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Claims and Promises

By: Imogen Matthews
Posted: November 29, 2011, from the December 2011 issue of GCI Magazine.

It all started with Boots Protect & Perfect, the anti-aging serum that shot to fame following clinical trials confirming its efficacy as compared to other, far more expensive, brands. Here was proof that a product worked, and consumers flocked to buy it—and continue to do so. Protect & Perfect set the bar high for other brand launches, making it almost mandatory for them to have clinical evidence that the products really work. But how robust is the data upon which these claims are made?

With so many new launches boasting differing breakthrough technologies, brands are differentiating themselves from others in the market. Janaki Padmanabhan, Euromonitor International* country research analyst, maintains that brand owners are providing evidence of clinical trials to substantiate their claims, rather than just claiming their products do something without demonstrable evidence. “When many competing brands are in a position to produce similar types of skin care products with similar benefits, clinical trials will probably be the way forward for the ones who can afford it,” says Padmanabhan.

One of the knock-on effects of the economic climate has been for consumers to trade down to, for example, masstige brands from premium; therefore, product claims have become even more important for brands sold in a self-select environment (channels without a dedicated sales consultant to spell out the benefits).

“To compete with premium brands such as Lancôme and Estée Lauder, brands such as Olay and Boots No.7 are backing up their products with clinical trials,” points out Padmanabhan. “Some of the advantages with such claims are retention of consumers within brands, up-selling to existing consumers and also attracting new ones. It does put smaller brands that cannot afford to do so at a disadvantage, but historically the cosmetic business has been about brands that have the money from parent companies to do extensive marketing and research.”