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Color Cosmetic Packaging and Today's Consumer

By: Nathalie Nowak
Posted: January 28, 2014, from the January 2014 issue of GCI Magazine.

Recently, L’Oréal Paris launched the first-ever “intelligent” beauty vending machine experience in the New York subway system. The beauty vending machine, which is located at Bryant Park’s Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street station, has the consumer stand in front of its full-length mirror while the color of her outfit is analyzed. The machine then selects the most prominent color palettes and makes product recommendations based on them—including eye, lip and nail shade recommendations. The consumer can then purchase the selected products right at the machine, on the subway platform, in just minutes. This sleek new structure, with three large digital screens at the seven- by 14-foot kiosk, is the first of its kind anywhere.

Marc Speichert, chief marketing officer with L’Oréal USA, was quoted as saying about the machine, “We are proud to continue L’Oréal Paris’ digital leadership by being the first brand to bring women a highly customized and convenient way to shop beauty in a place they would least expect it.”

At about the same time, trendy Japanese retailer Uniqlo opened a 174-square-foot pop-up shop in New York’s downtown Union Square station, and the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s director of real estate was quoted in news reports as saying, “These shops are not geared so much toward people who think they’re in a shopping mode but toward people who are in a hurry…” And reportedly, marketing experts at firms such as Apple and Microsoft are investigating similar on-the-go outlets and opportunities.

What does this tell the global beauty industry about the future of this business? About the nature of today’s consumer? About product development? And how does packaging connect the dots in this new sales paradigm? Likely, that beauty brand owners, marketers and suppliers need to be thinking of the lives consumers are realistically living—and figure not only how beauty products fit into those lives but how they can enhance those lives as well.

Mega Trends and Today’s Color Cosmetics Consumer

At Albéa, we recognize and devise packaging solutions that reflect the existence of several interrelated consumer mega trends. These factors—such as nomadism, concerns over sustainability, the desire to remain young-looking, convenience and the need to differentiate—reinforce how the beauty industry stands at the crossroads of cultural anthropology, chemistry, engineering and commerce.

In the December 2013 issue of GCI, The Whole Package column “Building Bulletproof Relationships” noted the interrelationship between brand strength and package design. The package is the critical touch point and should be the distilled expression of the brand. I would go a step further and state that another key factor is where and how the package is presented or made available to the end user.

Nomadism, in particular, is a mega trend to watch. This refers to the on-the-go nature of the prototypical consumer of color cosmetics. She is pressed for time and has a full schedule of activities throughout the day. Therefore, her lipsticks and gloss, eye makeup and powder can be found, and are used, at home, at work, at the gym, in the car, and at restaurants, clubs and other nighttime spots.

The pursuit of ageless beauty intertwines with nomadism. The result is the push for product convergence. Hybrid products in color cosmetics and skin care save consumers time as they blur the boundaries between product categories. And these multi-purpose, sophisticated, delicate formulas require next-generation packaging—with the trend to softer textures, higher concentrations of active ingredients, volatile chemical bases and beyond in beauty formulations, especially when compared to traditional wax-and-pigment products.

These more sophisticated products have less structural rigidity, and while consumers love the combination of long-lasting shine and moisturizing properties, packaging suppliers, designers and developers must recognize the movement toward more neutral, airtight and airless packs that preserve the formula. At Albéa, we envision this as integrated packaging solutions; for example, a compact that dispenses both loose powder and a liquid formulation—multifunctional with purpose, portability and ease of use.

In the Fashion Business

In the beauty business—and in color cosmetics, in particular—let’s face it, we are also in the fashion business. Novelty, fresh new features and new decoration motifs excite the consumer and create retail excitement. In practical terms, this drives beauty packaging suppliers to constantly enhance the ability to mix plastics with metal or develop new decoration techniques and new features.

Focusing on lipstick applications, an example is a lipstick designed with a hidden mirror for precise application on-the-go. Another example is a lipstick product that allows the consumer to see the shade without opening the package. It is important for today’s consumers to see the hue of the product at the point of sale. Frankly, such packaging is a plus for the retailer as well as for the consumer. In one case, Albéa’s high-speed laser technology allowed the company to design a specially made lipstick cap with a large, crisply defined transparent window that allowed immediate visualization of the lipstick bullet.

We spend time and effort talking to consumers and actually watching them conduct their beauty regimens. From this hands-on research, we understand the impact of the luxe factor. Even in the most uncertain economic times, the daily indulgence of the beauty ritual is a vital component of many consumers’ overall self-esteem.

In terms of color cosmetic packaging, this move to premiumization is represented by the popularity of metal. All-metal engraved lipsticks, for example, communicate spectacularly with upscale and upwardly mobile consumers. For example, many major high-end brand owners are undertaking dynamic reinterpretations of all-time classic packaging with metal components.