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Packaging Innovations: Key insights from The Beauty Symposium

At the latest Beauty Symposium, hosted by Stirling Murray, CEO and Founder of The Red Tree, Imogen Matthews from Imogen Matthews Associates picked up some fresh insights into new product development in beauty. Here are some of the stand-out observations she thought you should know about too.

Three Seconds to Grab Consumers’ Attention

Did you know that packaging has less than 3 seconds to grab consumers’ attention? Those 3 seconds are vital when you consider that more than 70% of purchasing decisions are made directly at the shelf.

Wren Holmes, brand manager, Urban Veda, stressed the need for packaging, saying: “Poor quality packaging can sound like cutlery on a china plate. It looks expensive, but sounds cheap.”

She particularly dislikes tamper proof seals: “In a prestige retail environment there may be staff and/or testers, but there isn’t in a mass/masstige one, so why block a key tenet to purchase?”

The 3 second rule: tell your brand and product story in 3 seconds –logo, design, colour and packaging.

Mistakes to Avoid in Packaging Development

Janet Tarasofsky, product development expert, had the audience squirming in their seats as she ran through the common mistakes people {including herself} have made when developing packaging. These included deciding on a clear bottle, clear formula and clear label and then discovering that you can’t read the writing or that the mirror image shows through the back when you turn it round.

Above all, being flexible is key. “Life is always Plan B because things always go wrong,” she maintained, giving examples of suppliers going missing, bottles delayed at sea or when they do arrive they are wrong size.

Her advice included: “Choose suppliers carefully –they’ll be with you throughout your journey. They need to be loyal, discreet, fun and flexible. You need to be comfortable enough to negotiate with them as well as to ask them favours.”

Trust is the New Currency for Brands

According to Diana Verde Nieto, CEO of, marketers need to wake up to the fact that millenials {born between 1985 and 2000} are changing the consumer landscape forever. In the US alone, there are 79 million of them. Explaining what this means for brands she pointed out that millennials don’t trust brands or advertising, but do trust their friends and social connections:

• 91% of millennials would consider purchasing a product if a friend recommended it
• 98% of millennials are more likely to engage with a friend’s post over a brand’s post

Millennials particularly don’t like advertising, especially on social networks:

• 83% say sponsored stories make their social media experience worse

In a nutshell, brands are wasting their time and money on sponsored stories which millennials hardly notice and certainly don’t use as a call to action.

It Can Take 3 Years to Launch a Brand

“Don’t get pushed into making the wrong decisions.” This advice was given by Farooq Chaudhry, director and co-founder Su-Man Skincare who went through several packaging designers before hitting on the right design for his luxury skincare brand.

The brief was a hard one –his wife, Su-Man is a celebrated facialist as well as a dancer. As a dance producer, Farooq was more familiar with the language of dance and wanted to transfer that to the skincare packaging. “We realised we weren’t clear about what it was we wanted which is why it took so many attempts.”

Can You Do Thrilling Work in a Mainstream Environment?

Nick Ellis, creative partner and founder, Halo Media Communications, is doubtful, but thinks it can be done. “The problem is often with the design agency who have a job to communicate their ideas,” he said.

His solution is to recognise that the client is the most important member of the design team {something he thinks many agencies fail to recognise}. “Stick to your vision to make it work. Remember it’s not what others want but what you think.”

However, his one proviso was to involve the buyer and include them as part of the team. “They will help you understand what you need to get the product onto the fixture. Involve them in the collaborative process.”

Focus Groups are the Enemy of the Idea

Both Janet and Nick agreed on this one.

Janet maintained that customers cannot know what they want until they are told. For example, who would have guessed that CC creams would be so big, or that using a silver tip for an eye cream product can be soothing?

Nick went further by saying that people in focus groups usually give an opinion based on what constitutes mass appeal-not a reflection of their true likes and dislikes.

How would you tackle the challenge of engaging the millennial generation? Let me know in the comments below.

And of course, if you’ve found the article of interest, we’d really appreciate it if you’d share it with your social networks.
For more from Imogen Matthews, visit

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The Red Tree is the UK’s leading international beauty brand consultancy and a powerhouse of ideas, insight and inspiration. For an informal discussion on how we might help you, please contact us.

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