Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cosmetics? What the hell are koz-meht-iks?

As a guy, it can be hard to understand why women torment themselves with what seems like hundreds of products each and every morning; only to wash it off that night.

It makes permanent make-up appear to be an almost obvious choice:

An unwilling trip down what seems like an endless aisle is maliciously meant to confuse, daze, and otherwise deter any male from entering (even the bravest of us).

I mean, who can even make out the ads in these crammed displays?

It's all just a dizzying array of products; each more confusing and with less marginal utility than the next. But it makes girls prettier; no?

Even as Canada plans to post an 85 Billion dollar deficit this year; I can't imagine that the cosmetic industry will feel much of the blow. If there's two things that sell extremely well; it's a cheap laugh and vanity. And it's not just about the products being sold, but the intangible experience and feeling that women feel when they're looking their best.

It reminds me of Starbucks; a company with one of the best understandings of what it means to sell more than just a household staple. They don't just sell 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine (caffeine for those non-chemistry geeks); but a friendly smile, a homely environment and a portable brand to be shown off by consumers.

But what's the difference between a make-up artist and a barista?

Not much. Danielle Sacks, a writer with Fast Company magazine claims it's the difference between a consumer claiming that they " the way my friend's lipstick looks," and "I love how I feel when I wear that color." But that feeling doesn't come without a steep price tag that consumers are undoubtedly willing to pay. It's unsurprising that the multi-billion dollar industry keeps growing larger and larger with widespread marketing fluffing and 90$ jars of coloured powder that refused to stay shelved. MAC has recently become a mainstay giant of the industry; its success a combination of a high-quality project that's well marketed, and well represented by their employees.

And the numbers don't lie:

[Of MAC Cosmetics' company report]

Numbers Game

  • 2.6 | Average number of products customers actually buy when they come to buy one item
  • $45 | Average amount each customer spends per visit >
  • 83% | Percentage of new customers who are referrals
  • 250,000 | Number of brides-to-be each year who come to MAC for their wedding makeup

Serge Rogasik, the Global Marketing Director of Beauty-Care Solutions describes the industry's fluff best (although indescriminently):

"...for an extreme example of what's possible, you start with algae that costs 5 cents a kilo and from that create algae extract that costs $50 a kilo. Then you can create an encapsulated algae-extract complex that you sell for $100 to $1,000 a kilo so that a customer can retail a beauty product at up to $50,000 a kilo. This is what we do: supply a very trendy market with high-tech solutions."

All of this translated onto the shelf in a really intersting way:

Hmm...the products look well-packaged, but something seems to be missing...

Oh yeah...the prices. It would seem that consumers don't quite like thinking about how expensive coloured powder truly is.

I suppose that packaging and a quick first impression really is sufficient in order to sell perfumes. It's gone so far, that even the new iPod packaging is being leveraged:

The iPod iteration:

And on the shelf:

Text Color

The cosmetics industry truly is a confusing three aisles.

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