The last time we caught up with The Benchmarking Company’s co-founders, Denise and Jenn, they were prepping for a speaking panel alongside QVC’s Ellen Lennon, Director of US Beauty; Eve Pearl of EVE PEARL Beauty and Doris Dalton of Doll 10 Beauty at Cosmoprof NorthAmerica. The topic: “TV Home Shopping Culture: Is your Brand Camera Ready?” Central to that talk was the notion that today’s consumers have a “prove-it-before-I’ll-consider-buying” mentality.
The takeaway for brands? They must be armed with an intimate understanding of their consumer and marketable proof that the product works for “someone like me.” This winning formula spells success on QVC or across any marketing channel.
“Brands know they need to stand out among the competition. It’s not enough to have a unique product; companies must also have stellar, standout claims that tell the story of how consumers find its product superior to others on the market,” explained co-founder Denise Herich. “Being able to prove that a product does what it says it will do, through a beauty product testing (in-home consumer use testing) methodology likes ours where we put products in the hands of consumers to gauge their honest opinions, is priceless.” Claims like ‘95% of women preferred the vibrancy of a brand’s at-home hair coloring over their regular salon color’, or ‘97% of women felt this concealer perfectly covered their facial dark spots’, gives a brand a huge advantage when women research products before they buy.
But make no mistake, all consumer use tests are not created equal. What TBC offers is both a unique process for targeting would-be brand evangelists and an unbiased eye toward claims that will both resonate with buyers and be acceptable to regulators. And importantly, because research is TBC’s sole focus, competing interests don’t flavor the outcomes.
Some of those outcomes are explained by a few of TBC’s clients, as well as a cosmetics claims regulatory expert.
Nearly two ago, Patchology Founder & CEO, Chris Hobson, asked The Benchmarking Company to conduct a beauty product test for three of its facial masks and its Patchology FlashPatch Eye Gels. Although the company was already turning heads with its Patchology products, the addition of strong marketing claims resulting from tests conducted by a third-party independent research firm would serve as a strong proof point for retailers like Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman-Marcus, Nordstrom and HSN to promote its products and introduce the indie brand to consumers who were looking for new ways to solve beauty woes.
“The phenomenal claims that resulted from our tests with TBC are still in use today,” said Chris. “They’re on our website and we talk about them on-air. Claims like these help retailers market the benefits of our products while putting us center-stage among mainstay brands.”
The Benchmarking Company regularly conducts consumer perception testing for NARS.
“TBC is one of our go-to testing houses for conducting consumer perception studies, before our products hit the market,” said Remona Gopaul, Manager, Technical Information, SHISEIDO Group USA. “Their knowledge and expertise with consumer testing and regulatory compliance of claims have been an influential factor in our continued collaboration with them, especially for our global product launches. It’s refreshing to work with a research firm that is not only adequately educated on consumer testing but also one that will go above and beyond to accommodate all of our testing needs.”
Global electronics product leader, Panasonic, relies on the TBC’s testing expertise to understand its beauty device buyer. “We had engaged The Benchmarking Company to do both qualitative and quantitative beauty consumer research when we introduced a new beauty tool for the U.S. market,” said Lori Chiazzo, Consumer Marketing Manager, Beauty and Grooming, for Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company.
“The findings gave us strong user claims to use for advertising, serving as proof points that our products work well and that women found them valuable to fit their beauty needs. Additionally, we gained valuable feedback on ways we can potentially improve future beauty product introductions to meet consumer needs.”
Although powerful marketing claims can be a primary outcome of consumer beauty product testing, how brands communicate these claims is important.
“Cosmetic companies have really taken a hit in 2016 as the number of consumer class actions, FDA Warning Letters, and FDA regulatory actions have steadily risen,” said Ronie Schmelz, Esq., counsel at Tucker Ellis, LLP. “It’s really a shame, because with proper pre-market attention to the claims made, each of these actions could have been averted.”
Marketing words like recover, heal, restore, restructure, regenerate, and others, can be targeted by regulatory bodies that can spark a lawsuit. “When brands I represent conduct consumer tests for claims with TBC, I don’t worry,” she said. “TBC understands how to structure the tests to ensure the questions asked directly correlate to the claims the companies want to make, while not being misconstrued as being medical in nature. As I routinely counsel my clients, their money is much better spent doing consumer trials with TBC, rather than legal trials with me.”
Understanding what a beauty brand can and cannot say can be challenging for foreign brands coming to America. Elemis, Ltd., the UK mega-cosmetics brand, wanted to conduct consumer use testing among Americans to garner claims that would resonate with American women – yet be perfectly safe to tout on a regulatory front.
“There is no doubt that The Benchmarking Company helped us navigate the murky waters of acceptable communication as regards to consumer claims,” said Sean Harrington, President and co-Founder of Elemis, Ltd. “It was a delightful experience to put ourselves in the hands of industry experts and come out the other side with a substantial list of fully usable claims that will help us further sell-in and sell through.”
In the past year, the company has conducted global, in-language consumer quantitative studies and has traveled across the globe to conduct qualitative focus groups. They have nearly doubled their staff and their database of US beauty buying females has amassed 2 million unique opinions.
In addition to female panelists, TBC has developed a panel of male personal care buyers, and brands are taking advantage of the opportunity to poll men on concepts and product preferences prior to rolling out a new line for this burgeoning portion of the US beauty and personal care industry.
Finally, a very exciting upcoming offering – TBC will be developing a yearly subscription-based consumer research offering (beginning January 2017) for beauty brands, which will enable them to tap into TBC’s dynamic PinkPanel numerous times for customized research studies with short-turnarounds.
“The brands that we work with understand that consumer intelligence is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ but rather a ‘must-have’ for success,” says Jenn Stansbury, TBC co-founder. “There is nothing that thrills our team more than to see products we’ve studied catapult to the level of Sephora’s Editor’s Pick, QVC’s Buyers’ Picks or Beauty Bestsellers on Amazon. Again, it’s proof that proof sells product—and that brands that intimately understand their consumer come out on top.”
Jenn and Denise will speak on the importance of US consumer research at both CosmoProf ASIA Hong Kong next month, at CosmoProf Worldwide Bologna next spring, in addition to other US events.
To learn more about the importance of claims, check out our Beauty by The Numbers, a free infographic series offering unique research insights for beauty professionals.