1) They Are Discerning With Information.
There is no shortage of free data out in the public domain on how to turn the contents of your kitchen into a beautiful cosmetic balm or scrub, how to craft your own soaps, creams and balms or even how to make your own natural sunscreen and this is great but it also creates a false illusion that it is also very easy and safe. Another old saying of 'if I'd have known then what I know now I would have done it differently' springs to mind reminding us that what we are experiencing in this flush of new-found knowledge, freedom, excitement and independence is fuelled by that beautiful, blissful thing called innocence. We feel like we have done the research because we have purchased (invested, spent real money) on a few 'how to' craft books, spent hours reading notes, swapping and making notes from forum conversations and have even attended a short course or two - maybe even one at New Directions but innocence is a mighty powerful and pervasive thing and until someone or something bursts our bubble we tend to do everything within our powers to remain there ignoring the information that contradicts our 'this is simple and fun' mentality at our peril.
2) They Identify The Detail And Approach The Project With Their Business Heads On.
OK so it might not sound very sexy to sit down at a spot-lit table, magnifying glass in hand with your accountant and scientist head on and nut out a plan over arrowroot biscuits and weak tea but this rationalising of ideas is really important before we get into the nitty gritty of how to make it happen.Successful brand owners know all too well that having that ‘good, no GREAT idea’ is only the start of it and is most likely the easy part, it is the execution of the idea and how it is implemented that matters and that requires a cool, planning head and a realistic appraisal of your resources.
Crafting is one thing and a beautiful thing it is.It is valuable in so many ways but as a larger-than-just-me business model it often needs a little tweaking.Being in business isn't just about wanton capitalism or adopting a 'take all I can get' mindset but business is about making money - hopefully fairly, beautifully and fulfilling so that you can spend more time having fun, donate more to charity or have your say in the world!
The number one thing that successful brands do well is to know their numbers, they think about margins, budgets, turnover, cash flow, price points and income targets relatively early on. This sort of thing can be almost impossible to get your head round on day one and you don't have to but at some point in the first year of exploring your cosmetic dreams you need to sit down with a calculator and map this out - how many caramel whip body butters will you have to sell to pay yourself a $20,000 per year salary? Things like that do matter as all the passion and love in the world won't put a roof over your head or food on the table (but you already know that).Melinda Tizzone runs our Business 1O1 course, which, amongst other things outlines how to identify and work with your 'cosmetic' numbers.Go see her!
3) They Have an Understanding Of Their Ingredients.
The second thing that successful brands do is to invest in educating themselves about their ingredients. Not every brand has to be completely natural or organically certified to be successful - in fact global data suggests that only 15% of consumers read or care about what is in the product they buy preferring instead to concentrate on what the product will do for them and how much it costs.
As a brand owner it is important that you maintain control over the direction your brand takes and that you have a solid understanding of how it has been built.In the cosmetic industry your building blocks are your ingredients and that's why it pays to take a bit of time to actively understand them.
Just like everything else in the cosmetic industry ingredients can fall in and out of favour and fashion with the public and you will be questioned about your ingredient choices in your brand lifetime. Having little to no understanding of where your ingredients come from, what they do and why they are used in your formula leaves you vulnerable and somewhat disadvantaged especially when questioned by an over-zealous Google researcher or a ‘looking for problems rather than solutions’ buyer! Rather than crash down each time the wind blows you need confidence to stand strong in your space and explain why you chose a synthetic preservative over a natural one or a fragrant oil Lemon instead of the equivalent organic cold-pressed oil. Knowledge is empowering both personally and for your brand and if you feel like you are lacking in this area come and join our two-day cosmetic chemistry workshop with me and find out more.
4) They Consider Their Formula Aesthetics.
Successful brands know what feels, looks and smells good in terms of a cosmetic product and they are unwavering in this regard.The aesthetics of your formula might not get you the first purchase - your packaging and marketing has more to do with that - but it is what will keep them coming back for more. Don't leave your fragrance choice to the last minute or think it doesn’t matter. Also think about the colour and form of your product, your cream or lotion, is it greasy or dry on the skin? Does it rub in well? Does how it feels match with how you are marketing it? The successful brand owner also appreciates that the formula must work well with their packaging choice and as such think of packaging and product together rather than leaving the question of ‘what to pack it in’ to the last minute.
The main thing with formula aesthetics is that your product looks, feels and smells 'as expected' in relation to the other informational clues you have given the client - the products packaging, what you have said about the product, where it is sold and its price.
5) They Invest In Testing.
Everyone has to start somewhere and while it is unrealistic to expect anyone to factor in full stability, micro and efficacy testing before they have made a penny successful brands will understand that good, solid data to back up their claims not only helps boost their confidence, selling power and ability to pursue larger market opportunities but also serves as some legal protection (due diligence). Efficacy testing is also very important for claim-driven products such as those that we see in the anti-ageing space. Simple examples of this would be with vitamin A and/or vitamin C based products. Both of these vitamins are prone to rapid oxidation and without proper handling can leave your formula devoid of active ingredient well before the products first birthday. Successful brands understand this and will make at least a minimum investment in assaying the product for its activity throughout its shelf life (an assay on vitamin A or C might cost around $150-300 per sample).
6) They Understand That They Are Not The ONLY Brand In The Factory.
Successful brand owners have a love and appreciation for how business works and as such they realise that they are just one of a string of jobs a manufacturer or designer has to fit into their working week, month or year. They understand the importance of planning and lead-times and accept that in the early days when demand is lumpy and un-predictable lead times might blow out.Even a successful brand owner can’t predict and plan for every eventuation but they recognise the point when they should bite the bullet and make a bigger batch and hold stock rather than drip feeding goods into their supply chain. This ability to assess risk versus benefit can only really be developed over time as one learns to balance cash flow and predict market moves.There is just so much to think about isn’t there
7) Successful Brand Owners Understand The Power Of Product Communication Via Words.
Words matter, whether you choose to use lots of them on your packaging and in your product description or whether you just want to say 'Body Wash' and be done with it. The choice of words, how you put those words into sentences and how the words look all help to set the tone of the brand and re-enforce your visual and sensorial branding. Successful brands know how their target market speak, what words trigger them into action - falling in love with the brand - and equally importantly what they wouldn't say! They put their words into good use helping to sell the product and re-enforce their brand position by calling out to their demographic and talking directly to them.
We encourage brand owners to play around with words putting themselves into the shoes of their target demographic and speaking through their mouths. Calling a hair styling gel product 'Funky Hair Gunk' might appeal to a 13-17 year old male but would do nothing for an up-and-coming 25 year old professional.While this does sound really obvious, as with all of these points every detail matters -how do you feel when you hear the Queen speak? Does it feel like she understands you, do you relate to her? What about when you hear Eminem or Dr Dre rap? Would they be on your team? If not why? These things do matter.
8) They Use Visual Branding To Re-Enforce Their Story.
Yet another good old saying 'a picture tells a thousand words' rings true and while visual branding is usually something that everyone has an idea about and might feel is simple beyond measure, getting it right is a very much a strategic process. It is this appreciation for the strategic element of branding that gives successful brands the edge and makes us fall in love with the very idea of them, long before we have had the pleasure of experiencing their actual products!
Your shelf-presence is predominantly based on visual brand perception - what people think about your brand/ product based on what they see - and as such is VERY powerful. Successful brand owners will have a very well developed idea of their target market and how to pull their visual triggers. They will look for images, colours, textures and fonts that compliment the words that they have used and the ingredients that they have chosen to build a multi-faceted cohesive story. This sounds obvious as we live in such a visual society that we take much of what we see for granted but once we realise that strategically we are aiming to tell stories, build relationships and evoke a particular feeling or emotion within our particular audience we start to appreciate the layers of decisions that go on behind the scenes of a cute or sophisticated looking label.
Turning ideas into visual branding is another aspect of the process that successful brand owners get right either by being able to create the vision themselves or articulate it to design professionals.The process of verbally communicating a brands visual look and feel is a process in its self and is one that deserves time and plenty of research. The internet age makes it possible to collect visual inspiration very quickly via say Instagram or Pinterest and this can help us build our visual identity, however, the physical process of searching through magazines, walking through stimulating environments, smelling fresh aromas is absolutely not to be overlooked as all of these sensory experiences can help bring your ideas to life and give them that X-Factor.Successful brands know this and take inspiration from anywhere and everywhere.
9) They Know That Australia Is A Long, Long Way Away.
Australia is a fantastic place to live and do business except for when you need raw materials in a hurry! We are situated a good 8-10 weeks from European boat-freighted stock and that can blow out to 16 weeks if we have to wait for consolidated shipments. Successful brand owners know this and appreciate the importance of thinking ahead and factor in time to gather supplies before scheduling in a product launch date!
10) They Know What They Can And Can’t Say About Their Products.
Cures eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, and acne?Well in that case go sit in the pharmaceutical queue. A successful brand owner appreciates all too well that the cosmetic industry isn’t a free-for-all and that there are certain things that just can’t be claimed in this space. However, they also know that it is impossible to know everything and that some boundary products are best looked over by regulatory specialists BEFORE too much money is spent.
We had a situation in the cosmetics industry about three years ago when several organically certified insect repellents were pulled off the market. Insect Repellents fall under the jurisdiction of the APVMA and must adhere to strict ingredient guidelines, which many of these formulations couldn’t meet.The costs to pass through the APVMA system looks like running into tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars making many of these products impractical. Best to know that before you have invested years of time, effort and money on getting something to market.
11) They Realise That There Is Life Outside Of Australia.
The Australian market is a lovely place to be with lots of people eager to try new products and experience home-grown beauty however, we have a small population and successful brand owners know this and have an export plan in the wings waiting.
Being export ready involves a number of steps including some of the documentation we have already mentioned (Stability testing, micro checks, claim substantiation, ingredient listings, ingredient registration etc.) but also investigating which overseas market will best accept your branding?Each market has its own rules and barriers to entry which must be explored early to save you having to re-formulate, re-package or re-design so while you might not be about to branch out overseas anytime soon having a strategy and an appreciation of how you might make that happen will help you in the long run.
12) They Take Responsibility and Ownership and Have Fun With It!
Successful brand owners appreciate very well that they don't KNOW everything and can't DO everything yet that doesn't stop them owning the process and shouldering responsibility for process outcomes.With so many things to consider, many of which are outside of anyone on your teams direct control (weather affecting supply of essential oil for example or accidents damaging stock in transit) it is important to be prepared to embrace the unexpected and roll with the punches. An ability to detach ones initial emotions and frustrations from the process of handling not-on-the-plan situations is key to maintaining and growing both relationships and brands. A cool head and a little perspective can help keep things on track; relationships cordial and motivation to problem solve and ‘get through this’ high.
Successful brand owners are like the graceful Swans in the water, they don’t spoil the illusion by showing us their frantically kicking feet and neither do they need to because underneath all of that chaos they are actually having a whole lot of fun!
The cosmetics industry is a fun, creative and dynamic place to be and while it may be many, many good things it certainly isn’t a simple, quick and easy place to make your fortune. Successful brands know that and now so do you.Welcome to life on the inside.
18 December 2014