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.