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Science with the Glamour: Ingredients' Brand Impact

Abby Penning
  • While the functional value of ingredients is a must for beauty products, those ingredient functions can also be a great way to relate a product’s story to consumers.
  • Talking to consumers about ingredients doesn’t have to be complicated. Being honest, clear, concise and informative will help them get a clear picture of the benefits a product provides.
  • As consumers continue to get savvier about ingredients and their effects, ingredient-based marketing continues to be a smart strategy.

As the building blocks of any beauty product, ingredients are obviously a must-have for any successful beauty brand. But beyond effectively lessening wrinkles, offering quality color, cleansing and protecting hair and skin, and providing numerous other beauty benefits, ingredients can also help beauty brands tell their story and the story of their products.

“Certain ingredients have a story, which can create or add to the finished product’s story,” says Denise Gabriele, vice president, sales and marketing, Sederma, Inc., citing examples such as Amazonian ingredients that support sustainability claims and clinically tested ingredients that can create specific benefit claims. And with the array of available ingredients, there is little limit to the stories ingredients can tell.

“The beauty industry is highly competitive, and brand owners are always looking to differentiate their products,” says Denise Petersen, skin care marketing manager, BASF. In order to do this, Petersen says, “They look for ingredients that can deliver a positive sensory experience that supports product positioning. We still see an increasing demand for products that are sustainable and suitable for sensitive skin.”

And it doesn’t end with the sensory experience. “New technologies are always interesting to formulators and marketers of beauty care products,” comments Gabriele. “In order to differentiate yourself from your competition, companies look for new ways to achieve results—and if these new ways can be faster and more effective, even better.”

What the Product Needs

Of course, ingredients first need to be looked at from a functional point of view. Beth Bewley, co-founder of the Eufora International hair care brand, explains, “In the world of beauty, there are many wonderful ingredients that are available for personal care formulations. Some provide a proven efficacy and others, while they sound intriguing, do not deliver the promise of the product or proven results. Choosing ingredients that genuinely deliver on the promise of the product is paramount in Eufora’s ingredient decisions.”

“It all starts from [beauty brands’] needs,” says Isabelle Lacasse, marketing director, Unipex. “We must know what they are looking for before doing anything. Are they reformulating a new product line and they need new ingredients? Sometimes they are working on a more natural line, so they need eco-friendly actives. Constant needs [include those] for effective anti-aging ingredients, skin lightening, ingredients that target skin imperfections and so on.”

And thus the product story can dictate the necessities required of the ingredients. “What is most important to one formulator or marketer may be very different to another. Sometimes ingredients are trend-driven while others are need-driven,” explains Caren Dres-Hajeski, marketing director, Lipo Chemicals. “It is our goal to try to marry the science with the glamour and deliver an ingredient that helps our customers find success.”

However, few products these days aren’t multitaskers, and their ingredients are often expected to achieve several desired outcomes as well. “While innovation is often the first thing that is looked at in formulating with new ingredients, the R&D team at Dr. LeWinn by Kinerase seeks ingredients that are effective, safe, gentle and deliver proven results,” says Jill Wittenberg, marketing manager, Dr. LeWinn by Kinerase. “When our chemists feel an ingredient could be a good fit, preliminary studies, sources of the ingredient and safety testing are examined to ensure the quality. The ingredients that ultimately end up in our formula are effective and work synergistically with kinetin and our formulas.”

So, beyond the functionality needs of the ingredient, there is also often a need for a USP—the ingredient’s unique selling proposition. For example, Petersen comments, “We have a broad range of emollients—from light, fast-spreading emollients to rich, solid emollients. This gives [product developers] many opportunities to develop formulations that achieve desired effects.”

The key is providing a means to create products that, in turn, provide a sensory experience that consumers enjoy. “Our Cetiol Sensoft is an emollient that helps beauty brands meet consumers’ demands for a sensorial and holistic product experience,” Petersen offers as an example. “Its characteristics were evaluated using different methodologies such as our Pillow Talk Method and our Objective Emotional Assessment (OEA). The Pillow Talk Method enables panelists to evaluate the sensory of a product and translate it into an objective response characterization; while applying the emollient on the forearm, they touch different types of pillows with the other hand and choose the pillow fabric that is closest to the skin feel (e.g., silky, velvety, etc.). With the help of OEA, an approach based on the measurement of subjective and psychophysiological parameters, panelists’ individual sensory perceptions of the ingredient itself and the final formulations can be confirmed.” This is a USP that can pinpoint and fulfill the specific needs of a beauty product formulation, as well as lend itself to the USP of the product itself.

In accordance with the needs of green beauty products, “Another great example is BASF’s Cetiol RLF, a fast-spreading emollient that gives products a pleasant and light skin feel,” says Petersen. “Cetiol RLF is made from 100% natural renewable feedstock and is catalyzed with enzymes. This new process helps to reduce emissions while ensuring high quality. Additionally, the emollient is approved by Ecocert, and certified by NaTrue and by the National Products Association, and recommended for concepts according to BDIH and COSMOS.” Telling a green product story is more important in the marketplace today, and ingredients with green certifications help that story hit home with consumers. “Cetiol RLF helps to satisfy the needs of consumers with both sensitive skin and the desire for products of natural origin,” Petersen notes. “Its mildness, along with its hydrating effect and the light skin feel, can enhance people’s sense of well-being.” A story of heightened well-being is one any beauty brand would want to tell.

“Many beauty brands have developed a keen interest in natural-based products and products that contribute to a sustainability theme,” acknowledges Jeff Rogers, business director Americas, AkzoNobel. “We are conducting a significant amount of activity around product life cycle analysis to better help our customers understand how to communicate the value of this activity to the consumers.” However, many other ingredient stories are also possible. “There is a focus today on meeting options. Options can offer a higher level of flexibility when it comes to product position for a consumer brand,” Rogers notes.

The effectiveness of a quality ingredient is another important product talking point option. “Kinetin has long been the key ingredient in Kinerase, the parent brand of Dr. LeWinn by Kinerase,” says Wittenberg. “Kinetin is known for its antioxidant activity, its ability to target the signs of aging, and its extremely gentle nature. We wanted to make this clinically proven ingredient accessible to more people because we know it works.”

And Eufora’s Bewley explains, “Utilizing certified organic aloe was a way for Eufora to provide a unique point of difference for our brand. Plus, aloe has been proven to have amazing results, including positive healing and soothing benefits. Utilizing aloe in our brand wasn’t just a way to differentiate Eufora from the rest—it meant that our products produce real results.”

The ingredient stories can be as varying and vast as the number of beauty ingredients themselves. “Since our ingredients provide a performance benefit that supports the promise of the product, we let our consumers know what each ingredient does,” says Bewley. “We also try not to hang our hat on just one ingredient in a product. The reality is that the performance of a product is rarely the result of just one ingredient. Instead, it is a complex formula where the synergy of ingredients are what delivers the result.”

Straight Talk

With all the great opportunities to include ingredient stories in product stories, brands also have to be smart about how they integrate and offer this message (or messages) to their customers. “Consumers are becoming increasingly savvy about what goes on their skin, making communication easier about the science behind ingredients. Typically we seek to educate the consumer on where the ingredient comes from, the safety of the ingredient and what the ingredient does, which consumers can easily relate to,” says Wittenberg. “We focus on the ingredients that best support the product’s benefits.”

“You always have to tell the truth,” Bewley emphasizes. “The consumer wants a product that is going to solve a problem. Although the scientific information can be great to support a product’s claim, at the end of the day if the product doesn’t deliver on that promise then the consumer will be disappointed.” And Gabriele reiterates the importance of letting consumers know about the quality and effectiveness of a product and its ingredients. “Effectiveness is something that consumers are increasingly looking for as part of their skin and hair care regimens,” she says. “She may purchase a product once based on promotions, but she will not repurchase if she doesn’t perceive a benefit. And in the age of so much information readily available online, she may not even purchase initially if common opinion states that it is not effective.”

What is the best way to ensure a customer is getting the right message, however? “We have to speak more about the skin benefits instead of the mechanism of action or product origin or the different tests that shows the efficacy,” says Lacasse of Unipex’s approach. “We must speak the same language as the consumer, talking about ‘What does it give to the consumer?’ e.g., reduction of wrinkles, improvement of skin imperfections, prevention of sun burns—these types of claims.”

Rogers notes that at AkzoNobel, “We have taken an approach that involves a more graphic and pictorial explanation” to get the right message across, and Bewley says, “We provide Eufora stylists with extensive education that teaches them how to talk to their clients about the products in a way they understand. Since our products are salon professional, we always recommend explaining which products are right for the customer and why.”

Clarity can even be a key component to a product’s story as well, Dres-Hajeski says. “As we all know, there is a very large trend in our industry and many others is to go green. Part of this is also a trend to simplify a formulation and focus on one main concept. If you throw everything but the kitchen sink into a product, it loses its credibility,” she explains. But perhaps most importantly, keep at it. “The consumer has become extremely educated over the years and it is important to continue to educate them on how ingredients work, the synergies, and how to use products to achieve the most effective outcome,” Dres-Hajeski says.

A Story With Meaning

In choosing the right ingredient for your product, Lacasse says, “Effectiveness is the key factor for the majority, and after that it is a mix of good marketing story behind the product and the right pricing for the market segment. At the end, if the efficacy and price are the same, people tend to choose the ingredient with the most unique story. It can even help sometimes to develop the marketing concept of the new product and/or line.”

And Rogers also emphasizes, “Clearly ingredients are the nuts and bolts of a product and the product performance promised by the consumer goods companies. I think it is vital and important that consumer goods organizations in the business-to-consumer environment have a link to help their customers more clearly understand that business-to-business organizations are genuinely engaged in [providing information on] how a product’s value, features and benefits can be more widely understood.”

Ultimately, Bewley says, “Promoting important and effective ingredients is part of smart marketing. However, an exotic-sounding ingredient will only get you the first purchase. The product’s performance is what creates consumer loyalty.”

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