Transferring Innovation to Global Markets

  • To quickly establish a foothold in a new location, proven formulations must be cost-effectively adapted to meet the demographic needs and preferences of new target consumers.
  • Beginning with a basic formulation that can be adapted to market needs provides a head start for gaining a foothold in the target market that can be extended with locally sourced additives, enabling organizations to save time and money since they only need to focus on locally relevant R&D.
  • Ensuring that the research is easily accessible and useful across disciplinary boundaries requires a collaborative mind-set throughout the global enterprise.

When it comes to cosmetics, “relevance” is critical. Brand owners need to be able to pinpoint the singular attributes and features that will differentiate a product in consumers’ minds and entice them to buy. But global beauty markets are not interchangeable. Product attributes such as fragrance or color that work in Brussels may not resonate in Beijing. This means that reaching lucrative high-density markets, such as India or China, requires much more than simply a solid distribution strategy. Rather, global success will be determined by how adept companies are at transferring the product innovation that defines their brands to new markets while taking into account the unique requirements of specific geographies and cultures.

Doing this requires that organizations find better and faster ways to tap into the vast resources that exist within their R&D knowledge base, which may include everything from formulation recipes and data from past experiments to supplier information, consumer preference models and production history. There are three ways that beauty brand owners can empower regional product development sites to succeed in emerging markets.

Streamline Local Decision-making

What shampoo attributes are most important to Chinese consumers? Which sunscreen ingredients and tints most closely match the skin tone range for women in Mumbai? To quickly establish a foothold in a new location, beauty companies must be able to cost-effectively adapt proven formulations to meet the demographic needs and preferences of their target consumers. There are other market-specific issues that are important too—including political, regulatory and supply chain considerations. For example, an organization might need to compare the prices offered by flavorant, odorant or active substance suppliers within a specific geographic region, or understand a particular government’s regulatory policies on active ingredients.

This requires local knowledge and local expertise that is not readily or rapidly available within a centralized R&D headquarters far removed from the culture and environment of the target market. Thus, regional product development sites must be given the analysis tools (and the autonomy) they need to make these locally relevant decisions. At the same time, organizations must also be careful not to overburden local teams with R&D tasks that can be more cost-effectively handled by existing resources or that require many years of technological development to learn.

There’s no need to re-create the wheel with expensive experiments or tests that have already been done for other product launches, for example, as long as the knowledge gained through previous work is applicable to the new market strategy. To take advantage of these existing “information assets,” however, regional development sites need an easy way to both access and use R&D data, regardless of where it originated, or how it is formatted or stored.

Build a Shared Knowledge Base

Most cosmetic development does not start from scratch. Development teams begin with a product “chassis”—a basic shampoo or skin cream formulation, for example—and then add in unique attributes such as antiaging or pH balance, or herbal or natural ingredients that might appeal to consumers. For regional development sites, the chassis provides a head start for gaining a foothold in the target market and then can be extended with locally sourced additives. This approach enables organizations to save time and money since they only need to focus on locally relevant R&D.

To build on existing product innovation, however, developers need to be able to access, integrate and leverage all the research knowledge that has already been generated by the wider organization. But this can be a formidable undertaking, considering the massive amounts of data typically involved.

A typical product development project may span many scientific disciplines and include information related to thousands of possible formulation ingredients, numerous high throughput experimental results and pages of supplier details. This information is also often spread across a diverse array of formats and proprietary systems, such as text documents saved in an electronic lab notebook or images generated by a microscope.

Disciplinary silos create further complications, locking information within a particular department or research group. (Biology experiments may be conducted independently of chemistry experiments or toxicology testing, for example.) As a result, development sites may spend countless hours tracking down what they need, or they may simply miss critical knowledge entirely, burning resources on redundant experiments. But new advances in service-oriented architecture and collaborative technologies are changing this. A web services-based IT foundation for scientific information management can support the integration of multiple sources of R&D information in a “plug and play” environment, unlocking and integrating data previously marooned within disciplinary, system, application and format silos. Through this shared knowledge base, organizations can empower their regional sites with the information they need to get up and running in new markets both quickly and cost-effectively.

Consider the example of a company working to introduce a sunscreen formula originally developed for European consumers to Asian markets. There are a number of variables that need to be considered.

First, there’s the original formulation. How did it test under different temperature and environmental conditions? What are the solubility profiles? Can this mixture be modified easily in order to change its color or texture? Which ingredients that make up the chassis are available locally and which can be cost-effectively sourced in from the global market?

And then there are local considerations. How does the climate and geography impact the efficacy of the product’s UV blocker? Will Asian skin (due to differences in genetics or diet) absorb the product differently? Can additional ingredients (such as an active that will enhance the product’s ability to penetrate the skin) be mixed safely and effectively with the original formulation?

With a system in place that enables regional sites to easily find, access and use any type of existing R&D knowledge related to the sunscreen formulation (as well as information on suppliers, processing data, test results and more) a brand owner can greatly speed the local development process. For instance, data about the original formulation’s solubility profile and computed irritancy indexes can be used to create models that predict how the product might perform on different skin types or with different ingredients added. With modeling, additives that may cause an undesirable reaction or that are simply ineffective can be ruled out before clinical trials are required. This can mean the difference between having to test four or five ingredients in vivo instead of 20—which can reduce costs significantly and potentially slash weeks from the development cycle. In an industry where getting to market first is so critical, this “rapid response” approach, aided by shared organizational knowledge, offers a huge competitive advantage.

Encourage a Collaborative Culture

But just because people can share knowledge, doesn’t mean they will.

Bringing a new product to market requires a lot of domain-specific expertise, as well as cross disciplinary interaction. Market development teams investigate what ethnic groups, age brackets, income levels and geographic regions are good targets and create models that examine primary purchase motivators. Chemists focus on discovering new compounds and materials that can be used in formulations. Biologists consider how the body’s systems will react with a formula, screening for factors such as degree of potency or toxicity. There are also environmental and regulatory experts needed, and the list goes on.

Yet all too often, it’s easy for R&D stakeholders to get too comfortable working within their own disciplinary cocoon, losing sight of the fact that their specialized contributions are critical not just to the experiment or test at hand, but also to the big picture objectives of the organization. Ensuring that the research generated by domain experts is easily accessible and useful across disciplinary boundaries thus requires more than the shared knowledge base already described. It also requires a more collaborative mind-set throughout the global enterprise. When it comes to incorporating a new system or process that enables greater information sharing, individual specialists tend to ask, “What’s in it for me?”—but they should also be encouraged to think, “How does this improve the success of my organization as a whole?” With this in mind, a corporate culture that focuses on collaborative excellence as well as individual achievement is imperative, so that research and development stakeholders are rewarded for contributing to the global knowledge base rather than for simply being the only expert that can solve a particular problem.


To take advantage of emerging opportunities, today’s beauty brand owners need to be able to quickly, nimbly and cost-effectively adapt proven formulations to meet the unique geographic, physical, environmental and personal preference requirements of new markets. Armed with tools and processes that enable global knowledge sharing, local decision-making and greater collaboration, organizations can empower their development sites to generate the greatest value from regional investments.

Michael Doyle is principal application scientist at Accelrys, a provider of scientific business intelligence software and services for the life sciences, energy, chemicals, aerospace and consumer products industries.

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