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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.
Products falling into an open purse

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Consider the lipstick purchased in the little story at the beginning of this article: Six months from now, that woman is going to pull that beloved lipstick out of her purse. However, now it’s likely going to be cracked and damaged. Maybe the lid is completely gone, and there’s hair and other debris stuck to what remains of her favorite shade. Certainly unappealing, but the consumer can replace it. But that can prove to be challenging too, if the label is really scratched, obscuring the name of the color and possibly even the name of the brand.

In the packaging for beauty products that often end up in purses, three key issues converge: findability, durability and cleanliness.

Findability. One of the most common expressions heard from purse owners researched was, “Oh my gosh, I wondered where that was!” The handbag environment is unstable—things are piled in randomly and then the bag itself is tossed from car seat to shoulder to retail counter to shoulder to car seat—around and round. As a result, things get disheveled, broken and, worse, sometimes become unusable trash in the process.

Women often have difficulty finding things in the dark recesses of their purses (especially giant shoulder bags), so they resort to other methods to locate items. Almost half of those in the study carried a makeup bag as a solution to this problem. However, this bag-within-a-bag is symptomatic of the overall organizational issues and compensatory behavior to collect loose items into findable units in the purse.

Durability. If your product packaging is destroyed when you put it in a purse, is that any good?

The purse is a mobile makeup counter, used for touch-ups and even complete application when necessary. Yet, the makeup itself is stored in such a harsh environment that it becomes very unattractive as a set of tools to beautify. Labels are dirty and scratched off. Product may be leaking around the seals, damaging both the product itself, and other contents of the bag.

Cleanliness. A purse contains an almost limitless array of things you might put in your mouth or use for personal care, and yet it is an environment that is almost never actually cleaned. Brushes often are filled with debris, rendering them unusable, and, as mentioned in the durability section, other beauty products may have leaked, not only making a mess, but negating the product’s usefulness.

Some women do use a separate makeup bag for their in-purse beauty products, but this can just concentrate the problem in an isolated environment. While a makeup bag is often an improvement, as mascara isn’t likely brushing up against loose change and gum wrappers, it’s still not displaying the products and maintaining the packages in a way conducive to a beauty brand’s essence of elegance and style.

Beautiful Opportunities

Contradiction is where the genius of innovation often lies. Researchers—and innovators—look for unmet and unarticulated needs by paying attention to the contradictions they observe, and then helping companies and brands to create or modify products to satisfy these needs. And the purse is one big contradiction. It contains some of the most vital things in life right alongside a veritable wasteland of trash and debris.