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Clinique Smart: A Serum Meant to Know What to Do

The brand's new serum is positioned as a new generation of skin-care product that is said to be so smart it can zero in on someone’s skin problems.

Clinique is talking new era.

On July 15, the division of the Estée Lauder Cos., Inc. will launch Clinique Smart Custom-Repair Serum, which is positioned as a new generation of skin-care product that is said to be so smart it can zero in on someone’s skin problems like a custom-made product.

During a presentation Tuesday, Lynne Greene, group president of Clinique, Origins, Ojon, Aveda and Darphin, drove home the point with the line, “precisely formulated for one skin in the world — yours.”

The serum is designed with teams of ingredients to tackle different problems, from the appearance of lines, wrinkles and dark spots to uneven skin tones, dullness and lack of hydration and suppleness. Greene and other executives stressed that the formula, designed to meet a host of needs, conforms to “platinum” standards, which are difficult to contain in one product. During a subsequent interview, Greene said that when the R&D team was asked to fill the bill, the answer was, “impossible. We can give you certain standards, but the standards you are asking for in this serum — on the wrinkles, on the dark spots, on the lifting — you can put all those things in a serum but it’s very difficult to put [all] those standards into one serum.”

Greene observed, “none of the ingredients could deactivate or interact in a bad way with another, which was the challenge. And it’s equally important for what it doesn’t do. You can make the world’s most active product, but if your skin can’t handle it, it’s useless. This product puts your skin in a state where it can accept these actives, which are dispensed by the serum according to the user’s needs.” The head scientist later described the resultant achievement as formulating “on the head of a pin.” The multifunction targeting ability of the product supports the claim of customization.

The new product is also billed to repair skin damage that can’t be seen, to compensate for problems created in the past and be smart enough to know what does not need fixing.

In fact, the product holds 37 patents based upon the physiology of the skin, noted Janet Pardo, senior vice president of global product development at Clinique. “I’d equate this formula to a lock and a key,” Pardo said of the ingredients, which for the most part are delivered in customized delivery vehicles in the formula. “The lock is the problem, and the key is the ingredient which is only attracted to that lock. The technologies that we have in this formulation are only there to address one thing. When there’s damage, it puts out a signal, and the ingredient that addresses the issue is attracted to it and addresses it. So if your skin isn’t sending off a damage signal for hyperpigmentation, that ingredient won’t work.”

A key ingredient in the formula is the newly popular red algae, which smooths and calms the skin so that it is more receptive to repair, said Pardo. For addressing dark spots and dullness, scutellaria baicalensis root extract, grape extract, glucosamine and ergothioneine are among the ingredients included. Collagen-boosting peptides such as acetyl hexapeptide-8 and palmitoyl oligopeptide are intended to diminish the look of lines and wrinkles, and whey protein and siegesbeckia orientalis extract are intended to help rebuild the skin’s support structure. Moisture levels are intended to be boosted with hyaluronic acid, barley extract, wheat germ extract and cucumber extract.

A 30-ml. size will be sold for $59.50, while a 50-ml. size will sell for $89.

Clinique is still finalizing its advertising timing, but TV is expected at launch, and national consumer advertising will likely break in August fashion, beauty and lifestyle magazines, said Agnes Landau, senior vice president of global marketing for Clinique. The print advertising was shot by Richard Pierce.

The brand also plans a number of digital assets for the launch, many aimed at application and usage issues, said Landau.

In the U.S., the product will be available in Clinique’s full distribution — currently about 2,000-plus department and specialty store doors. It will be sold in about 38 markets encompassing 149 countries as well, said Greene.

While executives declined comment on projected sales, industry sources estimated that the serum could do upward of $250 million at retail globally, with about 35 percent — close to $88 million — of that figure expected to be done in the U.S. Clinique is estimated to be spending $60 million globally on its advertising and promotional war chest.