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Innovate or Die: A Q&A with Mintel Beauty and Personal Care Global President Jane Henderson

By: Abby Penning
Posted: February 12, 2014, from the March 2014 issue of GCI Magazine.

GCI magazine: Innovation is obviously a key to great business, but it can be very difficult. What do you think are the keys to creating an atmosphere for innovation?

Jane Henderson, global president for beauty and personal care, Mintel: Building a DNA for the company to successfully support innovation.

The ever-changing environment means that the company's strategy and tactics need to endlessly adapt, yet the team's core values need to remain unchanged. This is a key consideration for the leadership team when building a larger company either through MBOs, mergers or organic growth. The continuous pursuit of new ideas and innovation is ever more necessary where so many brands simply emulate the next.

Leaders continuously celebrating differences, openly encouraging views and opinions, will ultimately deliver the best- selling product and services for their brand. Employing thirsty individuals who are keen to bring the next big idea to the CEO's attention, united with an excellent "toolbox" of resources. makes for the best combination.

Developing a DNA creates some demanding challenges to the leadership team; therefore partnering with a company that delivers regular insight to allow individuals to discover, define, develop and deliver can allow new white space to be explored, disturb current thinking, realize potential, build blueprints and create a proposition that ticks the boxes for capability and fit.

GCI: Nowadays, is seems like every new product is labeled as "innovative" while maybe it is just a retread of similar products with just slight tweaks or new marketing. How can you discern what is really innovative to what is merely new? Can "innovative" be applied to consumer outreach efforts and/or marketing tactics, or should it strictly be associated with R&D creations?

JH: Innovation is essentially a combination of many aspects. At Mintel, we consider many aspects, including unmet needs of the consumer and new technologies driving new concepts, as well as learning from other categories. Our innovation process allows clients to drive an idea into a value proposition. The question we ask is, "Renovation or breakthrough?" The skill is to contextualize it and deliver a profitable and sustainable product.

GCI: What do you think are the hallmarks of true innovation?

JH: A breakthrough product or idea. When consumers look at a product twice, then get excited enough to buy it.

Some of the innovation we have seen within the beauty industry can be classified as breakthrough. We have seen technology increase and allow products to fill unmet needs of consumers, as well as new segmentations and innovative packaging.

Innovation is key aspects within a product than actually make the consumer stop, look and then buy is the real skill.

GCI: Why do you feel like consumers react so much to buzzwords like "innovate" or "state of the art" or "cutting edge"? Do you think they distinguish between the marketing of innovation and actual innovative products?

JH: Younger females are drawn to the marketing products, which are labeled more innovative as it allows them to be at the forefront of trends, especially when introduced to the concept via social media networks, allowing them to share experiences and being the pioneer. Marketing has a great influence on 16–24-year-olds, [often more so than] the actual product. Older consumers tend to look for more evidence and seek opinion.

GCI: What trends to you see pushing innovation in beauty product development in the future?

JH: We have just announced the key trend set to impact global beauty consumers in 2014—Mixologiste. Blurred lines between beauty, technology and more are becoming increasingly common, with overlaps between skin care, hair care and color cosmetics. Combining the most exciting technology and marketing from more than one category, manufacturers are creating new combinations with new products, packaging, marketing and merchandise.

Mixologiste is fast becoming the standout trend that spans all beauty and personal care categories. This is a key mega trend, in development for the last year or so, but we are set to see it really accelerating in 2014. While manufacturers have worked with multifunctionality for a number of years, we are now seeing them take inspiration from completely different categories to create new products and marketing messages. The huge success of BB creams has led manufacturers to think about how they can build on their existing portfolios and add excitement to sometimes saturated sectors. New combinations will continue to evolve, resulting in new products, packaging, marketing and merchandising. This will add a new sense of excitement to the market and will drive innovation in the year ahead.

GCI: How can beauty brands better connect their innovation efforts to consumer products? And how can brands share their innovation story with consumers?

JH: As much as consumers love to communicate via social media, they love to test products. Brands that reward user interaction via surveys and endorsements offering product samples and promotions, allow “play” and bring the consumer closer to their range. In turn, consumers are more swayed by a product that they can get instant results from.

GCI: Why is innovation so important in the beauty business?

JH: Competition is fierce. The consumer is demanding and spoiled by the ever-increasing number of products launches, which consistently produce new and innovative ways of fulfilling a specific problem, or indeed, appeal to aspirational wishes.

If you fail to innovate, then a best-selling product could suddenly become a burden overnight.