Thursday, 3 November 2011

Could a new drug that prevents wrinkles be the end for anti-ageing creams?

Anti-ageing is BIG business in the beauty industry and is by far the best-performing sector in skincare, as people are prepared to continually shell out their hard earned cash on their quest for the Holy Grail ‘miracle’ product that might just deliver youthful skin. So could the latest news that a new drug tested on mice significantly delayed the loss of fatty deposits under the skin, which in humans prevents wrinkles from forming, really sound the gong for the anti-ageing skincare industry as we know it?

The drug was devised by scientists at the Mayo Clinic in America to kill the ‘senescent cells’ in mice, which accumulate in the body tissue of mice and humans over time and speeds up the ageing process in the areas in which they gather. The body naturally clears itself of senescent cells, but as the body ages this process slows down and therefore the senescent cells start to amass and cause trouble.

While there is no suggestion that senescent cells can be removed from humans in the same way that was achieved with the mice, what this research does prove is that senescent cells are linked to the ageing process and so further research can be made into this area.

This presents two possibilities for the future: the immune system could potentially be taught to clear senescent cells more persistently as we age, or perhaps a drug could be developed to kill senescent cells. Or, rather than stopping anti-ageing skincare in its tracks, could it spark a new wave of skincare products that aim to target senescent cells? Only time will tell, and I suspect we will have to wait a long time. Hopefully not too long that we’ll all be old and wrinkly by then anyway.

While I talk about these findings from a beauty industry point of view, crucially, the development of this research could also improve the quality of life during old age, as the drug also dramatically delayed muscle wastage and the start of cataracts. So vanity aside, this research has the potential to have a huge effect on all our lives in the future.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Battle of the lipstick names

Soap&Glory's Super-Colour Fabulipstick
I read with delight the recent news about Soap&Glory’s new cosmetic line, in particular the fabulously-named lipstick 'Super-Colour Fabulipstick'. I’m sure many Mary Poppins fans will join me in my glee. What a freakin’ genius name. I know Marcia Kilgore (owner of Soap&Glory and a beauty-business icon of mine) is partial to a darned good product name, with a cheeky innuendo here and a clever play on words there. But 'Super-Colour Fabulipstick' just took it to a whole new level.

So imagine my surprise today when I read British Beauty Blogger’s post on New York fashion designer Kate Spade’s lipstick line that’s heading to our shores called ‘Supercalafragalipstick’. At first I thought they were the same name, although upon a quick check I saw that Soap&Glory’s name had taken the play on words up a notch, so both are perfectly within their rights to use the names.
Kate Spade's Supercalafragalipstick

It just goes to show that good product names are like buses. You don’t hear of any for ages and then two come along at once.

I can only imagine the frustration when this kind of thing happens; I spend a lot of time generating product names for beauty brands as part of my job, only to have them declined by legal for having some tenuous link to another of the millions of beauty products already out there. It can take ages to name just one shade of eyeshadow. So for both brands I sympathise and hey, great minds think alike.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Beauty trend: Perfume’s new era

Vengeance Extreme, the fragrance by
Juliette has a Gun
I have a shameful beauty secret: perfume baffles me. Always has done. I understand the traditional way in which scents are combined using the ‘fragrance pyramid’ of top notes, middle notes and base notes, but the sheer enormity of fragrance notes and families, and indeed the sheer enormity of fragrances available, is overwhelming.

As if to deliberately confuse matters further, it is de rigour for fragrance houses to market their scents with whimsical abandon. Any beauty journalist or blogger will know that when a press release for a new fragrance lands on their desk, it will most likely weave a story of fairytale and fantasy about the story and character of the fragrance, with a fleeting mention about the actual perfume sandwiched somewhere in amongst it all.

During my years as Editor of Pure Beauty magazine, it became an art form to decipher a fragrance press release and translate the core facts about the fragrance to our readers. One press release that sticks in my mind was 6 pages long and only gave the information about the actual fragrance in the last paragraph. That was a bad day.

So when I came across a fragrance feature in Vogue magazine by Kathleen Baird-Murray entitled All Shook Up, I rejoiced - not only at the news that ‘a new generation of perfumers is putting the sexy back into scent and turning the industry on its head’, but also at the wonderfully descriptive yet understandable language in which Kathleen wrote about scent. Perhaps there is hope for me and my understanding of fragrance after all!

Here are a few excerpts of All Shook Up that I wanted to share with you:

"...So what does new-generation smell like? Be warned, it’s not for everyone – and that’s precisely the point. Forget sniffing perfume strips while being elbowed by shoppers in a mad rush of traditional department store perfumery testing – you need to make time. 
'The top notes of most fragrances, that initial hit, is usually very good, but often the heart and drydown are lost,' explains Penot [Fabrice Penot, co-founder of Le Labo], speaking of your average fragrance. 'Whereas we don’t give a damn about the top note. We’re not here to please you straight away; we’re here to form a relationship. If you give our fragrance a chance for a couple of hours, you get it.'

As such, Vengeance Extreme by cult label Juliette Has a Gun tantalises me when I apply it to go out one evening, an alluring thread of Bulgarian rose, patchouli and vanilla – but it is even better when I wake up in the morning, the perfume equivalent of just-got-out-of-bed hair."

"...Thanks to Mona di Orio, a thirtysomething perfumer who trained with the legendary Edmond Roudnitska when she was only 16, and her scent Les Nombres d’Or Tubereuse, I finally ‘get’ tuberose. Robert Piguet’s Fracas, the classic tuberose fragrance created in 1947, never did it for me, sacrilegious as it is to admit, but Mona’s blend of heliotrope, amber and benzoin is ethereal, dusty, mysterious and then, whoosh! Just when you’re least expecting it, there’s that little kick of Fracasness coming through, and I’m hooked.”

"...The actual construction of scents is getting simpler too. You'll find fewer ingredients - Illuminum fragrances have a maximum of eight, while Ormonde Jayne sticks to a maximum of 20 in strark contrast to the classics: 'If you look at a fragrance like Fracas, and all the iconic perfumes of the past, they had around 70-90 ingredients,' says Linda Pilkington [Ormonde Jayne's] founder."

You can read the feature All Shook Up by Kathleen Baird-Murray in full in the November 2011 issue of Vogue.

Monday, 17 October 2011

An interview with Carmine about beauty sampling boxes and revolutionising the online beauty landscape

Michiel Kotting, founder and CEO of Carmine

Freshly launched in the UK this month, Carmine takes beauty sampling to the next level and aims to revolutionise the online beauty landscape. Michiel talks to Your Beauty Industry about beauty boxes as a sampling tool, building an online beauty community and the potential of the internet for the beauty industry.

Congratulations on the launch of Carmine! Can you give us an overview of what Carmine is all about?
Carmine is a subscription-based service that helps consumers discover cool beauty products and brands and find out more about them. Carmine also has a fast growing online community of like-minded beauty addicts that get to interact with brands and each other about what they love best: beauty!

"We have created a beauty community where consumers can participate, express themselves and meet like-minded people"
What benefits does this kind of sampling offer consumers? 
The monthly box of five deluxe sized beauty samples we send to our consumers every month is a handpicked selection of great niche brands and beauty staples. This provides our users with fresh product ideas and the opportunity to try products before buying them. At the same time we make sure that they find out all they can about these products, and get special offers and other perks from the brands. Finally, we have created a beauty community where consumers can participate, express themselves and meet like-minded people. 

How can participating beauty brands benefit from your service?
By putting brands in touch with avid beauty users we enable them to expose their products and message to people who can become their most loyal customers. In gathering feedback from users we give brands important insights into how their products are being perceived, and by opening up a two-way communication channel, beauty brands can reach out to consumers with interesting perks and offers.

How do you think beauty box subscription sampling sits alongside more traditional sampling formats?
Box subscription as a form of sampling benefits from all the best that online has to offer while putting actual product in the hands of consumers – it’s in the comfort of your own home, it gets to know subscribers and therefore targets the service to their needs, it provides the ideal combination of product experience, marketing message, editorial, expert guided how-to and community. It’s two way instead of one way communication, so it empowers users.

Tell us more about Carmine's plans to build an online community.
We want to bring together all the best sources in beauty. This can include founders of exciting brands, experienced master perfumers or R&D leaders, stylists to the stars, bloggers, editors from major publications and style icons.

However, often the most relevant component is avid beauty users like all of us. By polling, sharing, filling out profiles and commenting, our users share rich experiences which benefit themselves, each other and participating brands. We have started simple with comment boxes, a Beauty Profile quiz and active participation on social media, but we have a whole range of tricks up our sleeve. Stay posted to find out more, or let us know what you find important.

"Online will play a much larger role for beauty; it is absurd that 30% of computers are sold online and yet less than 4% of lipsticks are bought in this way"

What do you think is the future of beauty online and which industries can we learn from?
Online will play a much larger role for beauty than it does today. It is absurd that 30% of computers are sold online and yet less than 4% of lipsticks are bought in this way, while beauty blogs attract more readers every day by far than technology publications. Recent developments in social media will accelerate this process. For me a good example is the fashion industry, where the landscape has been revolutionized in the past 3 years.

What does the future hold for Carmine?
We hope to play an integral part in changing how beauty develops online, and be a partner for brands, bloggers and consumers in accelerating the discovery and enjoyment of beauty products.

To find out more about including your beauty brand in Carmine's beauty box, contact


*I am working with Carmine on its blogger relations programme*

Monday, 3 October 2011

My place on The Guardian's Expert Panel: Ask the Experts: Blogging to Boost your Career Prospects

I was recently invited to join the Expert Panel for The Guardian’s live online Q&A: ‘Ask the Experts: Blogging to Boost your Career Prospects’. It was a great session that provided real insight into how to create and maintain a successful blog and use it to enhance your career opportunities.

I personally believe that to make a blog successful, you have to be passionate about your subject matter and committed to producing regular content that is exciting/informative/inspiring for your readers. If you start a blog with the sole aim to make money, I would hazard a guess that it will probably fail. If you are passionate about blogging then your audience should build naturally over time. Once you start to get recognised as an influential thought-leader in your field, commercial opportunities can follow. 

Here are a selection of my answers to questions asked on the day:

Has your blog ever landed you work?

My blog helps me get new clients because:

a) It is read by people in the beauty industry, so if a brand owner is reading it and happens to be looking for a beauty social media specialist or a beauty copywriter, they are much more likely to get in contact with me because 1. They know I exist and 2. They can see from my blog posts that I know what I’m talking about (hopefully!).

b) My blog demonstrates that I really understand the beauty industry and am very passionate about it. This helps when companies are deciding whether to hire me or another company, as it shows I am not just paying lip service to the fact that I love the work I do.

If I approach prospective clients for potential work I send them the link to my blog, for the same reasons above.

My blog also reminds existing contacts about the services I offer. There have been numerous times when I have needed to hire freelancers or suppliers and I cant remember the name of a company that does the work I’m looking for... so I’m sure people are the same with me. Whereas if my contacts have a blog post popping up in their inbox on a regular basis, they are much less likely to forget what it is I do. 

What strategies can bloggers adopt (aside from Google) to increase passing traffic?
  • Register your blog with website directories such as Wikio and Technorati, which will not only drive traffic to your blog but will also rank you... and if you start to feature in their top 50, top 20 or whatever, you can promote this
  • Promote your blog on social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and post a link to your blog every time you write a new post
  • Comment on other people’s blog posts that are in the same field and interest you – if you write interesting/useful comments this will lead the blogger and their readers to click through to your site
  • Put your blog link on your email signature, website, business cards, comp slips, Facebook and Twitter profiles, LinkedIn, etc - anywhere that you have contact with potential clients
  • Offer to contribute to articles in magazines and on websites about your specialist field and be sure to include your blog URL
  • Join in interative conversations online like this [The Guardian's live Q&A)
  • Offer to guest post on other blogs – just make sure you are offering them something that is beneficial to them and their readers

How can I enhance my blog posts for Google using SEO (search engine optimization)?
Google is by far the biggest driver of traffic to my blog, which is great because it means that my content is likely to be relevant to the person who is doing the searching.
To get picked up by Google:
  • Enhance your copy for SEO – don’t let it ruin the natural flow and conversational tone of your blog post, just make sure that the key words are in there where possible
  • Keep an eye on relevant newsworthy stories and write a post about it, giving your own slant on the story. This is because there will be large amounts of people Googling the news and so could be directed to your blog. I blogged about BB Creams before they launched, because I identified it as a key beauty trend about to launch in the UK. Sure enough it now is, and that blog post back in June still drives large amounts of traffic to my blog every single day
  • Make sure you add tags to each blog post to list each of the key subjects you talk about - these are ranked highly by Google
  • The images you use on blog posts are also picked up by Google, so make sure you name them with a relevant file name i.e. Garnier BB Cream.jpg, rather than Pic0001.jpg
  • Your headings are recognised as an important part of SEO, so make sure you call your blog posts something relevant such as ‘Retouching and disclaimers in beauty advertising as ASA bans Lancome and Maybelline ads’ rather than something like ‘Naughty Lancome at it again!’

To read The Guardian’s live Q&A ‘Blogging to Boost your Career Prospects’ in full, visit

Monday, 26 September 2011

An interview with Xen-Tan about developing a beauty brand in the UK

Natalie Roche, MD of Xen-Tan distributor Skin Solutions UK Ltd
Years in beauty industry: 9

As Xen-Tan celebrates its 5 year anniversary in the UK, Natalie Roche talks to Your Beauty Industry about turning her business idea into reality, the importance of delivering on brand values and her top tips on starting a beauty business.

What inspired you to launch your own beauty distribution company?
I’d love to say that it was just a really smart, business orientated decision, but that wouldn’t be totally true. My love affair with Xen-Tan was a very personal one. I am very fair skinned and have never been able to pull off the ‘English rose’ look and I only really look healthy when I have a tan.

Having tried every fake tan on the market, I found that Xen-Tan was the only one that overcame all the issues of smell, streaking, patchiness and orange colouring. I tried it and loved it - the rest, as they say, was history.

How did you go about turning your business idea into reality?
I knew there was a gap in the market for a self-tan that didn’t look ‘fake’ and I realised that there was plenty of room for improvement on the market. It seemed pretty simple.

For a start, we needed to get the colour right with an olive base rather than an orange one, so that it would look more natural. Having tried Xen-Tan on my own skin and having felt the same concerns as other tan fans, I knew that if it could make me look as if I had a natural tan, then I knew it would look fantastic on other people too. When something excites you as much as Xen-Tan excited me, you know you have the formula for success.

I jumped on a plane to America to research the product in greater depth, secured the distribution deal and have never looked back since. I started Skin Solutions UK which owns the exclusive distribution of Xen-Tan in Europe, but there was a lot of preparation prior to launching the brand in the UK, so Xen-Tan did not really start to take off until 2007/2008.  

"Whatever money I had was spent on PR and that has paid off for the brand"
How challenging is it to control a brand as an exclusive distributor while also working towards the brand’s own vision?
It’s non-stop for us – we are constantly approached with exciting opportunities, but we have to make sure we remain focused, remember our brand values and deliver on them.

Since day one, PR is something we’ve invested heavily in, and that’s hard at the beginning when you need stockists to drive your consumer interest to. I know that a lot of start-up businesses build their stockist list first and then invest in PR, but when I started, whatever money I had was spent on PR and that has paid off for the brand. The consumer is much savvier now and wants to be convinced that a product is good. You get that opportunity with recommendations from beauty editors.

We also work closely with beauty bloggers who are great brand ambassadors of our products. We target some of our salons specifically for bloggers to visit for a spray tan treatment. This is two-fold; it provides a fabulous review for our salon and it also raises awareness of our professional treatment amongst an avid target market.

Beauty bloggers are just one area of our digital arena – our Facebook and Twitter pages provide a base for digital savvy consumers to check in and engage and interact with us on a personable level, too.

We’ve also had some fabulous TV exposure this year - 2011 has seen many TV opportunities for Xen-Tan. It has been a year of high visibility for Xen-Tan and we need more of the right stockists to help fulfil the consumer demand generated by our on-going exposure.

"The customer is king – make sure you know your customer inside and out"
What are the most important aspects of developing and managing a beauty brand?
  • The customer is king – make sure you know your customer inside and out
  • Deliver on what you promise and make sure you are constantly driving what the customer wants
  • Draw on the personality of your brand – we play on the positive feelings a customer gets from a great, natural looking tan, as well as the functional aspects. A beauty treatment or product can evoke a highly emotional experience

What top tips would you give to anyone wanting to start their own beauty business?
1.    WORK HARD – the best advice I ever received was 'The harder you work the luckier you get' – I really do believe you make your own luck in life
2.    Do what you love
3.    Be truly passionate and enthusiastic
4.    Build a strong, loyal team and always look after them
5.    Live the brand – you are the best possible PR for your company


Monday, 12 September 2011

European Supermarket Magazine interviews me about social media for its Beauty Report

I’m chuffed to have been interviewed for European Supermarket Magazine’s latest Pan-European Beauty Report, discussing the importance of social media in the marketing of beauty brands. European Supermarket Magazine (ESM) is a trade magazine for senior management and retail buyers that, along with a two-part Beauty Report in its most recent issues, is introducing regular beauty content as part of its core editorial offering.

My interview includes my thoughts on the development of social media within the beauty industry, the importance of beauty bloggers within a company’s marketing plan and how social networking sites can benefit beauty brands.

You can read the interview by clicking and zooming in on the image above, or click here to see the full magazine and the Pan-European Beauty Report Part 2 online. The beauty report starts on page 44 and my interview is on pages 50-51.

Visit ESM’s website at

Friday, 9 September 2011

Beauty trend: adhesive eyeliner patches

New beauty products launch at an alarming rate, but it’s only every now and then that something comes along that makes me sit up in my chair and say “Oooooooo....!” Well exactly that happened this week when I heard about Dior’s new Velvet Eyes; adhesive eyeliner patches that allow you to create perfect winged eyeliner in a matter of minutes.

Any woman who is a fan of winged eyeliner will know only too well the trials and tribulations of achieving the look. A steady hand is an absolute must to ensure the line is super-neat, and even when that’s been mastered I’ve lost count of the number of times I have finished the look only to realise that one eyeliner flick is higher than the other eye. Grrr! Add to that the fact that I tend to catch myself in the mirror half way during the evening only to realise I’ve rubbed part of an eyeliner flick off my face (surely I’m not on my own on that one?) that it tends to put me off bothering with the look altogether. So ready-made winged eyeliner is a welcome addition to my dressing table.
Picture credit: Selfridges

Making its appearance at Vogue’s Fashion Night Out in London’s Selfridges last night, Dior Velvet Eyes adhesive eyeliner patches work on the same principle as a stick-on tattoo, much like the Chanel temporary tattoos that created a furore on last season’s catwalks. The pack contains four different designs, including two decorated with Swarovski crystals. It’s priced at a mighty steep £47 per pack, but I would imagine that mass beauty brands will create their own, more affordable versions in time.

If you want to get your mitts on a pack they are exclusive to Selfridges here or pop on down to the Dior Boutique on New Bond Street, London.

Monday, 5 September 2011

An interview with Weleda about how the natural beauty industry has developed over the past century

Loraine Murry, Weleda Natural Beauty Consultant
Years in beauty industry: 32
Celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, Weleda pioneered natural beauty long before it was fashionable. Loraine talks to Your Beauty Industry about surviving the early years of natural beauty, the commercialisation of the natural sector and the opportunities and challenges for new and existing brands in today's natural beauty market.

"In the early '80s it was estimated that only 10% of the population had any awareness of what we now call 'green' issues"

Tell me a bit about your career background.
I joined Weleda in 1979 when the company moved lock, stock and wheelbarrow from East Sussex to Derbyshire. Between 1979-1988 and again from 1995 to the present day, I was part of the sales and marketing team in Derbyshire. In the early 1990s I was given the challenge of setting up the sales and marketing division at Weleda in New Zealand. In between, I also qualified in remedial massage and worked as a therapist incorporating aromatherapy, acupressure, reflexology, bach flower remedies and homeopathy.
Weleda is celebrating its 90th anniversary – how has it maintained its success?
True grit! Sheer determination and commitment. We have some brilliant hero products that have been around for many years - some since the very early years: Skin Food dates from 1926, Massage Balm with Arnica and Rosemary Hair Lotion date from the 1920s, Calendula Baby Oil from 1959, etc. Using only natural ingredients and working sustainably is at the very core of Weleda; part of our DNA.

While we take advantage of trends, we know who we are and what we do best and stick to it. We have such an extensive range there has always been some category that has been popular. Until about 20 years ago, the medicine side of our business was much bigger than the cosmetics side. Last but not least our success is surely down to our very loyal long-standing customers! 

What have been the key changes in the beauty industry over this time? 
More natural and organic competition, and nowadays - as natural and organic are so popular - even large mainstream skin care companies offer a range that purports to be natural.

"Our first, and still core, retail partners are independent health stores"
Weleda was committed to natural beauty long before it was fashionable – how did you survive for so long when consumer education was so low? 
Our first, and still core, retail partners are independent health stores. The individuals who own these shops are always at the forefront of health and environmental issues and their shops attract like-minded consumers. (In the early 80s it was estimated that only 10% of the population had any awareness of what we now call “green” issues).

We survived over the decades because we have a range of excellent products that actually work! Also, we have always tried to educate and inform the consumer. Over the years we have benefited from a few “media scares” – the first one I recall was that CFCs harm the ozone layer. As CFCs, before they were banned, were used in aerosols we could not keep up with the demand for our ozone-friendly pump-action spray deodorants.

How has the commercialisation of natural beauty aided Weleda, and how has the brand developed to stay successful in a now crowded market? 
The commercialisation of natural beauty has been a double-edged sword – on the one hand there is more consumer demand, but there is also more competition. The Weleda brand has developed mainly as our expertise has grown. In the early days the user, particularly of creams, had to remember how much they loved natural: the colour of the creams was a bit muddy, they felt a little greasy, they would go very runny in summer and set firm in winter – but they were good for the skin and the environment!

Now we have become so adept at formulating totally natural creams they are as attractive and easy to use as any conventional cream. We even have our first vegan creams: all our Pomegranate facial care creams are suitable for vegans. Users do not have to be into green or natural, often they just want effective products to sort out skin issues. We have had to get more professional -we now offer a very comprehensive range, covering all aspects of skin care for all ages. The look too has evolved: modern contemporary packaging that reflects the quality of the products.

Do you think there is still room for natural/organic brands to launch into the beauty market?
Many small new brands appear each year, most do not last long, some stay around but very few grow beyond niche market brands. There is still scope for improvement and development among existing brands or ranges, with the possibility of improved formulations and extended lines.

There is a lot of confusion over what brands are truly natural and organic – what advice would you give to people trying to find effective natural/organic products?
It helps to get to know what the issues are - which ingredients are not sustainable, not biodegradable, potentially oestrogen-disrupting, what packaging is not environmentally-friendly, which processes could cause human and environmental damage. The list could go on.

It is a good idea to check out a company’s whole ethos, but this can be time consuming. An easier way is to go with brands that are certified by a respected independent body such as NATRUE, the Soil Association, EcoCert, BDIH; the standards of good schemes will be easily accessible on their websites.

How do you think the future of the natural beauty industry will develop?
I think the natural beauty industry will become increasingly sophisticated and more like the mainstream beauty industry with specialist sectors such as anti-ageing.


Monday, 15 August 2011

An interview with Jelly Pong Pong about how to create a successful beauty range on a budget

Susan Chyi, founder of Jelly Pong Pong
Years in beauty industry: 10

I have had the pleasure of knowing Susan Chyi for years and it's a joy to while away hours with her over cups of green tea to discuss the beauty industry – I always leave feeling completely inspired and armed with new information. Susan talks to Your Beauty Industry about creating a beauty brand on a budget, changes in the beauty industry and opportunities created by international markets.


Tell me a bit about your career background.
I started out distributing niche cosmetics brands like Watosa from Japan & Dollface Beauty Cocktails from the States. It was a way for me to get into the business and learn from the ground up, without huge startup costs normally associated with product-based industries.

How did you build a beauty brand from your bedroom into the success it is today?
With a lot of creative thinking and careful budgeting. I sourced packaging from factories with overrun stocks which they could give me in the hundreds instead of the thousands, I had my sister do the design and I took stock formulations from private label manufacturers. I also had to learn how to create a press kit and cold-call beauty editors in order to get the word out there. Blogging and social media were literally non-existent then.

When I got my first order from a retailer in Covent Garden, it was for 5,000 units. It was then that I approached a friend to invest in the business so that I could mass-manufacture all the products, which gave me a larger profit margin. Things just naturally took off from there.

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to create their own beauty range?
Ensure you have enough capital set aside, as well as an emergency fund, as cosmetics is a very product-intensive business (i.e. capital-heavy). Due to all the competition that’s out there today, it has become an extremely volatile business; retailers are demanding shorter sell-through timelines, and you therefore need to have your emergency fund to see you through tougher times.

"Ensure you have enough capital set aside, as well as an emergency fund, as cosmetics is a very product-intensive business - i.e. capital-heavy"

Jelly Pong Pong has recently expanded internationally – tell me more about that.
Jelly Pong Pong is now in Sephora Asia, which gives us an opportunity to grow and learn about beauty preferences here. Although I am Malaysian, Jelly Pong Pong has never been sold in this region before, and our products and colours reflect that. Being here, speaking to retailers and end consumers enables me to build a stronger brand that reaches a wider audience.

What opportunities do you think international beauty markets represent?
The ability to grow and to extend the reach of your brand beyond your comfort zone. You now have the opportunity to learn how to appeal to a completely different set of consumers, along with their unique buying patterns.

"International beauty markets allow brands to grow and to extend the reach of their brand beyond their comfort zone"

Jelly Pong Pong cosmetics
are fun, quirky and unique
How has the beauty industry changed since you first started and how have you adapted to suit?
Believe it or not, it used to be quite difficult starting a beauty brand. Nowadays, there are new companies popping up every other day, and I’m reading about new brands constantly - some which I genuinely applaud for making a difference, and some which I feel are there because they’ve heard about the generous margins that can be made.

I was never in the business to build 1,000 SKUs, and this holds true to today. In the face of competition, I try to work harder, do more intensive research into new approaches to ingredients and packaging innovations, I foster stronger relationships with my suppliers and customers, and I surround myself with passionate people in the business.

What inspires you when you are creating your quirky products?

Anything from desserts, design blogs (Creature Comforts is particularly inspiring), great stationery and adverts (loving the new Kate Spade ad campaign).

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt in business?
Always keep a close eye on cashflow and set aside strict budgets for each division of your business.

Who inspires you in your career?

Maureen Kelly at Tarte cosmetics for knowing how to build an awesome brand.


Monday, 8 August 2011

Nailphilila: a London exhibition dedicated to nail art

Images from 'Nailed', directed by Nick Knight & Marian Newman
(courtesy of, full credits at bottom)

I was really excited to hear that there is an exhibition dedicated to nail art coming to London – the beauty industry is full of amazing visuals, incredible packaging and passionate people, so I am surprised that there are not more exhibitions dedicated to beauty.

Curated by Ryan Lanji and, a company ‘investing in the artists of the future’ by selling, commissioning and renting the most prestigious student and graduate artwork,they have teamed up with the likes of Marian Newman, Sophy Robson, Sam Biddle, Jenny Longworth and Sue Marsh to showcase nail art as an art in its own right.

Image courtesy of Laruicci
The incredible talent and techniques of these nail heavyweights will be showcased through installation, photography, film, and books. Highlights will include Sophy Robson exhibiting a secret installation, Sam Biddle exhibiting a piece which will blend fantasy and ready-to-wear nail art, exhibitions from extreme Nail Artists Antony Buckley, Mike Pocock, Megumi Mizuno and Kirsty Meaks, while pioneer nail technician Sue Marsh will be displaying some of her key archived pieces.

Nail-savvy brands such as Cheap Monday and Laruicci (creator of the gold claws seen in Beyonce’s new music video ‘Run The World’) will also be on show.

I can’t wait.

Anyone interested in exhibiting their own nail art can still send their semi-professional photos to for possible inclusion in the exhibition.

Nailphilia,’s Execution Room, 12A Vyner St, London E2 9DG
Press View: August 31st 2011 5 pm-10 pm (RSVP
Private View: September 1st 2011 6 pm-9 pm (General Public)
Exhibition runs from 1 September 2011-25 September 2011

For all enquiries email or call 020 8980 0395.
For more information visit 

First two photos courtesy of SHOWstudio
Still from the video "Nailed" by Nick Knight
Concept by Alex Fury and Marian Newman
Nails by Marian Newman
Hair by Christian Wood
Make-Up by Laura Dominique
Set Design by Andrea Cellerino

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Sampling opportunities for beauty brands

I’ve always liked the idea of sample sizes of beauty products, as it can be difficult to know what products are best for your face or body. I’ve spent more than I care to remember on products that I only end up using a couple of times, as it turns out it is either not suitable for my needs or it hasn’t performed in the way I thought it would.

Sampling can be costly activity for beauty brands, so it is vital that it is done in the right way to ensure it delivers a return on investment.

I spoke to two beauty industry experts from both sides of sampling to find out how beauty brands can use sampling to their advantage.

Mark Lockyer is MD of Sampling Innovations Ltd, the UK’s leading experts in promotional beauty sampling innovations.

Louise Reed is head of marketing and communications at, an online beauty boutique. Being an online store, customers can’t directly try the beauty products before they buy them as they would in a high street store, so uses a variety of sampling initiatives to help overcome this.

...On the benefits of ‘try before you buy’

LR, “At Escentual we always try to offer our customers samples. We have always tried to include samples in our orders so customers can experience the latest launches and other products we sell.

However, further to customer research and discussions with our suppliers, we now also offer a number of ‘try before you buy’ sample sets at The idea is to offer a range of samples from a single brand, so the customers can try the products and decide which products suit them best. The customer pays for the sets, but they are then sent a gift voucher for the full price to be redeemed off that brand.

For example, our La Roche-Posay set costs £10 and comes with a whopping 36 sample products for customers to try. Once they find a product they like, they simply use the voucher to get £10 off a full-sized product. So in effect they got the samples for free and were able to try the products in the comfort of their own home. We also have sets for fragrance, make-up and hair care brands.

These sets are going down really well with our customers, and we are working with our suppliers to roll out this concept further. And because the samples go to people who want them, as opposed to random sampling, and because of the voucher, we find a lot more customers come back to buy a full-sized product. So as far as sampling is concerned, it really works.”

...On innovations in beauty sampling
ML, Sampling Innovations: “Sampling is a vibrant industry with new innovations coming through to suit every budget and brand requirement.

For fragrance we are seeing technological innovation from Castelberg, a company that has the ability to fragrance any item. As you can imagine, the options are endless and creative ideas include keepsakes such as fragranced collar stiffeners, bracelets and pillow petals. 

Another new format for fragrance is Imagin®, a credit card sized sample that contains 4-6 sprays, which is just enough to help someone decide whether they want to purchase a brand. We’re seeing many high profile brands starting to use Imagin®, including Thierry Mugler, Clive Christian, Jaeger and Liz Earle.

Lancome used ColorKiss sampling
for it's Color Fever lipstick
One of the most exciting formats I’ve seen in make-up is ColorKiss, which delivers a perfect lipstick “kiss” to the lips without mess. It’s an ideal way for lipstick brands to sample shades and for customers to try without commitment to purchasing. How many women have tried a lipstick on the back of their hand only to be disappointed with their purchase when they get it back home?

Stick packs are a sampling format that have been around for some time, but have only recently adopted by beauty companies who are using them more and more. Sampling Innovations has organised a number of successful sampling campaigns using stick packs with brands such as Sanex, Imperial Leather [see top photo], Molton Brown and Space NK. I’m very pleased that we have been at the forefront of changing consumers’ perceptions about this sampling format, which offers easy opening and more accurate dosage than other traditional sachet shapes.”

...On beauty brands’ understanding of sampling

LR, “Fortunately I think more and more brands are starting to appreciate the importance of sampling, but not everybody has the budget for it. We tend to still get more support from the larger multinationals, as they can assign large amounts of budget for samples. The smaller independent retailers tend to have fewer samples, and when they do, quite often they are reserved for their PR teams.

I do still think that brands focus on new launches – and whilst this is understandable, many customers still want to try the existing products but it can be impossible to get hold of samples for older products.”

ML, Sampling Innovations: “While brands have looked to cut back on TV and press advertising [during the economic downturn], we’ve found that many are still investing heavily in sampling activity. Sampling can be highly profitable so long as the quality of the sample reflects well on the brand. Although it might be tempting to cut corners, this will be to the detriment of the sampling activity.

I would like to see the distribution of samples handled more efficiently. All too often I see samples left out in baskets or bins so people can help themselves and they’ll take 3 or 4 instead of one.”

...On sampling opportunities for the internet
ML, Sampling Innovations: “A few years ago, magazines and in-store activity were the main method of sampling for beauty brands, but this has all changed with the advent of the internet. There are now many new opportunities for brands to sample through their own and retailer websites, as well as sampling schemes such as Latest in Beauty and Glossy Box, which sell sample boxes of beauty products. There’s been an explosion of online fashion retailers and we’ve produced several samples to be sent out to purchasers of fashion - on the ASOS website, for instance.

A few years ago, fragrance sampling on the internet was unheard of. Ormonde Jayne was one of the first UK companies to sell starter kits of fragrance samples, enabling customers to try from the complete range before committing to a purchase.”

LR, “Being an online retailer, our customers can’t directly try the products we sell. We know they can try them via high street shops – but they can also buy them there too! So we need to provide samples to ensure our customers can try the products we sell beforehand. This is especially important for the more niche, prestige or hard-to-find brands that you can’t always try on the high street. If a customer has tried a product before buying, there is less risk that they would want to return it.

Customers also benefit because they get to try the products at home, as they would normally use them. For examples many fragrances change through the course of the day – the initial whiff can smell very different to the dry down a few hours later – so you need to try fragrances on your skin and appreciate every stage. It's the same with skincare products; a quick rub of cream on the back of your hand is not the same as using it in the morning on freshly cleaned skin with your usual make-up on top.

I think all beauty brands should invest in samples, as it helps the customer to really appreciate a product. And if you believe in your brand, there’s no reason not to. It may seem costly to begin with – but in time, if the product is good, customers will convert from the sample to a full size, hopefully gaining loyal customers.”

...On potential sampling opportunities in the beauty market
ML, Sampling Innovations: “Men’s toiletries is recognised as having enormous growth potential and I believe this is an area where sampling could be used to far greater effect. Some brands have done the odd campaign in gyms and sports venues, but it needs a brand like King of Shaves, Bulldog or Nivea for Men to grab that space and really gain the initiative.”

To contact Mark Lockyer at Sampling Innovations about potential sampling opportunities, email or call (0)1444 441 100.

To contact about potential stocking and sampling opportunities, email Rakesh Aggarwalat

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

An interview with beauty brand Illamasqua about how social media has contributed to its cult status

Alex Cummins, Junior Brand Manager
Years in beauty industry: 3

When I met Alex Cummins at Illamasqua’s HQ recently, it was clear to me that she lived and breathed the brand. No wonder really, seeing as she’s been with the company since its humble beginnings. Alex talks to Your Beauty Industry about being at the forefront of social media since 2008 and how this has contributed to the brand’s huge success in such a short period of time. 

Illamasqua launched in 2008 and already it's achieved cult status. How has this been achieved?
Illamasqua is an independently owned beauty brand in a sea of massive conglomerates with numerous beauty brands under their umbrellas, so I think we were always going to come in with a fresh approach, because we are an independent brand. Illamasqua’s also a British brand, and when we launched in November 2008 we were actually the only British beauty brand in Selfridges, so that gave us a good point of difference.

When we first approached Selfridges we went to them with a concept – we didn’t even go to them with products! We said to them ‘we’re creating a brand that’s going to be marketed in a different way, it’s going to be an emotional brand that wants to connect with its customers on a deeper, more profound level’. I think that’s what they bought into – they hadn’t even tried the products when they gave us a £1million site in Selfridges. They took a massive risk. From the beginning it was always clear that we had a strong identity and a good idea.

The mentality of the brand challenged different ways of thinking in our industry - social media being one element of this. We did a lot of research into how women wear make up, how they identify with it, why there wasn’t any consistent brand loyalty in make up, which you would usually find in clothes, perfume and so on.

Two groups of people were found: the Night Time Divas; the girls who don’t wear any make up during the day, but when they go out during the night that’s when the lipstick comes out, the lashes, etc. And then you have your Dare to be Different; the sub-cultures who will always wear strong make up and won’t care what anyone thinks – they wear their identity on their sleeves. Those were the two groups of people that we identified to create make up that would appeal to them.

We got [make up artist] Alex Box on board as Creative Director, and I think she was a great starting point for the brand – she’s already been in the industry for 10 years, so we had her weight to help us start. Her type of look isn’t about a subtle smoky eye and a nude lip – it was about being a bit mental. Showing make up as an art form.

"I got my job through the medium of blog, which is pretty cool!"
You’ve been with Illamasqua since the beginning – tell me about the journey.
I joined 3 weeks after they launched. I first heard about Illamasqua in Grazia magazine and I went up to London for the launch. It blew my mind - Selfridges had laid down a black carpet instead of a red carpet and there were alter-ego ballerinas – kind of like Black Swan – who were dancing around; there was so much fanfare you couldn’t help but be completely engrossed in it. And then when I tried the products I was like ‘wow!’ It was such great stuff. The make up artists were so extravagantly dressed – it’s like a culture that you want to be a part of.

I went home and wrote a blog post about it (I started my blog in 2007). At the top of my blog it said ‘Just graduated from university, looking for a job’. The MD of Illamasqua came across my post through a Google Alert and he got in contact to offer me an internship. So I got my job through the medium of blog, which is pretty cool!

We went from a little pokey office in Wardour Street to an office with 2 floors in Amwell Street, London with a head office of about 30 people, plus 5 people in our head office in Australia, and over 100 make up artists worldwide. In 2 and a half years, that’s pretty astounding.

"We were working with beauty bloggers and YouTubers from February 2009 - long before it was cool and fashionable"
Illamasqua went Global a lot faster than anyone would have predicted. I think the online revolution has definitely had a huge impact on that. We were working with beauty bloggers and YouTubers from February 2009 - long before it was cool and fashionable.

How did you know about the blogging world to do that?
Well I was a blogger; I was from that world, I was already commenting on other people’s blogs. I had a sudden brainwave; I was in the office about 3 weeks after starting and I was reading a make up blog – Temptalia – and she said something about this new body oil that had come out. Then on my lunch break I went straight to Space NK and bought it and on my way back I suddenly thought ‘hmmmmm, that’s powerful’! I didn’t even question it; I just went out and bought it.

I thought that honest blogger reviews were genius so I sent off a few Illamasqua samples to some beauty bloggers and all the reviews started coming back really positive. Suddenly we were getting all this extra traffic to our website and it kept crashing. After being featured on Temptalia’s blog there was such a surge of interest and it prompted Sephora to get in touch with us – just 5 months after we launched – they said ‘we have to have you in our store’.

I couldn’t believe it. I had done a fashion marketing course but no-one had ever said bloggers would be the next big thing. I don’t think anyone knew what social media would become. Even now to a certain extent, this isn’t it. Social media is just going to get bigger. Estee Lauder only joined Twitter last month. Prada didn’t have a website until 2007. You can’t yet shop on Morrisons online and Asda only set up an online service last year - it blows my mind how slow some of the big corporations have been.

You manage Illamasqua’s digital marketing – what does this entail and how do stay on top of the continual developments in social media?
My sole job is social media; I am embedded in the internet all day. I do small things such as Twitter and Facebook updates, and then I deal with bigger things such as organising international blogger events. I work very closely with the website development agency as well. All social media platforms are intangibly linked; Twitter feeds off of Facebook, Facebook feeds off the blog, the blog feeds off of other bloggers, bloggers feed off other bloggers... and before you know it, it’s gone viral.

You have a huge Facebook and Twitter following – how do you keep your fans interested?
We’ve never used Facebook or Twitter to solely push our products; it’s always been more content-driven than that. I go out and source content where perhaps most brands wouldn’t, for instance we interviewed Boy George when we were writing about the New Romantics trend. It’s about providing ways for people to interact with our brand rather than just pushing product. Then on the occasions when we do talk about our products, people continue to interact with us as they would on our other content.

All our collections have a very strong narrative and the more narrative you give to a collection, the more you have to talk about. With the Toxic Nature collection we had interviews with the stylist, the hairdresser, the nail artist, Alex Box, plus backstage film and even the making of the backstage film! Plus we had the official film and images, we created a ‘how-to’ to recreate the look... rather than just creating static images we produce all this content that generates more and more interaction.

We also do competitions, giveaways, how-to’s, back stage catwalk interviews and we produce a lot of films.

What do you think are the most exciting things happening in digital marketing?
The speed that everything happens at is probably the most exciting aspect of digital. It’s gone from not a lot in 2008 to being at the top of everyone’s marketing agenda now. Every big beauty brand holds blogger events. What I think is really exciting is that it is probably the first media type that small brands have a shot at. We don’t have £50k to put an ad in Vogue, we don’t have the right contacts with TV execs that we can wine and dine to get something on TV, so it’s about being clever and a bit more strategic with social media.

We don’t make outrageous claims with our products and that’s what’s really exciting about social media as well; the brands that are hiding behind marketing claims, or who are charging extortionate prices for products that don’t really work are going to get found out through the freedom of speech on social media. In a way I think that’s what the industry needs.

There is also new technology called Aurasma [an augmented reality app] that I’m really excited about; you hold your phone over a static image in a newspaper or something and it becomes a video of the footage. So for instance when Rupert Murdoch recently got a cream pie thrown in his face, a photo of this in a newspaper would convert into a video of the full footage. I think Aurasma’s going to be massive.


If you'd like to learn more abou how social media can help your business, visit my website at or email at

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Retouching and disclaimers in beauty advertising as ASA bans Lancome and Maybelline ads

Lancome's Teint Miracle advert has been banned
by the ASA
Regular readers of my blog will know that misleading claims and images in beauty advertising/packaging really gets my goat, so I was interested to read the news this week that the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) has banned two adverts by beauty company L’Oreal Paris, which owns Lancome and Maybelline among its powerhouse of beauty brands.

Adverts for Lancome Teint Miracle Foundation (featuring A-lister actress Julia Roberts) and Maybelline The Eraser Foundation (featuring supermodel Christy Turlington) both came under fire by Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson, who complained to the ASA that the retouched images within each ad were misleading to consumers, because of post-production digital retouching that exaggerated the results of the beauty products. The subject is particularly close to Jo Swinson’s heart as she is co-founder of the Campaign for Body Confidence and believes that these kinds of images put pressure on young women to conform to unrealistic ideals of beauty.

Maybelline's The Eraser Foundation
has been banned by the ASA
While L’Oreal strongly denied the claims in both cases, the nail in the coffin for Lancome was when they refused to supply the ASA with the original pre-production photo of Julia Roberts, which smacks of a guilty conscience. Meanwhile in the case for Maybelline’s The Eraser foundation, L’Oreal argued that the image had only been digitally re-touched ‘to lighten the skin, clean up make-up, reduce dark shadows and shading around the eyes…’ Surely by retouching out dark circles for a product that claims that it ‘conceals instantly, visibly, precisely ... covers dark circles and fine lines’, it is directly misleading the viewer?

Complaints to the ASA about L’Oreal adverts are nothing new; last year one L’Oreal campaign alone (starring Cheryl Cole) resulted in 40 complaints to the ASA… all of which were dismissed. So it is significant then that the ASA felt it necessary to uphold the complaints about the Lancome and Maybelline ads and ban them from future use.

L'Oreal shouldn't even feel the need to retouch their images so heavily - they invest years in R&D to create products that work (in the ASA's statement about Lancome it acknowledged that 'the pictures supplied from laboratory testing were evidence that the product was capable of improving skin’s appearance') and they have the luxury of huge budgets to use natural beauties such as Christy Turlington and Julia Roberts within their advertising - hardly poster girls for bad skin.

I am not against retouching in the slightest; my boyfriend is a Retoucher and I see firsthand the difference between images before and after retouching and the immense improvement it makes. But I think it is important that retouching beauty images is done within the context of what the product claims to do; so for instance in the case of Maybelline The Eraser, by all means use retouching to tidy up stray hairs, remove smudged make up, etc, but don’t use retouching to remove from the image what the product claims to do by itself. Otherwise surely it is testament to the fact the product doesn’t do what it says it does?

I also think that disclaimers should be banned from beauty advertising altogether. If a mascara advert needs to claim in the smallest print possible that actually the lashes in the advert look great because they are false lashes, or if a hair styling product promising to volumize hair has to quietly declare that the model is wearing hair extensions, then this to me says that the advert is misleading, disclaimer or no disclaimer.

Monday, 18 July 2011

The beauty products involved in The Apprentice Final

I watched the final of The Apprentice last night on BBC1, where four lucky hopefuls pitched their business ideas to Lord Alan Sugar and his trusted confidantes, to help him decide who should win this year’s prize of a business partnership with Lord Sugar and £250,000 investment.
Inventor Tom Pellereau's
curved nail file, Stylfile

It was nice to see that two of the four finalists have a background in the beauty industry: Tom Pellereau is a health and beauty inventor who had previous success with bringing Stylfile, a curved nail file, to the UK beauty market through Superdrug, Boots, Tesco and Walmart – no mean feat for a person who doesn’t consider himself a salesman to persuade these beauty giants to stock his product.

I remember writing about Stylfile in one of my very first months at Pure Beauty magazine, back in 2004! I seem to remember Stylfile getting bought out by another company and then disappearing from view altogether, although after all of its coverage on The Apprentice, whoever owns it now would be crazy not to re-launch it. In any case, they still have an active website at

Meanwhile, fellow finalist Susan Ma already has her own natural skin care range, Tropic Skincare (, which she started from a market stall. I’ve never heard of it before and I don’t know if it is available anywhere other than her website; either way, the official Apprentice website bumph about Susan says that “she has now turned [it] into a lucrative business”.

I was impressed with Susan, who has achieved so much for her young age of 21. Her constant enthusiasm was refreshing and I have no doubt that we will see more of Susan in the beauty industry. I thought it was a shame the panel didn’t dig deeper into what Susan's beauty range would offer; I was keen to know what the USP of her products was.

Tom Pellereau was the eventual winner of The Apprentice, although I doubt Lord Sugar will go ahead with Tom’s proposed business plan of a chair that detects and aids back problems, as he seemed less than keen on the idea.

Interestingly though, on the after-show – The Apprentice: You’re Hired, Lord Sugar said that he has always wanted to enter the cosmetics market (I suspect that the super-high margins make the beauty industry an appealing prospect to investors, as Dragon’s Den's Gavin Duffy previously told me here). Lord Sugar also mentioned that he was impressed with Susan Ma and would be interested in having her work alongside Tom, so I would be less than surprised if Susan and Tom will be making headlines in beauty in the future.

What I think would really make The Apprentice shine as an inspiration to entrepreneurs is if it now follows and televises Tom and Lord Sugar's (and Susan's?) journey as they embark on their partnership. Not only would this give a real insight into the creation and development of a business, but it would also provide very powerful marketing for the products they eventually launch. BBC and Lord Sugar, are you listening?

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

BRIC – the emerging beauty markets that beauty brands need on their radar

 While the Western beauty industry has battled against the recession with relative success, I’ve been hearing about an increasing number of beauty companies that are starting to eye up other, emerging markets - namely BRIC: Brazil, Russia, India and China.

So, why Brazil, Russia, India and China? Because these countries have experienced phenomenal rates of economic growth and consumer spending power, which in turn offers huge potential for beauty companies who focus their efforts on these markets.

And this potential can be backed up with figures, with market research company Euromonitor revealing that these four countries will contribute over half of the total $43billion absolute growth in the global beauty industry by 2014. Ignore that at your peril!

Let’s look at some key facts and figures broken down by country:

The Brazilian market is set to become the 3rd biggest beauty market in the world, according to The Beauty Economy report published in The Times in May 2011. Research company RNCOS’ report, Cosmetic and Personal Care Market in Brazil, puts this down to a changing lifestyle and rising consumer awareness, with people becoming more beauty conscious with increasing disposable income and product availability.

"The baseline for the optimistic future outlook of the Brazil cosmetics and personal care industry is that there has been a rise in the variety of products offered,” says the report. “Companies have started opting for online retailing and are offering specialized products to generate revenue from all corners. Furthermore, growing usage of Cosmeceuticals and Nutricosmetics by Brazilian consumers will also pave the way for the Brazil cosmetics and personal care market during the forecast period.”

Russian-based beauty trade fair Cosmo Expo explains that: “As Russia's economic situation becomes ever more stabilized, native Russians have found themselves with better paid jobs and higher disposable income. Luckily for the beauty industry, they have chosen to spend a healthy portion of it in the personal care market, accounting for 45% of beauty sales in Eastern Europe.”

India’s cosmetics market is growing at an annual rate of 15-20 per cent, which is twice as fast as that of the US and European market, according to national Indian news service IBN Live.

The International Trade Administration says that the emergence in India of a young urban elite population with increasing disposable income in cities, including an increase in the number of working women looking for lifestyle-oriented and luxury products, is the main driver of demand for imported cosmetics products. Indian consumers tend to look towards international brands as lifestyle enhancement products.

Considering make up wasn’t even allowed in China until 1982, its annual retail sales in beauty and personal care is now worth $20.8billion, reports The Beauty Economy. But it also points out that there is still a lot of education needed and this will be the first job of cosmetics companies.

In recognizing the market’s potential, Estee Lauder opened a research centre this year in Shanghai, to create products tailored to the needs of Chinese and Asian skin types.

BRIC consumers V. Western consumers – don’t treat them the same!
Beauty consumers in the BRIC countries are very different to Westerners, and so the key to brand success will rely on their ability and efforts to thoroughly research the different consumers and dynamics in each market, plus any regional differences.

One company doing just that is Beiersdorf-owned Nivea and in a recent interview with, Head of Product Development Dr Martin Rudolph said: “There are similarities as well as specific differences in consumer attitudes and behaviour in these regions. For example, it is important to consider the very different beauty habits in Brazil, the masculinity in Russia, as well as face care regimes in Asia.”
Euromonitor presentation at In-Cosmetics 2011
showing multi-national beauty companies'
increasing sales in BRIC countries

As well as the large multi-nationals such as Nivea, Estee Lauder and L’Oreal (which uses Geocosmetic research techniques to understand different beauty needs by monitoring people’s beauty regimes in different countries), independent beauty brands are also reaching out to the BRIC markets. One brand making a particular splash is L’Occitane, which recently told that it has opened 60 new stores within a year in the BRIC countries.

Presenting at beauty trade show In Cosmetics 2011, Euromonitor said that emerging market value sales in 2010 were $166billion, compared to $216billion in developed markets. Something tells me that the gap between these figures will only reduce further in the coming years.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Sephora on the Champs Elysees & its mysterious UK departure

On a short trip to Paris last weekend, naturally one of the ‘must see’ places on my list was Sephora’s flagship store on the Champs Elysees. Forget the Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame, the Louvre... Sephora was what got my heart beating faster!

I’ve been to a few Sephora beauty stores in New York but nothing comes close to its Champs Elysees emporium in Paris – it was absolutely huge but meticulously organised with row after row of units boasting innovative, exciting beauty brands. If you stand at the entrance and look into the store, you can’t even see where it ends. When I was there a guy at the entrance turned to his friend, pointed into the store and said “all make up!” incredulously. I thought that just about summed it up nicely!

I think Sephora is a clever mix between a department store and a chemist, combining a true beauty experience offering niche and premium beauty brands within an accessible format without overbearing assistants.

Sephora’s store concept excels at encouraging people to try out the products and experiment with them – there are ample testers (that aren’t completely ruined) and mirrors, plus cleansing lotion and wipes to remove the make up once you have tested it.

It still baffles me that any store that sells make up doesn’t provide these simple necessities for testing. On a recent visit to the Boots store at Piccadilly Circus, I couldn’t believe how ruined many of the testers were (even the ones on the Benefit counter, which had a dedicated assistant available – how she didn’t notice and replace the mangy testers is beyond me).

Other times, in other Boots stores, when I’ve wanted to test out a sample I’ve had to hunt for a unit that has a mirror available. And then when I have tested make up all over my hands, not having any cleansing wipes available to remove it puts me off trying out anything else.

Sephora’s mysterious UK departure
LVMH-owned Sephora popped its head up in the UK market briefly between 1999 and 2005 before closing all 9 stores, and I have always wondered why the concept didn’t work in the UK.

I’ve been trawling the internet to try and find out why, and it seems there is very little to be said on the subject: in the articles I found, Sephora spokespeople refused to comment, and in forums many people commented on the fact that they never receive a response when they try to contact Sephora.

From what I could find, attributed its closure to soaring rental costs, while comments on forums suggest that the out-of-town store locations, a lack of new brands and a lack of attention to detail in-store let down their UK stores, so perhaps it wasn’t done in the right way the first time round.

Or perhaps it just wasn’t the right time and UK consumers weren’t ready for this style of beauty experience. The beauty market between 1999 and 2005 was quite different then and maybe now, with the surging interest in niche, innovative brands, the demand for an enhanced shopping experience and the consumer’s increasing knowledge of beauty products, Sephora could now succeed in the UK.

But shops or no shops, given the amount of love in the UK for Sephora, why on earth doesn’t its website deliver to the UK? In my opinion they are losing a huge amount of potential, very easy business.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

An interview about branding, website design and E-commerce in the beauty industry

Nic Aylett, MD at Neue Media
Years in beauty industry: 5

Specialising in the luxury sector, elevating a company's success to the next level through considered branding and website design is what makes Nic Aylett tick. Nic talks to Your Beauty Industry about creating and maintaining brand identity, how luxury brands' online platforms should differ to the mass sector and the future of E-commerce.

Tell me a bit about your career background.
I have been in the design industry for nearly 14 years, having learnt my trade at one of London’s leading creative agencies, Black Sun, working with many prestigious brands including British Airways, O2, Cable & Wireless, HBOS, Sainsbury’s and Mazda.

My career started in print production, managing all aspects of the printing process and artwork creation, which then naturally moved into website development as digital became the latest platform in communication. Although production is an important part of any development process, it didn’t excite me or match my ambition and passion, so my career path naturally became more directed towards the creative process, both in print and digital, on a strategic and execution level.

In 2006, I formed Neue Media, a creative agency with a focus on brands; understanding their unique characteristics that give them personality and presence in the world. We now work with a range of businesses from start-ups to SMEs in translating that character and personality into an online environment, so that it becomes an extension to their brand, and their story can be told consistently over every touch point.

This is particularly interesting in the health and beauty sector, which is a hugely competitive and flooded market. We work with a number of clients in this sector, delivering a range of tailored E-commerce and digital solutions.

What are the key elements to consider when creating and implementing a brand’s identity?

Branding is a never-ending cycle; whether you are setting up a new brand or reviewing your current brand, you need to ensure you engage in an ongoing cycle that will allow you to monitor, strengthen, realign or revitalise your brand.

You can’t start the branding process until you have clearly stated what you are trying to brand. You need to list the descriptors that are pertinent to your business.

Every brand needs to fill a unique, meaningful and available spot in the market place and in the consumer’s mind. Positioning can be about any aspect of your brand; product quality, service, price, design, technical aspects and so on.


The brand promise summarises the positive difference you deliver to all who deal with your organisation. It is a pledge that you build your brand upon and stake your reputation. It’s the expectation that you live up to on every touch point of the business.

The style of your brand defines how it will actually interact with and relate to your customers. The style is the personality and character of your brand. If your brand were a person who walked into a room, how would it be described?

Brands are built on story telling. It is a story that will ultimately set your brand apart from all your competitors, who may even have better products/services than you. Telling stories creates human engagement, connecting with the hearts and minds of the consumer.

If you open a Moleskin notebook you will notice a printed leaflet in the notebook telling you their story, which says that they were the chosen notebook for Vincent Van Gogh and Ernest Hemingway. Now that’s a great story!

How should the online experience for luxury brands differ to mass brands?
Luxury brands are special and therefore they can’t just replicate what’s been done before or what other brands are doing. They have to do something specialised, personalised and inventive, because that is exactly what defines and separates them from mass brands.

"Luxury brands have been slow to embrace the Internet; it was seen as a cheap platform that was unable to communicate the meaningful connection between brand and consumer"

What are the biggest mistakes that luxury brands make with their websites?
Luxury brands have been slowto embrace the Internet. The Internet was seen as a cheap channel and a platform that was unable to communicate the meaningful connection between brand and consumer. Prada didn’t have a website until 2007!

Luxury brands need to embrace the digital channels and ensure that every aspect of their website is a true reflection of what the brand stands for, that show the foundations of the skill, craftsmanship, creativity, innovation, exclusivity, vision and passion that make them unique.

How do you think the online retail experience has changed over the last 5 years?
The biggest change in online retail has been through the number of different channels you can now make a purchase from. E-commerce is a term we are all familiar with, but now we have M-commerce selling through mobile devices and the use of location based technology, and F-commerce, selling through Facebook. But we also have ‘me’ commerce where anyone can now set up a basic online shop and sell their products.

The online shopping experience is certainly changing and will continue to do so. It’s becoming more distributed, more social, more global and more complicated!

"The biggest change in online retail has been through the number of different channels you can now make a purchase from"

What new technologies are emerging that you think are interesting right now?
Near Field Communication, or NFC, is technology that will soon be available on every smart phone. It is a contactless, wireless means of transferring information between two close objects. It is activated when two antennae communicate with each other through a magnetic field (for example, your Oyster card and the reader). Integrating this technology into a mobile device offers endless ways for mobile marketing and M-commerce, and bridges the gap between offline and digital media. Here are a few ways NFC could be used:

•    Pick up information on-the-go from smart posters and billboards
•    Mobile payment
•    Bank account and passport chip details
•    Gain entry into events
•    Eventually it could be used to open your house or car!
Just make sure you don’t lose your phone!!

What inspired you to set up your own design agency?
I have always had the desire and ambition to have my own business, so after 9 years of working for design agencies in London and abroad, I wanted to create an agency that offered a more personal, down to earth service that is fully committed to a client’s needs, sharing their passion and vision and offering my full support during and after a project. Being part of the process in helping a business reach further success is what gets me out of bed in the morning.

What top tips would you give to anyone wanting to start their own agency?

The creative industry is a very competitive industry, from one-man-bands to larger organisations, so you need to be clear where you fit into the market place in the consumer’s mind. Here are a few tips:

•    Don’t follow what everyone else is doing; you have more chance of success by standing out from the crowd.
•    Be an expert in your field, don’t try and be a jack of all trades
•    Practise what you preach
•    Networking is key, but make sure you choose the right network for your business
Who inspires you in your career?
I have been lucky enough to work with some great brands and people over the years. Clients, colleagues, consultants and strategic partners have all been a great source of inspiration.

Also Seth Godin and Simon Middleton, who are both professional speakers and authors in brand and marketing.

What’s the best career’s advice you’ve ever received?
Stay focused no matter what distractions come your way.

Twitter: @Neue_Media @Nic_Aylett