The difficulties of developing a personal care product: Part 2 of 3

In the previous edition of this article we looked at how getting the right balance between the product formulation and product packaging was key in creating a successful brand...

In the previous edition of this article we looked at how getting the right balance between the product formulation and product packaging was key in creating a successful brand. While the packaging will get you that initial interest and sale from consumers, ultimately it will be the quality of the formulation that will determine the success of your brand. At the end of the day, who buys something simply on how it looks?

For today’s discussion, I am going to look at a hair care brand that is currently on the market. The brand owner faced all of the decisions that were discussed in the previous article and we will look at how he has worked towards getting that balance between packaging and formulation, which in turn has helped him to create a successful and exciting up and coming brand.

Concoction is a brand new innovation in the hair care & conditioning market. The idea behind Concoction is that the products are bespoke to the user. Concoction’s ‘Mixology Technology’ brings together a shampoo ‘Base Blend’ with a ‘SuperSerum shot’, creating a unique shampoo blend that is packed with natural extracts and vitamins, specific to your hair type.

The man behind the brand is Alex Epstein, who has spent the past three years developing the brand into the retail ready product that is available on the high street today. Concoction is leading the trend in DIY personal care products, creating a new, personalised and interactive experience for the consumer. The potential behind this trendsetting new idea didn’t go unnoticed. In 2012 Millie Kendall MBE (Ruby & Millie, BeautyMART) and Will King (King of Shaves) along with two other investors joined Alex in developing this brand.

Can the right balance be achieved?

It's all well and good me saying that it is important to get the right balance in order to achieve success; however, these are hollow claims unless I can justify them with an example of it actually working. Alex Epstein first approached Expac with the Concoction brand over 3 years ago, so I have the benefit of having the experience of working with the brand from its initial concept right the way through to its execution. So, can the right balance be achieved and if so, how did Concoction do it?

When Concoction was first presented to Expac there was one thing clear about how the product was to be developed; the formulation was the key. The quality of the product was the most important aspect. If you are trying to set a new trend in a well established and thriving market then you need to do it with something special, which is exactly what Concoction looked to do.

The formulations were carefully formulated and took months to perfect. Each base shampoo is enriched with essential oils and is fused with oligopeptides extracted from natural silk. Having such a high quality formulation brings great benefits to the brand. When the customer uses the product they will know straight away that it is of the highest quality, but this does not come at a cheap price.

A large proportion of the Concoction budget was used to develop these formulations, which in turn meant that there would be a reduced expenditure on the product packaging. A sacrifice some may see as being too risky. People question: ‘what if the product doesn’t stand out on the shelf?’, ‘if it doesn’t look good how will you engage with the customer and get them to swap from their current products?’ Sometimes you have to have faith in what you create and that is what Alex had. He knew that once people tried the shampoo they would see that it was a quality product.

Looking into this further, what packaging did Concoction use for the initial products? To start with the brand used a basic cylindrical bottle with a disc cap top. There was nothing particularly special about the bottle; it’s a standard style with no real edge to it, something that didn’t really mirror the concept behind Concoction. Unfortunately when creating a brand you don’t have an endless list of choices, sometimes you must find a solution that is fitting at the present time.

So what were the factors behind this choice? Well firstly there is the available budget, this will define what packaging options are available, and then there are minimum order quantities (MOQs) and the availability of the packaging which is determined by the packaging supplier. All of these different factors must be brought together when creating a new brand and a compromise must be found between all in order to get a packaging style that fits.

So can the right balance be achieved? I would argue the answer is yes, but what that balance entails will be completely dependent on your product and the market position you are targeting. With Concoction, having a high quality formulation was vital because the brand was looking to set a new trend in the hair care market. Sacrifices were made and the ‘ideal’ packaging was put on hold whilst the brand grew. So for Concoction it was clear, a high quality product was required so this took priority, then the packaging came second – for Concoction this worked. Following on from marketing events and interest from a few high end retailers, Concoction was released into the market, and slowly people began to try the product and they realised how good it was. Then the power of ‘word of mouth’ set in and slowly the brand grew and secured a solid customer base.

The balance that Concoction had may not have been ideal but worked in regards to the fact that it got the product to market. However, as we all know the market is always changing and so are the products that are on the shelves. So in order to survive the brand owner must be receptive to change. Developing a brand/product and then ensuring that it remains competitive on the market follows a cycle in which you are constantly reviewing your product and making sure that it has a competitive edge over the competition. This is what Concoction did, whilst the brand grew on the market, its image and customer base changed. It changed in a way that meant that the product packaging was no longer suitable and the balance that had been achieved for the product launch was no longer there. This led Alex to refreshing the image of Concoction and finding a new style of packaging that would fit in with the brand and ultimately bring back that balance.

The product packaging was changed from the cylindrical stock bottle to a stylish test-tube looking bottle which enhanced the concept of mixing up your own bespoke shampoo product. The shots were filled into small ampoules which could be poured in with the shampoo base. Not only does this packaging fit in with the ideology behind the ‘Mixology Technology’ concept, but it also looks more modern and premium which was fitting with the target market. Concoction is aimed at the high end of the hair care market and, as the brand has developed, this refreshed look now fits with its image. Now, not only does the product have a high quality formulation, it also packaging and an image that matches, regaining that balance which helped to aid to a successful product launch.

There was of course a lot of work behind the scenes that helped to make this brand a success that I haven’t discussed. This includes things like the marketing of the brand, selling the product and securing investors and many more factors as well. But one common trend that I have seen with nearly all of the successful new start up brands in this market is that they have spent a lot of time researching and developing the formulation and the packaging of their product. At the end of the day, this is what the customer is paying for.

So to conclude this article, we must ask ourselves whether the right balance can be achieved. The answer to this isn’t as simple as a straightforward yes or no. The reason why this is the case is because the retail environment and product image is continually changing. The balance gained between formulation and packaging for the product launch will most certainly not be the same as it would be for the products growth within the market. So, a balance can be achieved for a particular stage within the products life cycle, but as the brand progresses through the different stages of the product life cycle (development, introduction, growth, maturity and decline) the balance that moulds your brand or product will change. The successful brands are the ones that can adapt to the environment that they are in and change when required. Whether this is changing the packaging or introducing a new product within the range, the brand must be adaptive to the market in order to find success.

For more information on the Concoction products take a look at the Concoction website at: www.concoction.co.uk

**The third and final instalment of this article will be release on Wednesday 26th of February. As always let me know your thoughts and tweet me at @expac_preston with the hash tag #developingdifficulties**

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