The R&D gurus over at P&G have come out with a new press release declaring that they’ve identified the sevens signs of aging hair. This made me think of the entire process by which research gets turned into products and then how it is used to sell those products. Every cosmetic chemist and formulator should know how this works because they may be called on sometime in their career to participate in these types of activity. It will also make it easier to interact with your marketing group and to protect the integrity of your discoveries.
Discoveries can be made in a variety of ways. Big companies like P&G have scientists who do basic research on things like skin and hair. These are usually PHDs who look at the biology or chemistry of ingredients on hair or skin. These people are separated from the formulators and usually don’t have to worry about the details of applying the research to an actual product.
Most companies don’t have this luxury so it is up to the formulator to come up with discoveries. These can be prompted by marketing. For example, your marketing group tells you to come up with something new to say about your hair products. Then you’ll go off and look at your formula to see if there is something unique you can say about it.
Discoveries can also come from raw material suppliers who might have new compounds that behave in unusual ways. Like the suppliers who once visited us with a technology that deposited sunscreen from a body wash product.
Or you might just stumble on some discovery like I did while working on
In the case of this Pantene discovery about the 7 signs of aging, I suspect it went the opposite way that research usually goes. They likely first heard these common complaints from consumers, then the market research people went back to R&D and told them to find some tests which proved that these were the 7 signs of aging.
Seven must be some magic marketing number because they also found the 7 signs of Aging Skin to go along with their Olay line.
No matter how you come to discoveries, you will inevitably make them during your tenure as a cosmetic chemist.
Shaping the message
Once you find something interesting, you’ll present it to your bosses who might eventually present to the marketing group or the decision makers at the company. To make this happen, you’ll have to shape the message of your research. Make it interesting to people who don’t naturally find science interesting.
Most importantly, make it interesting to consumers.
The way you do is to come up with a title or one line statement that quickly communicates your finding. You need to be able to easily explain why your finding is interesting and unique.
For example, when we found a common preservative could help hold color in hair better, we called it “Color Lock” technology. The folks at P&G called their new findings the “seven signs of aging hair”. Doesn’t quite roll off the tongue but it’s pretty good.
A good test to see if you’ve distilled your research down to the catchy core is to run it by your mom or other non-scientist family member. If they understand what you’re talking about, then your marketing people should (hopefully).
After you’ve got the buy-in from Marketing, the advertising people will take it on. Or you might go through market research to come up with a product concept. The point is, some non-scientists will get hold of your discovery and try to spin it in the best light. This is where you have to stay involved. Marketing will want to push the limits of what they can say. You need to ensure that they don’t go beyond what you can prove.
Publicizing the message
The next step in moving a discovery from the lab to the marketplace is the PR work. The advertising (or marketing) people will write press releases like the one from P&G published on Cosmetics Design. Then they might fly you out to New York to do desk sides. These are meetings with beauty journal editors. You present the technology and answer any questions they have.
You might even get the opportunity to be interviewed on the radio or TV so you better have a good understanding of the technology and the message you want to convey to the media outlets. This part is advanced cosmetic science and not something that people usually get to do until after they’ve been in the field for a while.
And that’s pretty much it. After a product launch or an advertising campaign, the marketing and advertising people will leave you alone. This gives you time to make new discoveries and to start the whole process all over again.