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Caught in the Clutch: Beauty Packaging On the Go

By: Kelley Styring
Posted: November 28, 2012, from the January 2013 issue of GCI Magazine.

She stands at the glittering cosmetics counter, under the bright, shining lights. Holding the jewel-like lipstick case in her hand, she removes the cap and a cylinder of rich color rises to greet her. Its asymmetrical top beckons to be swiped across her lips for a bloom of color, and after applying the engaging shade, she twists the lipstick down into its protective chamber. She replaces the cap, reassembling the perfect, beautiful package—then tosses the lipstick into the dark, dirty, mobile junk drawer that is her purse.

Beauty brands and companies invest a significant amount of money into developing their products, their packaging and their marketing. Yet, as this article's opening vignette demonstrates, all that effort to develop a glamorous, sexy product can be destroyed by one simple action—putting that product into a purse.

A purse may be a woman’s most important accessory, holding all manner of vital and precious things. But it is also a disorganized pit, mixing the tools of daily life with the trash created by daily living. Having analyzed the contents of 100 purses in their natural habitat (shopping malls in Dallas and Portland), research by InsightFarm uncovered that consumer product companies in general, and beauty companies in particular, could learn a lot from the humble handbag.

A Peek Inside

From a marketing standpoint, the purse is a billion-dollar opportunity. Look at the numbers: Ninety-five percent of women aged 18–64 carry a purse every day, and those women use an average of two to three purses on a regular, rotating basis. Inside those purses, they carry an average of 67 objects.

Doing the math, an estimated 88.5 million women are using more than over 212 million purses at any given time. Multiply that by the number of times a woman could purchase one of your products for regular use (and storage in her purse), and you are talking about billions of dollars in purchasing opportunities.

But it’s not just the volume of purchases that should be important to the industry; it’s also what happens to those products once they enter the hostile environment that is the purse.

Beauty in the Bag

InsightFarm research showed the beauty/ hair care category is one of the most extensive categories represented in the average purse, ranking in the top five of all the categories. This category consists of color cosmetics, cosmetic accessories, fragrances, moisturizing lotions and skin care products, and hair care items. Overall, 91% of purses contained at least one beauty care item.

Here’s a breakdown.

Key Product and Packaging Issues