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Is cosmetics product innovation dead?

By Imogen Matthews , 13-Dec-2012
Last updated on 17-Dec-2012 at 18:47 GMT

Industry expert Imogen Matthews takes a good long look at cosmetic innovation and dares to ask the question, just how much truely new innovation is coming on to the market these days.

Taking a look at the beauty counters there currently seems to be plenty of new products, but how many can be described as truly innovative?

BB Creams certainly caught the imagination of the media, retailers and consumers when they first appeared, but there is nothing intrinsically innovative about the formulations, and the packaging is pretty bog-standard. In fact, it can be a struggle to see the difference between a BB Cream offering moisturisation, colour and SPF, and a tinted moisturiser with added SPF.

So, it was with a degree of cynicism that I went along to the launch of a new cosmetics brand. Does the beauty market need another make-up line? Maybe not, but what I saw and heard made me think that there are still gaps in the market for new innovative products.

Perhaps not earth-shatteringly different, but products that are doing something no-one has tried to do before.

Superdry Beauty taps into the clothing brand

Enter: Superdry Beauty, the new cosmetics line from the iconic fashion brand that you’ll see on the backs of many fashion-conscious twenty-somethings.

The beauty products are striking and my eye was caught by the strong colours and flashes of neon pink silicone trim on the packaging.

However, I confess I was a little disappointed to see how similar the Lip Glazes looked to Stila, and how strongly reminiscent the duo shadows were of the defunct Ruby & Millie make-up line.

It wasn’t until I spoke to Miles Dunkley, managing director of SLG, designers and manufacturers of beauty and lifestyle products, that I understood. He knows that opportunities for new brand launches are limited as most beauty categories are so saturated.

However, his company has doubled turnover since 2008 - the start of the recession - to reach £14m (Euros 17m) in 2012, by translating fashion stories into beauty with the launch of brands such as Top Shop, Next, Animal and now Superdry.

Superdry develops nail polish around t-shirts

The relationship with Superdry started when SLG were approached to develop a nail polish line to sell alongside clothing. The team looked at current Superdry T-shirt shades and bottled them. This led to the creation of a full beauty line which is being scaled up to sell on the global market.

One or two of the products are genuinely innovative, such as the Eye Marker, which looks just like a black marker pen. It is this ability to look outside beauty and swipe ideas and adapt them that makes the brand so interesting.

Attention to details is what counts

“It was attention to detail, such as using a fashion textile in a bag, or ensuring that the hang-tag on the bag has the same values as the fashion brand,” Miles told me. “No-one is doing that in beauty.”

Innovation in beauty isn’t just about launching new products with the latest ingredient or product claim. Brands need to be a lot more open-minded and prepared to look outside their industry for inspiration.

Superdry is showing that it’s possible to move from one industry to another with exciting new concepts and underlines the fact that the beauty markets certainly don’t need any more me-too products.

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