by: Marina Natanova

It happened when I was fixing my make-up, and shook all contents of my cosmetic bag out. The view struck me: my chic tubes and boxes, each €20 worth and used for no more than 3 months, looked like a pile of cheapies. Scratched, broken, peeled off. “You haven’t been too careful with them, – I told to myself, – They should be treated with special care, all good girls know it. A woman picking a box with The Label is expected to immediately feel like a queen.”

But I didn’t feel I was using premium any more. Not eager to admit it only my paranoia, I decided to do a little research: asked a question in a small online cosmetics community: “Am I the only one irritated because my high-end stuff looks quickly gets worn after purchase, or do you feel the same?” I was ready to be called names, but instead received about 60 “not feeling like using premium” comments. Here are some of the best lines I got:

  • I’m OK if it’s peeled off or scratched (what’s inside is more important), but I hate when it breaks. I pay a good lot of money for it, and in a week – crack! If I find quality make-up in a sturdy package, I’ll be with it.
  • It makes me feel bad when I’m fixing my make-up in lady’s rooms – I feel ashamed to pull it out of my bag.
  • Everything lost its initial look which made me so glad when I had bought it.
  • I can’t show it to my friends.
  • I’m more irritated when contents break or crumble, but I’d be glad if the box looked new for a long time
  • I bought it a good deal because of the nice tube, it broke in a month, and that’s why I don’t want to use it any more…
  • The more beautiful it looked when new, the more irritated I become when it’s quickly worn!
  • It’s a trifle, but it makes me mad!

Of course there were good girls who treated their stuff properly. There were a couple of brands highly praised for innovative AND sturdy package. But my guess was confirmed: a lot of premium or even luxury brands don’t have a package which keeps looking good during usage; and it irritates the consumers.

And then I thought that surely there’s a difference between luxury fashion products. While not all of us can buy a Givenchy dress, Givenchy mascara is pretty affordable for an “urban female 25-45 mid+”. Affordable means we are happy to have it, but aren’t always ready to worship it.  We carry our thingies in bags where they can meet other boxes, bottles, nail files, phones, keys, pens, pincers, chocolate foils, USB cards – ANYTHING. We drop our bags, rummage them in haste; we stuff our umbrellas into them, they get squeezed in crowds... IKEA’s sofas pass “sit down” machine tests; cars pass crush-tests – does anyone make package crush-tests for make-up?

And don’t think good girls don’t have the same issues. Worshipers differ. Imagine a young girl who saved for 4-5 months to buy one premium product instead of three mass-market. Yes, she adores this purchase, but as she probably will use it for a longer time, the bad package quality will show up. And the good looks matters a lot to her – younger girls more often demonstrate contents of their cosmetic bags to other girls and share them. Talk of brand promoters…

I suddenly remembered one of my first clients, a marketing manager of a huge international FMCG, who explained to us young specialists that Our toughest competitive environment is not in media, not even on shop shelves, it’s in the usage space – customer’s fridge, shelf, bag. Among my respondents there were ladies who kept good-looking empty boxes and used them as mirrors. In the recession times, some brands sell refills (e.g. a powder palette or a cream bowl to insert into a pack instead of empty one), sold at lower price than the whole box. It means they are sure that their packs will stand the bag competition.

OK, choosing cosmetics is a complicated process, based on brand, color, smell, texture, personal skin qualities, recommendations, previous experiences, etc. And we are ready to sacrifice less important things. Nice package is only one of the incentives, not the most important one. But the longer “queen feeling” a brand gives us, the more we love it, and this is where package matters. Considering the wide choice of premium make-up we have now, it may make us stay with the brands. Isn’t it something that is desired by most brands – make current customers stay? Surely it is. Is it relevant only for cosmetics? Surely it is not. Then marketers should remember Eliza Doolittle: The difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she's treated.

(Picture by Arthur De Pins)

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