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Cover Story: In Step

By: Jeff Falk
Posted: March 5, 2008, from the March 2008 issue of GCI Magazine.

page 2 of 5

From Simple Writing Tools
Schwan-STABILO, manufacturer of writing pencils since 1855, decided, in 1927, to build upon its own expertise by entering a completely new sector, cosmetics. With the launch of its first eyebrow pencil, the company retread its own footsteps to forge a new avenue for future growth. Writing pencil to brow pencil to mechanical powder shadow to skin care products with active ingredients applied by a cosmetic pen—building, over time, upon previous successes earned the company’s cosmetic division €183.3 million in profits in fiscal year 2007.

“The market for pens and pencils, in general, gained recognition due to increasing demand in practical, easy to apply products,” says Sabine Stadlbauer, executive director, sales and marketing, A.W. Faber-Castell Cosmetics GmbH, citing the combination of market and product evolution. “The variety of technologies, materials and formulas developed within the pen and pencil market increased as well, with mechanical pencils becoming more popular and important new categories emerging—such as liquid click pens.

“The main advances in the last 10 years related to developing solutions for nearly all makeup applications in the pen and pencil format, covering nearly all of the classic formula technologies and effects used for makeup—from waxes to powders and liquid pens. Pens and pencils further started to appear in other categories such as skin care and nail application, leaving enough open potential for expansion. This development implies that the ease of use of pens and pencils is combined with the appropriate mechanisms and tips to apply the products.”

Pencils: Strengths and Opportunities
According to Stadlbauer, pencils’ inherent strength in holding and protecting the bulk of a product within the pencil body—providing stability and protection—has allowed the development of extra creamy and longer lasting formulas for a variety of applications. In turn, the variety of packaging and subsequent advances in formulas intended for pencils have allowed brands to better target individual consumer needs—delivering both trend-responsive products, such as those that contain glitter and gloss, and basic products that meet the needs of consumers looking for higher performance. This symbiotic relationship of pencil ingredients and formulas allows both to continue to advance in elegance. For example, more resilient/elastic pencil leads have been formulated to resist cracking and smudging upon application and lend themselves to more automated pencil assembly technologies, says Charles Neuner, executive director, corporate packaging innovations, The Estée Lauder Companies.

Ease of use, practicality and precise tips for accurate application are pencil advantages that connect immediately with consumers and contribute to other underlying consumer benefits that reinforce the connection to these products. “By sharpening a pencil, consumers have the sensation of reactivating the product for fine and broad application and a hygienic tip,” said Stadlbauer.
The shortcomings of pencils—both in limitations of delivery and in choices for basic cosmetics—are also worth addressing as lines launch or expand, and understanding shortcomings and consumer dislikes in a segment (in addition to their attachments) can be a powerful propellent for advancements that better serve consumers—strengthening their bond to a brand or product. As noted, ease of use is a strength, but Neuner cites the increase in larger-diameter pencils and ergonomically shaped pencils as an advancement in Lauder brand pencil offerings.