed with each use; an algorithm that microprocesses 70,000 lines of code to determine the size, shape and intensity of the spot in contrast to the adjacent surrounding skin; and a micro serum-jet printer with 120 thermal inkjet nozzles that deposit 1,000 picoliter droplets of Opté’s Optimizing Serum to achieve precise coverage. The serum is formulated with mineral pigments to provide immediate coverage, “spot lightening” skin care ingredients designed to reduce the appearance of age spots over time, and moisturizers to help skin retain moisture.
Opté demos drew crowds or curious onlookers at CES, but they will have to wait a bit as the device will available for purchase beginning in 2020, according to Procter & Gamble officials.
On the Tech Runway
Other high-profile beauty brands announced new developments and were present in Las Vegas with partners on show floor and in meeting rooms and suites around the city.
Coty, for example, used CES to unveil the Wella Professionals augmented reality (AR) enabled Smart Mirror. Powered by the Artémis CareOS operating system, the technology enhances the hair color experience from consultation to aftercare with live AR hair color try on (which integrates Perfect Corp.’s YouCamMakeup AR & AI technology), facial recognition that enables the retrieval of past looks and 360° video capture to view the hair at every angle. It was co-created with Wella Professionals hair stylists and salon owners, based on research to identify the biggest opportunities for innovation in the hair salon experience.
In layman’s terms, the Smart Mirror provides a more visual means of communication between stylist and client, which helps keep everyone on the same page, so to speak.
“An inch to the stylist is different than an inch to the client,” said Elodie Levy, senior director of digital innovation and new products at Coty, who was on hand at CES to demo the Wella Smart Mirror. According to Levy, the tool empowers stylists and “addresses many of the pain points associated with the salon hair.”
The new technology, when it is officially rolled out, will run on any connected device, including tablet or mobile phone, making it flexible and portable to be scaled at salons of all sizes, according to Wella.
At Johnson & Johnson, the newest tech-driven development from Neutrogena is MaskiD, a personalized 3D-printed sheet mask. The patent-pending mask is powered by user data, and was developed by the brand following requests from users of the Neutrogena Skin 360 skin analysis tool (which rolled out last year at CES) who said they wanted more personalized solutions.
Not only are sheet masks über topical in skin care right now, they are also effective vehicle for skin care ingredients because they create a physical barrier that locks them in and maximizes efficacy, according to Neutrogena.
Just how personalized are the Neutrogena masks? The shape of the mask itself is delivered using a smartphone 3D camera that uses a selfie to create a precise, multi-dimensional map of the face and the exact measurements and shape of the nose, space between the eyes, lips, and other unique physical characteristics. Neutrogena Skin 360 then analyzes the skin’s needs and recommends what ingredients will be most beneficial and where. Lastly, using a proprietary 3D printing process, ingredients are printed onto the custom-fit hydrogel mask on the exact zones of the mask where they will deliver the greatest benefit for that individual.
Neutrogena began with just a handful of ingredients—purified hyaluronic acid, vitamin B3, feverfew (which delivers high antioxidant benefits to help reduce the appearance of facial redness), stabilized glucosamine and vitamin C. These key ingredients target the main focus areas of skin—namely lines and wrinkles, dark spots moisturization, redness and brightness, according to Desiree Dowe, director of marketing, Neutrogena global face care.
Neutrogena MaskiD is available exclusively on Neutrogena.com to US consumers beginning this year in Q3. And key to adoption, the price will be consistent with the rest of the brand’s skin care portfolio, noted Tara Zedayko, senior manager external innovation.
L’Oréal was back with more innovation this year, too, as it unveiled the My Skin Track pH by La Roche-Posay. This wearable sensor and companion app measures personal skin pH levels and creates customized product regimens. Honored with a CES 2019 Innovation Award, (Best of Innovation winner in the Wearable Technology Products category), My Skin Track pH was created in partnership with Epicore Biosystems, a leader in microfluidic platforms and soft wearable sensors. The company’s technology is based on more than two decades of microfluidic and soft materials research in Professor John Rogers’ Laboratory at Northwestern University’s Center for Bio-Integrated Electronics and the Simpson Querrey Institute.
My Skin Track pH captures trace amounts of sweat from skin pores through a network of micro-channels, providing an accurate pH reading within 15 minutes. The wearer places the sensor on their inner arm, opens the My Skin Track pH app and photographs the sensor. Utilizing an advanced algorithm, the app reads the pH measurement, as well as the wearer’s local sweat loss to assess skin health and make customized La Roche-Posay product recommendations to care for skin and balance pH.
In addition to its potential as a future consumer product, L’Oréal said My Skin Track pH will help advance its research into the science of skin and aid in product development. My Skin Track pH will enable L’Oréal, which has co-authored a study on the efficacy of microfluidics, to further its research through a series of clinical studies in partnership with Northwestern University. The purpose of these studies, according to the company, is to explore the link between pH and the appearance of various skin conditions.
“The scientific and medical communities have long known the link between skin pH levels and common skin concerns that millions of people experience every day,” noted Guive Balooch, global vice president of the L’Oréal Technology Incubator, an arm of L’Oréal’s Research & Innovation division. “Our goal is to use this advanced technology to empower consumers with meaningful information about their skin, so that they can find the products that are right for their individual needs. At L’Oréal, we know that health is the future of beauty and we are committed to leveraging technology to bring powerful insights and solutions to our consumers.”
With this device, and others like it, brands can deepen their understanding of skin, which can lead to better products.
“We start with our foundation of functional superiority in our products. But we really want to build on that, to make an emotional connection, and to deliver a product that’s so good, that it delights them from the moment they see the brand on their phone to when they use it. And the experience is so good, it is hard to go back to what they were using before,” said Fish of P&G.
No wonder, why, more beauty brands are employing data mining, AI and the like across their entire organization— from R&D to marketing to retail.
“If we’re going to stay on the leading edge” said Fish, “we have to always be thinking about innovating how we innovate.”