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Beauty Packaging Identity Trends

Rock ‘n’ roll- and tattoo culture-inspired is one of the latest trends in beauty, and bled over from a trend that has been taking place in fashion for the past few years. Ed Hardy is one manifestation.

By: Aniko Hill
Posted: April 30, 2009, from the May 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.

The beauty industry is constantly going through cycles in the appearance, naming and messaging of brands. Although the best branding campaigns transcend fashion or trends, it is vital to be aware of fads as part of the brand development process in order to stay current and differentiate a company in the marketplace. In analyzing trends in the beauty industry, packaging is a great place to start because even smaller companies will often invest heavily in their product packaging when compared to other aspects of a brand campaign. Packaging is typically the first brand touch point a consumer interacts with, and can often influence the purchase decision.

As long as a package design is an authentic expression of the product or service, falling within a trend can be a positive thing for the company, as being in vogue may be very important to consumers in certain categories—i.e., if the brand is cool, the consumer in turn feels cool. As a marketer, you look at current trends as part of your brand strategy work in order to determine how to best differentiate products in the crowded marketplace. But trends do come and go quickly, so the most important thing to remember when considering a new package design is to stay true to the core values of the company and the characteristics of the product itself. The following examples outline just a few current trends that are taking place today in beauty packaging identity.

Trend #1: Studio/Professional Look

With the growing demand for professional beauty products, there has been a boom in the number of brands that are studio- or makeup artist-endorsed. This sub-category has existed for many years, the successful premium professional brand MAC is a notable example, but has more recently made its way into mass distribution outlets. Target now has cosmetics lines developed by celebrity makeup artists such as Sonia Kashuk and Napoleon Perdis that tote some of the same messaging as their more premium counterparts but come in at more affordable price points. Although the professional visual identity trend is most frequently seen in makeup artist-endorsed brands, it can also be seen in other cosmetics, hair care and skin care brands.

The packaging identity is typically a solid black or dark gray color with a clean, white modern type treatment for the brand name and product information. In the logos, there are usually no icons or other embellishments, creating a very stark and intentionally generic look and feel—Smashbox, Lorac, Make Up Forever, Bobbi Brown and NARS all follow this formula for their packaging identities. In this trend, product naming and messaging is traditionally straightforward, but buzzwords such as “high definition” are used in products—note Make Up Forever’s HD Microfinish Powder and Smashbox’s High Definition Healthy FX. Primary packaging components are usually very straightforward and utilitarian, with form following function.

Trend #2: Vintage/Whimsical

A growing trend in beauty packaging today is a vintage-themed identity, combining fun graphics with tongue-in-cheek copy. Many of these packaging identities feature retro colors and typography referencing the 1950s and ᾽60s and use vintage pin-up illustrations. Illustrations of bombshell women are seen on packaging for cosmetic products such as Bare Escentuals’s Buxom Babes line and The Balm’s Hot Mama. In fragrance, Jean Paul Gaultier’s iconic bottle in the shape of a curvy female figure is reminiscent of the 1950s female form. Although not all packages within this trend utilize a combination of image and naming, these whimsical identities are most effective when clever copy and visuals work together in harmony. For example, Benefit’s Dr. Feelgood and Talk to the Tan both create a clever and strong connection between the naming and imagery.