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Without Compromise: The Intricacies and Innovations of Color Cosmetic Packaging

By: Abby Penning
Posted: January 28, 2014, from the January 2014 issue of GCI Magazine.

Engaging packaging is typically par for the course for beauty products, but when it comes to the development of quality color cosmetic packaging, the myriad requirements leaves engagement further down the list of musts.

“Generally speaking, hair care and skin care packaging tends to be more simple than the packaging used for color cosmetics,” explains Sandra Hutson, sales and marketing director with Topline Products. “[Packaging for skin and hair care] often consists of only three or four component parts: a bottle or jar (single- or double-walled) and a cap and liner. Color cosmetics packaging, however, tends to be much more complex, using unique shapes with many more parts—including, for example, specific applicators and mirrors and other intricate components.”

Multiple components such as applicators, molded pieces, pans and trays, and mirrors have to come together to work properly and well enough to enhance the usage of the product. Mike Warford, director of sales with ABA Packaging Corp. (which exclusively represents beauty packaging supplier Oeka Beauty in the U.S.), notes, “When we’re looking at mascara and lip gloss, we’re selling much more than we would for a product for hair care. That is, we’re selling performance. Because in a lip gloss and mascara packaging, it’s not only about containment and presentation—it’s more about performance. You can have the best mascara product in the world, but if your brush isn’t copacetic with the formula and if your brush wiper doesn’t work well with the brush, then your product means nothing. It’s much more than containment and presentation. The strong third factor here is performance.”

Additionally, packaging for color cosmetics tends to change more often than packaging for other beauty categories. Damien Dossin, president, HCP Packaging USA Inc., reminds, “Color cosmetic brands tend to launch or upgrade their packaging on a three- to five-year life cycle, whereas skin care or hair care brands sustain their pack designs for longer.”

And each time a new pack is developed, it has to match or better the performance, containment and presentation of previous packaging. “In the prestige beauty market, the package plays the all-important role of setting the first impression,” John Morgan, senior package development engineer for Artistry, the Amway beauty brand with skin care and color cosmetic products, explains. “At Amway, one of packaging R&D’s guiding principles is to design and develop package solutions that communicate the brand image, protect and preserve the product, and delight our customers by delivering a superior experience during the product life. A truly well designed and engineered package incorporates all of these attributes without compromise.”

Package Creation

So how can all these seemingly disparate elements come together to satisfy so many needs for a good color cosmetic pack? Every brand has its own development process, of course, with in-house and partnership options representing different pieces—including packaging suppliers, contract manufacturers, design firms and development houses—that can fit together in all sorts of different ways.

According to Russell Wright, director of brand development with Mary Kay Inc., “When developing packaging for Mary Kay color cosmetic products, we start with the consumer in mind. The packaging needs to be an extension of who she is and how she lives, and it needs to integrate with her lifestyle. This helps us determine basic things such as size, shape and functionality of the package. We strive to understand where the product fits into her life: does it need to fit into her purse, pocket or by the sink? What is the age of the consumer? If older, is a pump easier to use than a twist-off cap? Does she want customization or a pre-prescribed experience that makes application simple? These are a few of the questions we discuss in order to relate the packaging back to the consumers.”

Wright continues, “Next, we study the trends. We send our marketing and creative packaging teams on trend trips twice a year, meeting with the top trend houses like Doneger and Stylesight to understand what’s happening with the most recent runway fashion and accessories. We meet with fragrance and flavor houses to understand how food and fragrance trends are evolving and impacting other beauty categories. And, of course, we meet with our key packaging partners on a regular basis to understand their latest innovations and technologies. As a final step, we look outside of beauty. Inspiration can be found outside of our own industry, from the latest materials and colors in smartphones to the details of the hardware in a vintage train case. We also are looking outside the traditional U.S. and European markets to trends and inspirations from Asia and Latin America.”

Gathering that inspiration and background is important before moving to the next development step. Hutson says, “The process for developing packaging for color cosmetics often starts from a design supplied by the brand. Usually it’s a visual idea of the exterior only: ‘the dream.’ The details of how to turn the dream into a finished product, however, still need to be worked out.”

That is typically where a brand’s supplier partners come into play. Citing the Flickable Luxe Lip Pop product as an example, Hutson describes, “It’s helpful if you have an internal design and engineering department as we do at Topline. We modified the customer’s original concept design to add eye-catching appeal and unique style elements to the package, which also doubled as practical enhancements to make the product easier to use. The cap-skirt that our engineering team added to the design serves as a grip area to make the package easier for the end user to open. And, as well as designing the label graphics for the package, we also collaborated with the brand to create the distinctive look of the display unit.”

Morgan explains Artistry’s approach to color cosmetic package development, saying, “Package development at Amway entails a stage-gate process that is comprised of four different phases: conception, feasibility, verification and execution. In the conception phase the packaging engineer works closely with the marketing and creative teams to establish functional and aesthetic requirements of the package. During this process, the team establishes the desired package attributes from a consumer’s perspective—asking questions such as: How will the consumer interact with the package during the life cycle of the product? Are there any sensorial cues the package must deliver on (i.e. number of clicks to prime a pump, audible click when opening/closing a component)? This process of establishing the design elements is different for each product category.

“Once consensus is reached on package profile, the engineer partners with procurement, quality assurance and a technical regulator to determine appropriate external partners to initiate the feasibility phase. Parameters such as cost, timing and quality requirements are taken into consideration during the supplier selection process. Upon business award, the engineer collaborates with suppliers to ensure the development and verification phase is completed successfully. In the last phase of the project, functions such as engineering, project management, manufacturing and planning all work in concert to ensure production and delivery of the products to our global network of affiliates is completed in a timely fashion.”