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Beyond the Moon

Donna Barson

You know, it used to be enough to just have a wonderful product. All you needed to do was put it on the marketplace and wait for the money to roll in. As long as it performed as promised, consumers would buy it, no questions asked.

But that was then and this is now. Today, consumers are savvy shoppers with choices galore. Like a kid sitting on Santa’s lap, consumers enter the marketplace with a long list of “must haves.” There are so many enticing choices available, consumers can simply switch to another product if one does not meet their criteria. More often, that criteria now includes “social consciousness” issues, such as alternatives to animal testing and the inclusion of natural ingredients.

This is becoming very true in the beauty marketplace, and marketers cannot ignore the social consciousness of consumers. It is no longer enough for a product to promise the moon and deliver it—the consumer’s social consciousness must also be assuaged while using it. In other words, the consumer must be made to feel good.

Consider this in the context of the trend toward organic and natural food. The extraordinary growth of the retailers Whole Foods and Wild Oats is but the tip of the iceberg in this avalanche of interest in organic products. Almost every food product brand currently lining store shelves is scrambling to introduce less processed, all natural versions. The leap from natural foods to natural beauty products isn’t a big one. Why would consumers demand natural food and then cover their skin with non-natural ingredients? An example of a response to this trend is the Be.Fine line of skin care products found at CVS and marketed as food for the skin.

According to a recent study by TNS/Media Intelligence/CMR, the natural and organic skin care, hair care and cosmetics market is growing by nearly 10% annually. In 2003, the market was approximately $3.9 billion. By 2008, it is anticipated to hit $5.8 billion. Another report adding fuel to the organic beauty fire, the 2007 Health and Wellness Trends report from Natural Marketing Institute, reveals that consumers are quite willing to pay as much as 20% more for organic personal care products. Furthermore, the group’s Evolution of Personal Care Database reveals that 59% of the women surveyed said that having a product with 100% natural ingredients is somewhat to very important to them when purchasing personal care items. In addition, the Organic Trade Association recorded an 11% rise in the growth of organic personal care products in 2006; organic hair care rose 17%.

Of course, companies have to replace the preservatives, artificial coloring and other non-natural ingredients with alternatives agreeable to the consumer. To paraphrase a popular saying that holds true in this scenario, inspiration is 99% desperation, and manufacturers and marketers are finding inspiration all around them. Fruit and vegetables are popular choices for finding ingredient alternatives. Naturcosmetics’s Styx brand, for example, offers natural hand balm made from 100% pure vegetable ingredients. The sea has contributed many natural ingredients as well, algae and sea salts are among the most recognizable.

Make no mistake about it, the ability to market products as pure and natural is significant, and will grow in significance when the definition of natural is standardized (an effort that has gained momentum during the past year). Then, companies that comply with the definition are going to be able to trumpet their natural status over those that don’t measure up to the standard.

If you doubt that last statement, then why is Target currently rolling out Erbaorganics, an organic skin care line for mothers and infants? Does it possibly have something to do with Wal-Mart’s creation of organic beauty selections in 350 stores nationwide? And why is Publix launching some very green supermarkets in Florida called Publix GreenWise? Might it have something to do with shaving the competition’s potential marketing edge? For marketers, the stakes have never been higher. Since future generations will probably seek out more natural products because of the increasing emphasis on the environment, the battle goes beyond today’s consumers to those of tomorrow.

Marketing a product as natural poses a huge challenge. While there are still problems to be worked out—the standard definition of natural, the shortened shelf life of natural products due to current limitations of natural preservatives—the wise marketer should move onto the natural stage now before it gets so crowded they aren’t noticed. It would be the natural thing to do.

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