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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.

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Discussing the time line of such development, Dossin says, “The overall development cycle for major new projects requiring bespoke tooling can exceed 18 months, whereas projects based on rebranding our stock components can be less than six months.” So decisions on uniqueness and development costs have to be weighed against material costs and time-to-market concerns.

Brian Robinson, president of TPR Holdings, the parent company for Cargo Cosmetics, talks through Cargo’s recent relaunch, which included the development of new packaging visuals. “As the main component of the brand relaunch, we worked extremely hard on an updated look that debuted with new secondary packaging and the introduction of new SKUs housed in new primary packaging. In doing so, we looked for the perfect balance between Cargo’s iconic tin packaging and ways to bring the brand positioning and personality to life in a fresh and modern way,” he explains. “For our secondary packaging, we drew inspiration from Cargo’s brand heritage of travel and exploration, looking to various global destinations for new landscape illustrations that are featured on the outer cartons. When developing primary packaging, we always look for components that are practical, functional and innovative for consumers, as well as makeup artists. Core products like lipsticks and eyes shadows are housed in sleek aluminum, while the Cargo_HD Collection bares a more professional aesthetic in a soft touch, solid matte black package with the new silver foil logo.

“The packaging needs to communicate our brand story,” Robinson continues. “We want to be accessible yet luxe with elements of prestige, as seen with the custom card stock used to create our outer cartons, crown foil detailing, shade labeling and embossed textures—all of which bring a heightened sensorial experience to the consumer. Primary packaging demonstrates our position in the category—that we are dedicated to introducing best-in-class formulas—while our secondary packaging shows we have a fun, playful side. Our packaging lets our consumer know we are serious but don’t take ourselves too seriously.”

Artistry’s Morgan echoes this sentiment, saying, “Given the competitive nature of the cosmetics industry, having a unique and differentiated brand image is essential in resonating with your target customer. Therefore, it is critical to preserve attributes such as brand logo, design features and brand colors to ensure consistency across product lines once they have been established.”

Color cosmetics can show the personality of a brand perhaps more easily than almost any other type of beauty product, with its versatile, changeable shapes, applicators and other elements. So it’s essential to have a strong, smart idea about what those elements are saying about your brand through their visual aesthetics.

Intersecting Design and Innovation

Bringing your vision to light requires the ability to prioritize and compromise, but also to stay strong about the elements you feel make your packaging—and your product—special. For example, ABA Packaging’s Warford says, “In the area of mascara, we have a large stock line of available brushes that we have already pre-qualified for certain functions. Functions can be lengthening, curling, volume application and so on. We do this qualifying with an internal panel of people that have expertise in mascara. As we come out with products, they do some testing with bulk to see whether or not it’s good for volumizing or good for lengthening or good for curling and such, and we qualify our brushes that way. So at the start of a project for mascara, one of the very important things for us to know from the customer their intention for the product and the package.”

Hutson explains a similar situation, saying, “At Topline, we have created an in-house innovation team responsible for analyzing the market, identifying customer needs, finding solutions and then converting all of this into a workable packaging concept. We work very closely with our customers so that we really understand the market, what the consumer wants and how much she is willing to pay. Innovation is a complex process that frequently involves creating prototypes for product and concept testing.”

HCP also offers similar services for its clients. Dossin explains, “HCP has an internal innovation council. This team includes senior level management who are responsible for identifying new products, materials, finishes and manufacturing opportunities.”

In working in collaboration with companies such as ABA Packaging and Oeka Beauty, brands have the opportunity to benefits from others’ experience. “Let’s say you have a mascara product you want to come out with for volumizing. What we’ll do is ask for some of that product with the necessary non-disclosure agreements, confidential disclosure agreements—whatever’s required—and we’ll have our panel evaluate our mascara brushes with that product,” explains Warford. “Then we’ll come back to the customer with recommendations for brushes or applicators that we think perform well with their product for them to consider.”

It’s important to have the benefits of that experience when working with new ingredients and formulas, too. Hutson says in regard to products such as long-wear formulations for eye shadow and lip color, “These create a whole set of new challenges of their own for packaging manufacturers. You have to choose your packaging materials very carefully to make sure there are no issues with compatibly caused by any of the ingredients in the formula. Also, you have to design the packaging with an airtight seal to prevent the volatile ingredients in the formula from drying out, as these form part of the essential elements to create the product’s long-lasting properties.” And Warford adds, “[Brand owners] are trying to differentiate themselves by innovating new products, and some of those products definitely put strain on existing technology for application. So we are constantly evolving and having to innovate new designs to try to keep up with that need.”

Another aspect to pay attention to is line cohesion. Shapes for color cosmetic products aren’t typically uniform throughout a line, so cohesive elements like color and decoration are needed even more. “There is a strong partnership between our creative packaging, brand positioning and product development teams to ensure we are integrating our shades, the packaging and the brand communication to ensure a holistic experience for the consumer,” says Mary Kay’s Wright. “As an example, our recent fall trend collection used various elements to reinforce our brand positioning of ‘Fairytales and Fantasy.’ The use of a regal purple and an antique bronze leaf-effect in the primary and secondary, coupled with an old English typeface, helped to support the storybook experience. This includes the filigree found on both the carton and collar of our Mulberry Forrest Lip Stain. All of these elements work together to create the experience of an illumination manuscript.”

As Dossin explains, “Product range cohesion is achieved through ensuring that the critical elements of pack profile (shape/aesthetics), color and decoration are specifically complemented at the design stage. Clearly linking these individual elements, at the design stage is critical to the success of a new range.”

Robinson says of Cargo’s packaging, “In order to keep the brand cohesive, our core products always maintain the same look, while our trend products and seasonal collections, palettes and kits allow us to get more creative. The circular aluminum tin has long been iconic for the brand and is typically the first thing that comes to mind when people discuss the brand—so we see that throughout the line. With the next generation of Cargo packaging, we are still going to see circular components but in different ways. We are also using our landscape illustrations to introduce seasonal offerings in a way that is different from one collection to the next yet still cohesive within the larger brand portfolio.”