Of Bacon, The Cloud and Connections

Katie Anderson, the associate editor for GCI sister publication Cosmetics & Toiletries, has a little whiteboard in her cube where she adds her “word of the day.” Recently, it’s become the odd idiom of the day—both marveling and celebrating those phrases that, when given real thought, don’t make a whole lot of sense to modern speakers/writers (though, allow me to sidetrack a bit here to say I love one of Katie’s offerings: “Hotter than a nanny goat in a pepper patch,” which makes complete sense).

One such phrase, “ saved my bacon,” jumped right to mind when I realized that some of my more cherished recent photos, which luckily were uploaded and available on Facebook, disappeared off my iPhone when iTunes played a nasty little update trick and took my phone back to factory presets. (Apple, why are your devices so beautiful yet iTunes remains an ugly beast of an application?) Social media saved my bacon. I had no hard copies of the photos, and I did not have any backup on any other physical device. It struck me that though I hear about cloud computing all the time, I never realized how deeply I’m actually in it and I thoroughly, without real conscious thought or effort, have converted into this method of arranging and organizing my life.

It’s not just about storage and it’s not restricted to one aspect of life, such as work. We do a lot of living in the cloud.

So, today, success in any given area doesn’t simply depend on doing things well in that area—success depends on operating well in the cloud and then doing the other things well.

Take retail as an example. “Online retail is a story of companies that know how to use the Web really, really well,” said Bryan Gildenberg, chief knowledge office, Kantar Retail, at the retail session of an Irish government trade mission recently held in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, that I had the privilege of attending. In addition to the impact and influence of the Internet on retail, the U.S. market is increasingly a story of fragmentation versus polarization, and this is reflected in the retail landscape.

Good retailers, Gildenberg said, are manifestations of what people want to buy, and the smart retailers capture fragmentation in unique ways. However, he said, “There is no correlation between a retailer’s size and its ability to grow,” and I think, particularly as we all operate more and more in this cloud, this has never been more true for any type of business.


Recently, I heard a report that restaurants know consumers tend to avoid the cheapest bottle of wine on the menu, so the second cheapest bottle of wine is priced to make the most margin. I went searching for more on this news, and found, in 2008, scientists from the California Institute of Technology and Stanford University published its “Marketing actions can modulate neural representations of experienced pleasantness” paper, which found changes in the stated price of a sampled wine influenced both how good volunteers thought it tasted and the activity of the brain region involved in the experience of pleasure—in other words, “prices, by themselves, affect activity in an area of the brain that is thought to encode the experienced pleasantness of an experience.” The subjects consistently reported they liked the taste of the $90 bottle better than the $5 one, and the $45 bottle better than the $35 one, and scans of their brains supported their subjective reports. However, they thought they were tasting five different, variously priced wines when they actually had sampled only three. These results reflect, in part, that our brains encode pleasure because it is useful for learning which activities to repeat and which to avoid—in short, the brain takes shortcuts based on past experience.

It is interesting to ponder if the economy of the past three years has rewired brains in some way—how is value and luxury assessed and what our perception of price as a reflection of quality and value has become. In Price vs. Value: Packaging’s Role, Craig Sawicki writes that consumers just expect more for their money now than they have in the past, and assess value differently—and value only sometimes relates directly to price.

Consumers are no longer content with what they’ve always bought or used, but, maybe more than ever, they expect more if they’re going to pay more.

It’s strange, too, what happens to how we collectively spend. Consumer spending has clearly changed, but it’s not a black-and-white, “the economy stinks so I’m not spending on anything but necessities.” And we’ve redefined necessitates—and done so on individual and experiential terms.

“Consumers want those things that create the experience,” John Pyrzenski, sales director, HCT, told me during a cocktail conversation at Cosmoprof North America. “We have date night again. It might not be sushi every Tuesday, but we’re going out the third Saturday of every month and we’re dressing up.”

And in beauty and in branding in general, dressing up has never been more of a key. Jennifer Karsh writes in Does Your Package Have a Personality? that savvy companies have figured out the best way for a package to stand out in the crowd is for that package to have a winsome personality all on its own—and there’s got to be a connection. “We all dream and we all aspire and we all shop,” Karsh writes. “And when we are rolling our carts at Target or perusing the shelves at Sephora, we are looking for a reflection that speaks to our inner longing, our inner dialogue.”

The connections continue in Rick Ruffolo’s Just Follow Your Nose! feature, where he notes branding through fragrance is about solidifying an emotional connection with consumers. Additionally, “[Fragrance] changes environmental experience, changes product experience and has an add-on effect that improves our sensorial experience, amplifies our impression and fulfills immersive experiences,” Bruce Dybvad, CEO, Interbrand Design Form, tells Ruffolo.

And in New Strategic Challenges for Fragrance, Euromonitor International’s Rob Walker writes a key trend in fragrance is likely to be a greater emphasis on the personalization of brands, particularly in the higher-value developed markets. Further, Gen Y are key consumer targets across developed markets, and a clear differentiation in marketing and advertising, as well as scent, for personal, and even intimate, engagement through real and virtual platforms, will be required to entice these tech-savvy and demanding shoppers.

In The Importance of Efficacy in Cosmeceutical Beauty, Abby Penning writes that cosmeceutical products leveraging ingredient innovations appeal to a wide range of consumers, and making sure consumers are able to perceive the benefit of a cosmeceutical product is an important element in this segment’s marketing.

Alisa Marie Beyer writes on how social media is much more than merely talking to your consumer or brands connecting with consumers and consumers connecting with brands—it allows for consumers to connect with all aspects of brands in an extremely intimate and immediate way. And just as in any relationship, time, attention and excitement must be funneled into the care and growth of this part of a business if it is to stay relevant. Read Let Her Do the Talking: A Case Study for Social Media.

This issue also touches on topics that have been debated within the industry and broader issues that impact it. In INCI Name: Fragrance, columnist Steve Herman shares his opinions on fragrance ingredients and transparency, asking how the industry can correct misconceptions that spread to consumers? Also, Stan Perry offers The Intensifying Regulatory Investigation of Formaldehyde and Its Implications, discussing how media reports impact consumer confidence and legal implications for brand owners, and offering a lesson that may be applicable across regulations and regulatory environments.

We’d love to hear your feedback on any of these topics, or whatever is on your mind. You can email me at [email protected] or reach out to us on Facebook—my bacon saver. And if you’re ever in Raleigh-Durham, try the fried green tomatoes and BBQ at The Pit. Just trust me on this.

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