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In every packaging article I write, I come back to the same premise—it’s all about the brand. And the conviction only strengthens as I grow to understand the industry and the notion of what it means to be a brand owner. Therefore, I’m always pleased when I come across a blunt affirmation of these beliefs. In a presentation at Packaging Strategies 2006, Alan Isacson, president, ABI PR, stated that, “Innovation is not about packaging, it’s about giving brands the competitive edge.”
In other words, innovation is worth nothing if it doesn’t positively serve the brand. This knowledge, however, is only going to get us so far. Stating the axiom “brand is king” is good for the 101 course, but there’s no real substance to it without considering what the implication, in the case of this feature, is to packaging. It’s the application of knowledge that really counts. The knowledge should be the foundation on which better decisions can be made. Let’s add another piece ...
At Packaging Strategies 2006, Dan Abramowicz, EVP corporate technologies, Crown Holdings, offered that, “Material development will not be a key driver for the future of global packaging.” Package users, ie. the consumers, are the key driver, and package materials must better meet the needs of the users. A presentation by Mike Richmond and Brian Wagner, the president and vice president of Packaging & Technology Integrated Solutions, proposed that consumer trends equals packaging relevance.
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Choosing appropriate packaging means understanding consumers and what drives them to your brand. If a brand’s packaging is driven by consumer trends, then that packaging is serving the brand—assume, for the sake of argument, that the packaging choice also is faithful to the brand identity.
What does this mean for the color cosmetic industry? As reported by Euromonitor International, color cosmetics reached sales of $345.5 billion in 2005, yet the 4.3% increase in sales makes it one of the least dynamic areas in the cosmetics and toiletries market.
In the quest for a better understanding of the impact of packaging on color cosmetics, I posed questions to Thomas Pfaff, sales and marketing director, Seufert; Steve Pearlman, president, CROWN Risdon; Gary Fagan, director of sales and marketing, CROWN Risdon; and Pete Prusak, director of technology, color business, PolyOne.
Fashion and Trends
As explored in GCI’s November 2005 Global Report, color cosmetics is influenced by fashion and emerging short-lived trends, and this forces packagers to deal with requirements of current trends such as speed-to-market, evolving designs and materials, and to anticipate upcoming trends. As Pfaff puts it, the challenge for packagers is flexibility.
“Short-lived trends play havoc on manufacturers of packaging components in two ways,” said Pearlman. “(First), speed-to-market launches strain our development capabilities, particularly if all marketers are seeking to capture a particular trend. It is very difficult to create a brand new concept in less than six months. The way around this short time frame is the use of stock or previously used tooling with modifications to existing tools.
“(Second), cost of development and cost of tooling is difficult to recapture if trends are short lived. Here again, if existing tooling is used to capture a trend with little or no tooling costs, both sides can benefit,” Pearlman said.
Because these trends are short-lived, it is beneficial for packagers to stay ahead of their customers—spotting trends and then presenting ideas and proposals. Fagan states that customers select CROWN Risdon, in many cases, to develop the package.
With the rate of new product introductions, effectively further cutting the life span of trends, the upcoming trends must be forecast further and further out. “It is harder to look into the future as perhaps in years past,” said Pfaff. “So, we in the field of transparent folding boxes are trying to forecast the trend for the next 12 months.” As Pfaff also noted, the necessary reaction time to a forecast trend depends on how and who a packager is serving. For Seufert’s promotional packaging business, there is a high demand for flexibility, and the company is able to respond in seven weeks.
At PolyOne, designers and engineers begin a project 12 to 18 months before a product launch. “Colorant schemes are very high on the list of priorities to be completed,” said Prusak. “The danger is bad market trend data. If the ‘color of the year’ ends too quickly, a product launch could be in jeopardy. Packagers stay ahead of the forecasts by belonging to organizations that make up the trends. Speed-to-market is key these days.” CROWN Risdon underscores digital tools/methods and an encompassing system for design packaging. “The use of design software, rapid prototyping and stereolithography rapid prototyping (SLA) modeling has really enhanced the development of new products designs on several levels,” said Fagan. “It enables CROWN Risdon to effectively communicate with its customer base in a very efficient manner. A potential design can be confirmed for size, filling capacity and overall feasibility within hours.”
Prusak stresses that avoiding problems also is key to maintaining speed-to-market. PolyOne works with designers and engineers to pretest packages for issues such as product interactions with light, heat or the colorants in a package themselves—performing accelerated testing through its analytical departments—while systems such as Risdon’s SLA rapid prototyping models translate into the actual ability to make the tooling to manufacture the design.
By encouraging consumers to trade up to higher value products, color cosmetic manufacturers and marketers also have created the growing need for packagers to continually evaluate packaging’s selling power—consider what a package can do to promote that trade up.
According to Pearlman, CROWN Risdon has witnessed a trend over the last five years of up-scaling the products it supplies to the mid-mass category, and the company works to achieve a more expensive look through finishes such as lacquering, decorating such as hot foil stamp and decorative labels, and additional use of metal. “It can only be assumed that the more expensive look helps promote products,” said Pearlman.
Recent trends that PolyOne has seen in encouraging the trade up includes the use of higher priced raw materials. “I have heard from OEMs that, in order to be different and be the first product to be noticed, they will use special effects like rainbow pearls and holographic materials,” said Prusak. “They will also use interference pearls that are four times the cost of white pearls. The unique pigments and pearls are grabbing consumers’ attention.”
“A high-end product package is the optimal ‘sales outfit’ of its product at the point-of-sale,” said Pfaff. “A good packaging solution always is able to highlight the star inside—based on the element’s quality, creativity and functionality. Finally, an eye-catcher is the whole thing—a wonderful product in wonderful packaging that eventually encourages consumers to buy.”
Function and Fashion
Function and fashion have been cited as requirements for color cosmetics, but how does this translate for color cosmetic packaging? In some cases, manufacturers and marketers look to achieve the impossible, and that high fashion or impossible-to-achieve packaging, in all likelihood, may not be critical to the success of a product. Going back to the premise presented earlier in this discussion—innovation is not about packaging, it’s about giving brands the competitive edge. Consider what competitive edge may be gained by a design that follows fashion trends.
“Function and fashion is a double-edge sword,” said Pearlman. “(They) provide an opportunity to excel versus competition, but can also be a negative if a competitor says it can do the impossible. We are not convinced that ‘fashion’ is an absolutely critical aspect of promoting color cosmetics. There are so many success stories where the packaging is relatively stark and simple as with M-A-C and Kiehl’s.”
“The issues we encounter most are trying to color a package with certain effects that are not achievable,” said Prusak. “Requirements such as mirrored effects or duplicating the look of steel in plastics is not achievable—yet. PolyOne is the best colorant company, but we cannot change physics—yet.”
Pfaff adds another piece to the function/fashion equations—quality, and states that it is the symbiosis between those elements that yield a high-end package.
Evolving Markets and Distribution Channels
Market data shows that sales for color cosmetics remain flat in mature markets and are growing in developing regions. At the same time, distribution channels evolve to include outlets well outside the realm of department stores, boutiques and chain outlets—Gap, for example. Although these factors may not force wholesale packaging changes for brands as they explore new markets and distribution channels, they do require consideration. “Of course, packaging with its shapes and colors is a fashion and, therefore, a cultural thing,” said Pfaff. “What (works) in Germany is probably out in (the the United States). Just we Germans wear leather pants.”
PolyOne works with its international associates when considering a global brand. “We will ask for their input, because culture plays a role in sales,” said Prusak. “I worked on a global brand seven years ago that contained a color that would be deemed the ‘color of death’ in a specific culture. Needless to say, we changed the package.”
According to Pearlman, the differentiator of a color cosmetic product in developing markets is usually through graphics and not function. Colors and graphics also seem to be the package differentiators for non-traditional distribution channels.
“Most outlets such as Gap, Victoria’s Secret, Body Shop use fairly simple packaging (usually stock, differentiated—once again—by graphics),” said Pearlman. “Once again, you generally do not see revolutionary packaging at this channel of distribution because quantities are relatively small, which prevents high level of investments.”
Even with the seemingly simple and small adjustments, there are considerations to be made—considerations that will affect the packaging cost.
“Smaller outlets like the Gap change color very frequently compared to a global OEM. They also tend to use a lot of stock tooling at molders,” said Prusak. “We often see issues where a particular colorant will not work in certain molds due to the pigments needed to obtain a color. Chromatic blues and greens using certain chemistry pigments that are really the best choice cannot be used in some molds. We work with our customers to try to stop this at the outset.”
Product and Formula Demands
The use of multifunctional color cosmetic products and two-in-one products is growing, as is the popularity of sophisticated formulas and mineral and antiaging ingredients. This has meant the need for innovative multipurpose packaging and the consideration of how the packaging affects the product and vice versa.
“We have seen a major increase in double-ender products, which provide the consumer with either complementary formulas (lip gloss over base lipstick) or two completely different categories (lip on one side and mascara on the other),” said Pearlman. “CROWN Risdon has stock double-ender products that serve either lip and eye categories or a mixture of both.”
As stated by Prusak, with the trend for speed-to-market comes the need to use new materials that may have not been tested in all applications. PolyOne anticipates and reacts to this need by using performance additives to help retard light and heat degradation.
“We also can conduct accelerated product compatibility testing to predict how a package will perform in the field,” said Prusak. “The use of performance additives to protect a package at a certain UV nanometer range is a specialty of PolyOne. We can do the testing and provide the data to show we are protecting the products. We also are always evaluating new performance additives to help with the increasing use of more sophisticated products.”
Consistent color and proper dispersion of color are important considerations for color cosmetic manufacturers. According to Pearlman, consistent color and proper dispersion are related primarily to formulation in some product categories; however, packagers must be aware of the products that are affected by packaging and the impact it has on the products.
“In the lip gloss and mascara category, the development of the brush and flock tip in conjunction with the washer (inserted in the mascara / lip gloss bottle) is critical to consistency and dispersion,” said Pearlman. “We spend considerable time and have a color expert who advises us on the relationship of these components and the performance characteristics.”
And it’s no surprise that matching the color of the packaging to the product is a critical factor in color cosmetics.
“Lot-to-lot consistency in the colorant package is very important,” said Prusak. “An opaque color can hide a lot of issues with the product inside a bottle. Tints can show a lot of issues also. PolyOne matches all of the colorants in actual parts. Doing the work upfront to test for distribution issues reduces the time to market.”