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Using Inventive Functionality; Design in Packaging So Beauty Brands Stand Out

Sandra Hutson

The beauty market has never been as competitive as it is today. In a global economy, there are more products available and more outlets for products to reach a consumer than ever before. Not just on every cosmetics counter, but featured across the Internet in a myriad of social media channels, products are struggling to catch the eye of the consumer and to keep her coming back. It is those products with smart and inventive packaging that will stand out from the competition and ultimately survive.

Today’s average consumer is unlike the consumer of any other era. She demands more exciting yet more practical products and much more convenience as to how, when and where she makes her purchase. She is wise about everything, and she actively seeks the advice of peers for recommendations before purchasing. YouTube, blogs and online product reviews continually keep her up to date on which products are the best (and the worst). With the click of a button, she can get a range of opinions and reviews and, when the review is negative, she may also find a set of suggestions for better, newer products. Only the best is good enough. Meanwhile, despite the rejection of anything close to mediocre, consumers are also looking for added value.

In this type of a market, how does the brand marketer keep up? In a market that is so teeming with options, what techniques can a brand employ so as to differentiate its packaging and catch the eye of the ever-looking consumer? Products have the most success when their packaging works toward a core set of qualities:

  • Ensures functionality
  • Offers exclusive features that define the brand
  • Engages the user on various levels
  • Keeps practicality and value perception a focus

Topline has worked to implement these traits of distinguishing packaging in a variety of ways, and I’d like to look at each of these qualities in-depth as well as offer experiences with each that led to successful campaigns for various companies. In each of these instances, one or more of the qualities above was employed in order to set the product apart from its competitors in an oversaturated market.

Ensures Functionality

Even if the formulation of a cosmetic is perfect and the consumer loves the way the product looks and feels in action, she is less likely to purchase the product again if its packaging is non-functional. Consumers largely reject products that are difficult to use or that create a mess when being used.

Maybelline’s Instant Age Rewind Eraser Treatment Makeup and Instant Age Rewind Eraser Dark Circle Treatment stand out from the competition using functional design to boost product performance and create a distinct visual experience for the user. For the Instant Age Rewind Eraser Treatment Makeup, a foundation, a unique delivery system was required. The product features a specially designed mechanism that smoothly and cleanly delivers the product through a built-in flocked applicator. The system produces a perfectly blended finish, enhancing the product’s performance. As the applicator is built into the product, it also saves the consumer time by adding the convenience of the applicator being right there when she needs it. The dark circle concealer is a scaled-down version of the “micro-corrector” foundation package with the same, unique delivery system.

Offers Exclusive Features That Define the Brand

The consumer wants the entire experience—the makeup, yes, but also the pleasure associated with using a particular brand. She comes back for the brand’s features as much as she does for the cosmetic itself. This could mean an innovative package that solves a problem present in other versions of the product or a feature that ties the product to the emotion behind a brand at large.

Crystallize Your Lips, part of the Aura by Swarovski line, is a success in using exclusive design to reflect a defined brand DNA. In Swarovski’s first venture into the cosmetics arena, it was essential that its lipstick reflected the quality and luxury of the brand. A collector’s piece was developed using a jeweler’s precision. The design of this lipstick package, inspired by the clean lines of the Aura by Swarovski fragrance bottle, features a Swarovski Elements crystal mounted into the cap. The Swarovski Elements crystal is mounted in a diamond setting as if it was a piece of jewelry. Other finishing details include its subtle screen printing on the sleeve, the luxurious “click” sound of the closure and an ultra-smooth mechanism.

Engages on Various Levels

A positive user experience is created by engaging all of the senses—feel, look, sound, smell and, possibly, taste. Brand marketers should constantly be striving for new ways to deliver a brand’s promise while wowing and surprising the consumer. Burberry has a very specific brand identity, luxury fused with understated elegance. Topline was challenged to offer the consumer a multi-sensorial experience, manufacturing a line of cosmetics that evoked the brand positioning from the moment a product is seen to the moment it is used and then placed back in the makeup bag.

Packaging for Burberry’s prestige line of color cosmetics is inspired by the trademark Burberry check design. It features several difficult manufacturing and decoration techniques, such as self-aligning magnetic closures for the lipstick, textured silk screening for the tartan design and metallization on weighted ABS. The result is a collection of products that not only defines the subtlety and understated elegance of Burberry, but that also provides the consumer an indulgent, luxury experience that engages all of the senses. For example, a user hears a luxurious “click” as she closes a Burberry compact and the textured silk-screened embellishment feels luxurious to the touch.

Practicality as a Focus

Consumers want products that are reliable, that are multi-functional and that save them time by being as efficient as possible. Consumers want to feel that the product is offering them a life solution as well as a cosmetic.

Lancôme's Absolu Voyage Complete Make-up Palette is a great example of practical functionality. Here, a sleek, elegant case was designed with two levels to satisfy the on-the-go consumer’s need for ultimate convenience. This luxury cosmetics kit features the latest “slide to open” technology. The case’s bottom level smoothly slides to the front and then to the side to reveal the complete color palette. The mirrored palette with high quality magnetic closure contains everything to make up eyes, cheeks and lips, ranging from lip gloss to eye pencil, mascara and powder.

The sliding case also comes with professional quality applicators, including sponge and brushes. The ABS SAN makeup case is rendered in a deep black color and features Lancôme’s emblematic rose in hot stamping, allowing the package to maintain the brand’s identity. This innovative design exceeds the expectation of the consumer for both performance and practicality by combining an elegant look with a fun, dual-level sliding system.

Besides more choices, more convenience and more value, today’s consumer is always looking for “new”—be it a new method of application, a new experience or a completely new look. The availability of information and inspiration at the consumer’s fingertips through social sites like Facebook and Pinterest has bred a desire for constant reinvention of the self. There is always a new idea that is prettier, a new style that is more exciting, and a new tip for what’s best, easiest and most effective. Careful, intuitive, and inventive packaging design has the ability to make a real impact on the consumer’s perception of a beauty product and to make it the newest, “must have,” most talked about item on the market.

Sandra Hutson is the sales and marketing director for Topline Products.

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Examples of Using Inventive Functionality; Design

It's products with smart and inventive packaging that will stand out from the competition and ultimately survive.

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