Air Touch: P&G’s Intelligent Makeup

EVIAN, France — Procter & Gamble’s SK-II skin care brand is becoming a testing ground for the firm’s new beauty technology.<br><br>Already, a moisturizing compact powder foundation has made its way from SK-II to Cover Girl in...

EVIAN, France — Procter & Gamble’s SK-II skin care brand is becoming a testing ground for the firm’s new beauty technology.

This story first appeared in the July 5, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Already, a moisturizing compact powder foundation has made its way from SK-II to Cover Girl in AquaSmooth, and now another foundation will make its debut via SK-II. Called Air Touch, the new foundation is unlike any other, claims A.G. Lafley, P&G’s chairman and chief executive officer, who discussed the company’s latest beauty innovation at the WWD CEO Beauty Summit here last week.

Air Touch, which launches in Japan in September, “breaks the trade-off between complete coverage and natural appearance,” he said.

Details of the formula were not available, but the delivery system “uses electrostatic technology to form, charge and transfer tiny droplets of foundation to the face,” said Lafley.

Essentially, the foundation is applied using something called the Ionizer, explained Marc Pritchard, vice president, global cosmetics and personal care at P&G. “There is no mess with Air Touch,” he stressed, for there is no sponge or other applicator required. The foundation evenly distributes itself across the face, even avoiding the hair, which the foundation does not cling to. “The positively charged ions are attracted to the skin,” said Pritchard. The foundation was designed to provide coverage, while allowing a woman’s natural skin to come through.

Air Touch is packaged with an Ionizer and two foundation cartridges for 14,000 yen or about $114. A refill package of two cartridges is 6,000 yen or about $50.

SK-II, now sold in parts of Asia and recently the U.K., has been growing. However, there are no immediate plans to introduce Air Touch outside the Japanese market.

Several retailers in Japan have been pleased with SK-II and look forward to offering Air Touch.

A spokesperson for the cosmetics division of the Hankyu department store in Umeda, Osaka, said “both SK-II skin care and foundation items are popular among our customers.” Its SK-II counter was expanded last September during a store renovation due to the “increasing popularity of the brand and we will carefully watch the reaction to Air Touch when it is introduced because it is a unique product,” said the spokesperson.

Keizo Shuno, a cosmetics buyer for Matsuzakaya Department store in Tokyo, said sales of SK-II increased 40 to 50 percent this spring over the same period last year. “We renovated the sales floor and expanded the brand’s counter space from about 32 square feet to 54 square feet based on our [sales] expectations.”

He said the product has broad appeal because, “the brand’s products work well on the skin of a wide range of age groups.” He added that he is expecting a “good reaction for Air Touch from the market because it is unique.”

SK-II’s sales have also been climbing at the Keio Department Store in Tokyo, according to Shunichi Hosaka, general manager of the cosmetics division.

“For the April to June period, SK-II generated 20.7 percent more sales than the same period last year,” Hosaka said. The brand’s counter space has also recently been expanded to about 79 square feet and moved to a better location. “Air Touch is a high-priced product, but it will generate a big increase in sales when it is accepted in the market,” remarked Shuno. He added: “Air Touch will also help the brand develop more loyal customers because the product needs cartridges and customers will have to repeatedly buy them.”