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Is Innovation in the Premium Beauty Markets Dead?

Innovation is something you hear on a daily basis in beauty but it’s rarely justified.

I’ve lost count of the number of ordinary me-too products claiming to have something new in an attempt to stand out from the crowd.

Mostly, they are not innovative at all but merely superficial tweaks of ingredients, technologies and packaging.

Anti-ageing, anti-wrinkle, collagen-restoring, 100% natural, free-from etc. The list is endless. There’s nothing authentically new, yet the launches still keep coming claiming to be somehow magically different to what’s gone before.

What’s the consumer to think?

Why Innovation in Beauty isn’t Dead

So what does innovation really look like?

I believe it means challenging norms and daring to come up with an idea or concept that no-one has done before. That feeling you get when you discover something so different that you think: ‘why has no-one thought of that before?’

How can this be done in a market so crowded as beauty? Where every conceivable niche has been filled?

Innovation is possible, but it sometimes requires lateral thinking.

Here are a couple of product concepts I discovered recently that I think are really innovative.

Scalp Exfoliators

Scalp health is a strong trend in haircare nowadays and there are plenty of brands to treat this condition.

What caught my eye is a product in the new Salon Science haircare range which works in a similar way as an exfoliator for the skin.

Here’s how the lightbulb moment came about. Graeme Riddick, CEO, Quantum Beauty Company, was in a meeting with Mibelle Labs, Swiss experts in plant stem cells and bio-actives {their apple stem cell technology is used in Superdrug’s Optimum Swiss Apple Skin Renewal Serum}.

He asked them if they’d considered adapting the technology for haircare and specifically, the scalp. They hadn’t, but soon discovered that what works on the skin works on the hair and the Salon Science range was born.

The product that impressed me most is Hydrafoliant Scalp Scrub which contains exfoliants you rub into the scalp to remove dead skin cells.

It’s a simple concept for consumers to understand and an example of how to transfer something that is widely used and understood in one field into another.

The Perfume Society Discovery Box

Subscription-based sample boxes were quite innovative when first launched, but now everyone is doing them. Boxes can often be disappointing, filled with samples that aren’t suitable so don’t get used.

Most have no accompanying product literature.

Then along comes The Perfume Society Discovery Box containing sample fragrances with postcards of smelling notes and a booklet of blotters so that you can try out the fragrance the way that fragrance experts do.

The idea is well thought through by two industry fragrance experts who understand the pitfalls facing consumers when looking for a new fragrance.

So different that it could be a real game-changer for the fragrance industry groaning under the weight of products.

I love this idea because rather than trying to bluff something new into a crowded market, the innovation has come in the way the consumer interacts with the product.

Sunscreen with a Built-in Applicator

Which brings me to an idea I had for the suncare industry.

For years, the suncare industry has faced an uphill battle getting consumers to apply the correct amount of sunscreen.

Statistics show that most of us underestimate how much we use, which is clearly a bad thing.

Furthermore, people hate getting their hands sticky applying the stuff so revert to using a spray but end up missing bits.

A packaging innovation I believe could overcome these issues would consist of a container which dispenses a metered dose of sunscreen into the sponge top. The user knows they are applying the right amount of product to be safe in the sun and doesn’t need to get their hands dirty.

I hope I’ve shown through these examples that innovation could be staring you in the face. It doesn’t need to be about huge investment in new technologies but identifying unmet consumer needs with simple but original tweaks. Now that’s innovative…

I’d love to hear from you. Do you know of any examples of true innovation and if not what kind of innovation would you like to see?

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(2) Comments

  1. There is a huge amount of innovation hitting the Premium Beauty Market with lots more to come. The trouble is that its not coming from the Premium Beauty Brands.
    The traditional premium beauty brands are still largely playing in their traditional skincare, colour cosmetics and fragrance markets.
    The innovation is coming from real scientific breakthroughs in such areas as scalp care, dental enhancement, hair growth factors for lashes and brows as well as on the head, lasers for wrinkle treatment, blue light for blemishes etc etc.
    Customers are buying these products for beauty reasons, but the brands launching the products are not traditional beauty brands and retail doesn’t know where to stock the products, so they are hard to find.
    Clarisonic co promotes with Lancome ( both owned by L’Oreal) but neither is integral to the other.
    The new Clinique branded sonic cleanser shows the Lauder group is willing to think outside its box. If more brands did this, they would have a wealth of innovation at their fingertips, the innovation would get off to a far more successful start and the Premium Beauty Market would be a truly exciting again.

  2. Hi Helen

    Thanks for making these points. It’s true that so much innovation is coming from brands not traditionally associated with beauty and many are bypassing retail to sell online or through QVC. I wonder what it will take to make the retailers take note and give unknown brands and concepts space on their shelves. It can be done, as you’ve suggested with Clarisonic, but of course it has taken the might of L’Oreal to get the brand significant counter space in department stores. Potentially interesting times ahead!

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