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The Pursuit of Wow
By: Abby Penning
Posted: May 3, 2011, from the May 2011 issue of GCI Magazine.
Ingrid Jackel, CEO and chairwoman of Physicians Formula.
page 3 of 4Jackel also puts a major emphasis on offering quality products. “Bringing class to mass was also a bit of the obsession when we were positioning the brand,” she says. “By that I mean, really working on department store type of concepts, high-quality products but brought at affordable price in food, drug and mass. Our retail partners are calling us the category-changing innovator.” Being a smaller company in the beauty brand universe, Physicians Formula also has to be smart about the way it introduces and expands its brand. “We bring first-to-market concepts to our channel at our scale. As long at its first-to-market, we’ll grab enough attention from consumers to create a category. And in this way, we’ve created, from scratch, entire categories and segments in the industry,” Jackel says. “What may happen is a year after the competition may copy us. And you know what? That’s fine, because once they copy us, they spend a tremendous amount of dollars behind the concept, telling consumers, ‘Go to your drug stores, go to your mass retailer, and find this concept or this product.’ Now [the consumer] ends up in the middle of the aisle, facing not only our competitors but us. We’ve been copied quite a bit, but, I’m OK with that. It expands the market, makes people aware and educates the consumer.”
For Physicians Formula, the goal is to create products that attract attention in and of themselves to draw in customers. “We have a strategy in-house that we call the ‘pursuit of wow,’ or the ‘What the heck is this?’ strategy,” Jackel explains. “We figured since we can’t scream at her on TV most of the time, we should attract [the consumer’s] attention as she’s walking down the aisle, because this is really where she’s making her buying decision. We know we have a fraction of a second to attract her attention, and we do it with very strong visuals. Everything has a very strong element of design. Either the packaging is completely unique or the product design is. “On top of bringing a unique product in terms of formulation or positioning, we try to make sure that it looks unique from the wall,” Jackel continues. “This category has a really high level of brand switching. If somebody launches a new foundation, then a consumer may try this one instead of somebody else’s. So it’s about attracting her attention. Our wall presentation is our billboard, really. And as she’s walking down the aisle, what we’ve achieved is to make her stop and ask herself the question, ‘What the heck is this?’ And that’s our ‘pursuit of wow’ strategy.”
It’s also about taking the time to consider what will stop the consumer in the aisle. Jackel says many product innovations, such as the new mood-enhancing Happy Booster collection, address problems consumers are experiencing now. “We have consumers who are becoming more and more savvy about what’s going on in department stores, about what’s going on in the professional makeup world, and so we want them to recognize on our shelves a unique proposition,” she says. “We constantly reassess our products to make sure we are providing the most impactful mix.”
To ensure additional impact, Jackel leaves no stone unturned when thinking about attracting potential purchasers. “We want to make sure that we can play a really unique role with the consumer, and consequently, with the retailers, bringing them incremental revenues,” she explains.
Making aggressively significant investments in promoting the brand in 2011, Jackel is now involving the brand more in the consumer press, in social media opportunities and even in retail marketing programs. “We increasingly want to educate consumers about Physicians Formula and about how we can help them solve their problems,” Jackel explains.
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