Top Questions to Ask Before Developing a Beauty Product

Further reading:The Process of Product Development

Asking the right questions at the beginning of a project and answering them as honestly as you can, will set you on a course to develop a beauty product that will successfully build your brand. Some of the questions are obvious, but they sometimes lead to other questions that can make the whole process more productive and successful.

Who is my target customer?

This is probably the most fundamental question for developing a new beauty product, if not the most obvious. Of course, it’s crucial to understand the target customer, a customer you are probably already very familiar with.

Questions that often don’t get asked include: Does this new product expand my current customer base? Is the new product an opportunity to reach out to customers beyond our usual customer base?

Adjusting your product profile to answer this question may be a key to making the success of your project even greater, particularly if expanding your customer base seems like a good idea. With the right planning, it might be possible to introduce your brand to consumers outside of your normal market without compromising your existing customer base.

Reaching for a higher-priced category is usually difficult, and appealing to a lower price-point audience can hurt your current brand image. If incorporating different product characteristics that will broaden the appeal for your brand is possible, this is an opportunity to reach sideways into parts of the culture that may not be as aware of your brand as it should be.

What will the product cost?

Again, an obvious question. After considering Helena Rubenstein’s dictum that if a product isn’t selling, double the price, will you be charging enough?

The constraints that marketers place on themselves for product cost sometimes miss the opportunity to take advantage of a pricing fresh start. Once the product is in the marketplace, raising the price is virtually impossible.

Beauty products, like many personal and luxury products, seem to work better if they cost a bit more. Again, this is an opportunity to rethink your usual pricing and cost structures.

Is the product supposed to be a permanent part of the product line?

Or, will it fall by the wayside with changes in fashion?

Makeup shades are creatures of fashion for sure. Fragrances can be a flash in the pan, or they can become a classic and go on for decades.

Are you going to sell the next BB cream, CC cream, DD cream, or will it be a product that steps outside of the fashion trends and is intended to be around for the long haul? A clear idea on this dimension of the development project can affect how detailed your project will have to be.

Products that will be a long-term part of the brand deserve a bit more attention than short-term promotional items in most cases. The testing behind the product should be more rigorous for a “new classic” in the product line.

What claims will I make?

Yes, Captain Obvious strikes again, but there are considerations that can make this question a bit more interesting. If the product will be sold in markets outside the U.S., how will those claims play in those markets?

Understanding and addressing cultural differences can expand the success of your product in those markets. Performance expectations can vary significantly from country to country, as can usage patterns and economic concerns.

Are there any regulatory or legal issues with the claims you want to make?

“Sun protection,” “fights blemishes,” “increases blood circulation,” “treats wrinkles,” “stimulates collagen production,” or “diminishes age spots.” Wonderful things to say about your product.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would tell you they are all drug claims in the U.S. Other countries may view the same claims very differently.

It doesn’t matter if the claims are true, if they aren’t allowed by FDA regulations for cosmetic products, your product might fall victim to regulatory problems. Whether you write your marketing copy and then have it reviewed and revised for regulatory compliance, or you pay attention to the regulatory boundaries in the beginning, the shortest path to a successful new product will be to avoid the legal and regulatory quagmires.

What ingredients should be in the product?

There are a lot of happy answers to this question. Ingredients that the consumer understands to offer transformative benefits can support your promotional efforts significantly.

Function and fashion can combine to make a product almost irresistible. Looking at the other side of the coin: What ingredients should not be in the product?

There are both legal and fashion reasons to avoid some ingredients. Some are so well known at this point that there isn’t much point in claiming that the product doesn’t contain them.

Paraben-free has probably run its course as a claim that gets much attention with the consumer. Others are not as easy to spot.

California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to the State of California as causing cancer or reproductive toxicity is an example. Here, the product needs to be developed to avoid those ingredients that are on the list, like cocamide DEA.

Ingredients that might contain some amount of Prop 65 chemicals as by-products or unavoidable contaminants also have to be factored in. Diethanolamine (DEA) is on the Prop 65 list, but triethanolamine (TEA) is not. The problem is that almost all TEA contains some amount of DEA, so the Prop 65 legal exposure comes in through the back door.

Canada has its “hot list” of ingredients and ingredient constituents that should be avoided if you are selling in Canada.

The European Union has its own collection of ingredients to avoid.

Planning to avoid them in the first place saves aggravation down the road. Answering questions like these at the very beginning will save a lot of time and aggravation as your development project unfolds.

If you ignore them at the start, they will likely crop up later, causing you to either miss opportunities for your new product to build your brand more effectively, or you may have to take a few steps backward to make the adjustment.

Since virtually everything in our cosmetics and personal care industry was already late and behind schedule when we thought of it, delays and steps backward aren’t the fun part.

More in Ingredients