Cosmetic Innovation – From discovery to product

The cosmetic industry is mostly run by the marketing group.  They are primarily the ones responsible for developing new product ideas, testing them with consumers, coming up with ad copy and deciding on what the product looks like.  Unfortunately, this relegates the people who actually make the product (cosmetic chemists) to workers executing a plan.   I understand how this happens as the first purchase of any product is a result of the marketing much more than a result of the functionality of the product.  However, I don’t think things in the cosmetic industry should be like this.  I believe that cosmetic chemists should take the lead in coming up with new product ideas.  You should be responsible for developing the best ideas your company has to offer. wasabi toothpaste

Become an Inventor

There are a number of reasons that this doesn’t happen more.  The primary reason is that in college scientists are not taught to think about the world in terms of practical products.  We spend our time researching esoteric questions that have little practical value.  We focus on a fraction of a problem and give only a cursory thought to the application of technology.  In colleges and universities, this is great.  In industry, it’s not.  While working in an industry you have to become an inventor.

Coming up with new product ideas can be challenging for most people.  The way that most cosmetic industry marketers (and all marketers probably) come up with ideas is that they look around and see what the competition is doing.  They see that Moroccan Oil products are selling well, so they look to develop a Moroccan Oil product.  When “natural” products started to gain a significant market share everyone wanted to start selling all-natural cosmetics.  This me-too approach can be effective but it’s not something that scientists are uniquely qualified to do.  Anyone can come up with a me-too new product idea.  The scientists of the cosmetic industry have to be different.

Science to get new products

As a scientists you are in a unique position to find new product ideas in places that most marketing people would not look…scientific journals.  You should be constantly monitoring science journals to find inspiration for ideas that may lead to the next new product idea.  It doesn’t have to be a “breakthrough” technology, just a different one.  Your company thirsts for different ideas.  They want ideas that are different from their competition.  As I said, most ideas are just copies of what someone else is doing.

Here is an excellent example of how a technological discovery lead to the development of a new product idea.

In this article it was reported that Japanese researchers discovered that Wasabi has the potential to reduce the chances of getting tooth decay.  This was first reported in 2000, fourteen years ago.   Why has it taken so long to get turned into a product?  I have no idea but it could be that the marketing group didn’t know about it.  The science group should have.

Anyway, the discovery has finally been turned into a new product, wasabi toothpaste.

Now, I don’t know if it will be a successful product.  The success of a cosmetic product idea is rarely a function of how well the product performs.  It’s more related to how well it is marketed and timing.

Method for new product ideas

But the development of this product demonstrates a way that a cosmetic formulator can come up with a truly unique idea.

Step 1 – Keep constant review of scientific discoveries.  A great source for that is ScienceDaily or Eurekalerts.  Cosmetic things typically fall under the Health and Medicine category.

Step 2 –  Bookmark any article that has the potential for a new product.  I use Evernote to bookmark relevant ideas.

Step 3 – Do a weekly review of these articles and come up with new product ideas based on the technologies.

You can save these ideas for later to be presented at a brainstorming event or start working on prototypes.  Even if your company doesn’t want your idea that doesn’t mean you won’t find some use for the idea later in your career.

Remember, you always work for yourself.

Never stop innovating.

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