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Targeted Beauty Testing

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

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Through a variety of attachments, such machines also can test the breaking points of powder compacts, using a very thin rod to poke into the pack to see if it fractures or splits apart; as well as extrusion capabilities for creams and lotions; and the combability of shampoos and other hair care products. According to McGregor, “It physically takes hair—a wig, if you will—and it allows shampoo manufacturers to put the shampoo into the hair, and then it will physically drag a comb through the hair to see what the resistance is.”

In regard to safety, efficacy and quality control, there is virtually nothing that can’t and shouldn’t be tested when it comes to beauty products.

Working Together

With the plethora of testing available, it can get quickly overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to develop a relationship with a testing company you trust so you know what you need, what you can expect and where there are new opportunities.

For instance, timeliness. “Safety testing takes a minimum of eight to 10 weeks to conduct even the most rudimentary test program,” explains Weiss. “Efficacy or claims support studies take between four and 12 weeks to conduct, but prior to starting the study, a test protocol needs to be establish, which also takes time.” For the consumer panels The Beauty Company conducts, Beyer describes, “The overall process ultimately depends on the trial length. We usually plan for about two weeks of prep work; within this time, we use the product ourselves to help simulate the consumer experience, craft the consumer claims, recruit the ideal target panel and mail out the test product. Typical trials run anywhere from seven to 28 days and beyond. Once the trial finishes the testing phase, we spend time analyzing the data, reviewing the consumer’s feedback and generating the final results and next-steps forward for launching the product in-market.”

She continues, “We tailor every trial to meet our client’s exact needs; every SKU or product collection varies by brand, so each requires its own trial set-up. We design every trial with the end goal in mind; some products only need to be tested for instant/immediate day-one claims, while other products require rigorous 28- or 56-day tests. Other nuances include panel size; different retailers have specific guidelines. Some trials can get away with having as little as 35 panelists, but the industry standard is often 100 participants or more.”

Communication throughout the testing process is key. “We have a very good exchange of information as the testing proceeds. If it’s a skin irritation test that takes four weeks long to conduct, we will give [the brand owner] topline information. Or if they call to inquire as to how it’s progressing or if we’ve found problems so far, we will, of course, let them know,” Kaminsky says. “If changes need to be made or if reformulations need to be put together, the sooner they have the information, the better they can deal with it.”

A quality brand-testing company relationship also opens the possibility to get in on new tests and opportunities. Kaminsky notes, “We sometimes like to recommend the kinds of tests that are not required but that may enhance the image of the product, and allow [the brand] to make claims that maybe the competition is not able to make or hasn’t thought about making.” And Beyer says, “Clients can choose to run additional studies such as a double-blind comparison survey, an in-person focus group, or before-and-after photography.”

What Testing Provides Brands

Besides the peace of mind of a safe and effective product, testing in beauty provides brands distinct chances to really set their products apart. “It’s a highly competitive industry, and everybody’s fighting for SKUs and shelf space. So the more info you have, the better your product appears, and—I believe—the louder the customers will talk about it,” says Kaminsky. “What I think is unique about our testing is that we look for the slightest advantage for the client to maximize in their sales efforts.”

It’s also important just to ensure your products are still on the ball. “I think that many brands need to review their safety testing programs, as many company’s need to differentiate products that need additional safety evaluation,” Weiss urges. “Products used around the eyes, products intended to marketed to children and products sold as regimen should be reviewed, just to name a few.”

Testing is not always be about exciting new claims and discoveries; it can be about ensuring consistent quality. “The biggest need is to be consistent in terms of what brands are producing so that consumers aren’t disappointed. The only way you can do that is to run quick, inexpensive tests on each batch to make sure that they are meeting specification,” says McGregor.

But to truly stand apart in the industry, get creative with your efficacy and product development testing. “Skin care, color cosmetics, body care, hair care, nail care, fragrance, personal care and the beauty device categories all can reap the benefits of consumer testing by getting their product in the hands of their ideal consumer. Listening to her and learning about her experience with the usage, application, texture, scent, look and feel of the product can verify any product offering,” says Beyer. “We provide the independent voice and credibility needed in an increasingly highly regulated environment. Also, by knowing women and intimately understanding what they are looking for in their product offerings, we work to optimize a brand’s claim set. Having conducted hundreds of studies, we know the category benchmarks and what the competition is saying; we have optimized our methodology to provide best-in-class claims, insights and validation.”