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Marketing and R&D Magic: Fostering Our Vital Relationship with Consumers

By: Nancy McDonald and Salvador Pliego
Posted: April 7, 2009, from the April 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Ours is a business that by its very nature fosters a strong emotional attachment with its customers. Sadly, we are slowly abusing this bond, with the result that our customers are becoming increasingly skeptical. And more and more, we are promoting our own lack of credibility with these crucial partners.

It’s understandable. There are an awful lot of products out there—particularly in highly emotionally based segments—that, for example, spout virtually unbelievable claims and promise literally unbelievable results.

Salvador: It’s certainly tempting to succumb to the same old horse race. “If ‘x’ offers eight-hour moisturization with wrinkle reduction, renewed radiance and flawless skin, then I must go for double digits. Let’s stretch the truth of our technologies to the limit.”

We’ve backed ourselves into a corner, but our standing with our customers is of critical importance to our future, and we are seriously risking eroding their trust in us.

“The cosmetics industry has always been about giving consumers state-of-the-art tools and formulations to look and feel their best,” says Jane Terker, president, Cosmedicine. “In recent times, our ever-increasing, pressing quest for success and profits can tend to influence many of us to intensify consumer demand by overstating promises and results—particularly in proportion to the reality of the ingredient formulation. Here, we run a great risk of disappointing, even alienating, consumers with promises that simply cannot be met. Far too often, the truth is getting lost in the marketing spin.”

Contrary to the unspoken opinion of some, our customer is a lot smarter and savvier than we think. Our industry’s propensity for hype is no longer resonating with these customers. Given their ever-increasing knowledge of our category and its products, they are now finding unfounded statements and claims downright unacceptable.

Given the sheer breadth of products out there, they have an escape hatch—to the next counter, to the next aisle, to the next brand.

Nancy: So, friends and colleagues, how about we focus on a new “R” word? Like renewed respect for our customers? Ensuring the integrity of our products and our promises. Surely, we’ve come a long way from the days of snake oil claims.