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Organic Beauty: Hip ... or Just for Hippies?

By: Rick Ruffolo
Posted: October 26, 2012, from the November 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.

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As well-meaning as each person is, everyone in the industry, including both individual brand marketers and retailers alike, needs to understand the constraints they will be placing on consumer acceptance if they continue to have trouble articulating what organic means. Uncertainty will enable other brands (many of which are on the market today and have been the subject of false claim lawsuits) to continue to greenwash their organic claims, further muddying the waters and frustrating potential customers who are looking for consistent guidelines to make good decisions.

Next time you’re at the supermarket or drugstore, watch how shoppers make purchase decisions. More than at any time in the past, many consumers are closely reading labels, shelf signs and checking the Internet to make better, more informed purchase decisions. This insight was reinforced in the August 2010 GCI article, “The Future of Beauty: Redefining the Conversation,” first presented by the 2010 graduating class of the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Master of Professional Studies degree program. That authors noted that real conversations about beauty care will result in more informed decision-making and intelligent consumption. Without trusted communication, it is likely the organic beauty trend will falter due to not being able to articulate a distinctive benefit.

In the case of Nourish, the brand chose to prominently feature its USDA Certified Organic logo on the front panel to ensure consumers knew Nourish meant what it said, along with a listing on the back panel of all the artificial ingredients not found in the products. Also, detailed ingredient information is available at www.nourishusda.com.

Just Follow Your Nose

The November 2011 GCI article “Just Follow Your Nose” highlighted the importance of unleashing the power of your instincts about a market segment. The article encourages marketers to follow their gut instincts when it comes to making good marketing and business development decisions, and the organic beauty market is no different. The emerging organic beauty trend is following the path laid down by the successful adoption and rapid growth of certified organic food products, and this is another example of the beauty care industry taking its cues from the food industry.

Where To Turn?

As with any emerging field, the key is to look for people with experience in the category. Among your first calls should be an organic certifier such as Oregon Tilth or NSF International to have them share more about the certification process. Additionally, there are many helpful websites, including, importantly, the USDA website (www.usda.gov). And there also are several good third party beauty manufacturers in the U.S. who already have been certified to create and manufacture these types of organic products. They can provide much guidance in successfully navigating organic formula development.

By investing using these parameters, brand marketers, retailers and suppliers in the organic beauty market have the potential to reap the benefits of this hip new growth engine for the industry.

Rick Ruffolo, a member of the GCI editorial advisory board, is an experienced beauty, fragrance and personal care brand leader who has held executive roles at P&G, SC Johnson, Bath & Body Works and Yankee Candle, among others. He is an industry-recognized expert in fragrance marketing; the founder of the retail consultancy R4 Innovations; and the CEO and president of Sensible Organics, a leading organic personal care company.