Catering to consumers' demands for proof that anti-aging and serious skin-care remedies really work, the bulk of marketing in the category is now focused on clinical trials, dermatologist endorsements and medical research. Cold, hard facts are the smoke and mirrors of the 21st century as beauty vendors from prestige player Kiehl's Since 1851 to mass drug chain CVS trot out the names and numbers behind pricey new trial-tested skin salves.
With good reason: According to NPD Group, sales of so-called cosmeceuticals in the prestige- department-store space alone grew to 7% of the $2.1 billion skin-care market this year compared to just 1% in 2001, making it the category's fastest-growing segment. Sales of such brands-including a rising number developed by dermatologists-have also exploded on the Internet and, increasingly, on QVC.
L'Oreal unit Kiehl's will in October launch Dermatologist Solutions, backed by an advisory panel of dermatologists and other skin experts, that it will promote in educational seminars, PR efforts and pamphlets touting extensive clinical studies. In addition, Kiehl's will highlight its link with Harvard University Medical School to fund cell biology research.
SPELL IT OUT
"Consumers expect us because of our more medicinal positioning and pharmacy roots to have experts consulting with us and we do, we've just never talked about it," said Hillary Solomon, senior VP-marketing at Kiehl's. Now, though, with the consumer-demanded launches of near medicinal-like solutions for problems including acne and rosacea, among them Epidermal Re-Texturizing Micro-Dermabrasion and Centella Recovery Skin-Salve, the research is taking center stage on packaging, in personal consultations with store sales reps and through retail events.
Estee Lauder Cos. is likewise spelling out the science in marketing communications for treatment-related products such as its Prescriptives' Doctor-Designed Skincare, a line backed by dermatologist Karyn Grossman that has grown since its 2003 introduction to 30% of Prescriptives' skin-care sales. A nearly all-text "advertorial" for its Intensive Rebuilder for Eyes touts tests that showed 83% of users noticed improvement.
Prescriptives' fledgling derm-driven sibling, Rodan & Fields (backed by star dermatologists Katie Rodan and Kathy Fields), is expanding its Multi-Med Therapy beyond to Marshall Field's and Nordstrom's with marketing that eschews models in favor of research results. Clinical trials conducted at Stanford University proving the efficacy of its treatments will take center stage on its Web site and elsewhere over the next few months. "People are looking for credibility that gives their purchase reinforcement," said Shashi Batra, general manager of Rodan & Fields.
CVS in August will launch its mass anti-aging line, Skin Effects by Dr. Jeffrey Dover, with in-store brochures outlining the trial-proven effectiveness of the formulas, among them the $29.99 Wrinkle Effects Relaxing Cream. Stores will also carry signage featuring a photo and credentials of Dr. Dover, a 20-year veteran dermatologist and associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University School of Medicine.
Bath & Body Works will enter the category in October with its line developed by Patricia Wexler M.D. Packaging and in-store efforts will tout the technology of the anti-aging treatment, which is based largely on Dr. Wexler's proprietary Gentle Waves LED Photomodulation.
The scientific strategy is certainly popular, but is it smart?
The departure from any emotional and aspirational tug may be dangerous in the long term, said Suzanne Grayson, president of beauty industry consultancy Grayson Associates. "The bio-babble and focus on numbers causes consumers to glaze over and brands begin to blur," she said. Plus, she added, "Nothing is like plastic surgery for really looking younger. But hope springs eternal. "
Consultant Suzanne Grayson warns consumers could be confused and put off by marketing "bio-babble"