THE MASS-CLASS CONNECTION
Byline: Laura Klepacki
NEW YORK — It used to be that prestige cosmetics brands received all the credit for innovation and mass was relegated to copycat status.
But today, new products and trends are originating from both sides of the industry, and mass and class are freely borrowing from each other.
As a result, today’s most popular items — glitter, high tech lipsticks, foundations packed with skin care benefits, multiuse products and more — can be found in drugstores and on the counters of the best department stores.
The prestige side still gets credit for generating a large number of trends. Chanel rejuvenated the entire nail category with its now-legendary Vamp polish. And makeup artist Vincent Longo started the craze for compact foundation in air-tight packaging with his cult Water Canvas product. Now, almost every brand has a version.
But mass is making strides.
“Mass has really kept us on our toes,” admitted the product developer for one high-end cosmetics company.
“There was a time when leadership occurred in department stores,” said George Fioto, president of the Revlon Research Center. “But that was because raw materials were expensive and could only be provided in more expensive products.”
Now, Fioto contends, the mass market is more innovative than ever. The shift, he said, occurred about 10 years ago. Examples range from long-wearing lipstick to eyelash-curling mascara to nail polish that dries quickly, lasts long and even crackles.
“With some simple synthesis and in-house development labs, we have been able to bring highly functional products that deliver benefits consumers really want,” said Fioto.
Fioto notes that department store brands still use more expensive packaging components. Although, he said, mass packages perform well today. “They may be made from plastic, but mass packages today are highly functional.”
Mass packaging does lag behind in terms of attractiveness. New prestige brands like Anna Sui, Calvin Klein, Cynthia Rowley and Anastasia are notable for interesting packaging that ranges from sleek to bohemian chic. An exception on the mass side is Sonia Kashuk, whose new line for Target features packaging that has a prestige look. Regardless of where products have been entering the market, there has been a continuous stream of innovation, as consumers become more demanding.
Moisturizing lip color, foundation with anti-aging properties and quick-dry nail polish are commonplace today, as manufacturers feed consumer desire for products that offer benefits beyond color.
But who has been leading in cosmetics innovation continues to be a debatable issue.
Carol Hamilton, senior vice president of marketing at L’Oreal, says, without a doubt, the mass market has picked up its pace on product innovation over the past few years, but so have other industry factions.
“The consumer is class-of-trade-loyal no longer. Because of that, innovation is coming from anywhere — the mass market, from department stores and also specialty stores,” she said.
Hamilton said the old system of new products “trickling down from department stores is definitely not true, but it will never be that the mass market innovates and the department store doesn’t.”
Because customers aren’t so product loyal these days, manufacturers feel pushed to be first to market with items, said Hamilton, who helped launch the mass market’s first curling mascara in 1998. L’Oreal’s Le Grand Curl spurred the creation of a niche segment that now accounts for 10 to 12 percent of mass mascara sales.
“We have to recapture her imagination and attention every day. The consumer responds to innovation,” said Hamilton.
Anne Martin, global marketing manager for Procter & Gamble cosmetics, said when it comes to new products, P&G tracks what is happening in both the mass and department store arenas.
“Some of the innovations are breakthrough in nature and you redefine a category, and some of them are actually trend innovations,” said Martin.
Cover Girl’s Crackle Lacquer, which made its debut as a promotional item this year, is an example of a trend that helped give its nail sales a seasonal jolt. Meanwhile, next spring, it will unveil Radiance, a new Oil of Olay foundation that will feature the first compact makeup in the mass market with UVA/UVB protection, according to Martin.
Revlon’s Fioto credits Revlon with many cosmetics industry firsts.
“I think technology has always been important, especially here at Revlon. We have a technology history,” said Fioto.
During its history, Revlon’s Revlon and Ultima brands have graced both department store counters and drugstore walls. Both now are predominantly mass market brands.
It was Ultima’s Lip Sexy long-wearing lipstick, later reincarnated as Revlon’s ColorStay, that drew attention to what a technological innovation can achieve. Since the launch of ColorStay lip color, Revlon has turned the concept into a brand that now includes foundation, hair color and shampoo.