By Gavin Collier
Hundreds of new beauty products launch every year in the
more than $500 billion-dollar cosmetics industry. As of this writing, there are more than 10,000 results on Amazon alone for the search term “lipstick.” Over 6 million Google results are returned if you look for “best skincare products,” and many of the results pages list 20+ individual products. And new brands pop up almost daily, creating niche areas such as clean beauty, green beauty, and highly personalized formulas.
To say that the industry is crowded is a serious understatement. It is daunting to create a new indie brand when you think about the overfilled shelves of every retail store. How will customers find your groundbreaking moisturizer or new lash-boosting solution? Clearly just setting up a website or even getting products in a local or chain store is not enough. What does it really take to stand out from the crowd?
The answer is both simple and incredibly complex. It all comes down to your brand identity. The way you brand, package, and merchandize your product can either make or break the consumer experience, which is the key to creating loyal consumers who will spread the word and generate the kind of buzz that you cannot manufacture, no matter how incredible and unique your products are. And while brand identity can make or break a cosmetics brand, it is just as important for other products as well.
Your brand identity matters
First impressions are so fleeting. It genuinely does not matter what revolutionary ingredients or fantastic new formulation you have come up with if you can’t get customers to purchase and try the product. Psychologists have found that people form a judgment about trustworthiness and attractiveness in less than one second, based on looks and instinct. That leaves no time to explain how beneficial your product is before you completely lose some customers. One look may be all you get.
Still unconvinced? An
Ipsos survey that found 72% of consumers are influenced in their purchasing decisions by the package design of a product. That number goes even higher—to 81%—when individuals are shopping for a gift. The millions of unboxing videos with thousands of views on YouTube demonstrate just how much people care about how their purchases look. More than that, they care deeply about the entire buying, opening, and consuming experience.
The bottom line is, your brand identity matters. Although many startups understand the value of smart branding, taking an idea from inception all the way to successful merchandising is never easy. You need a lot of preparation, a strong network of supportive vendors, workers, and colleagues—and a dose of luck—to make it happen.
There is no one right way to make the branding experience go smoothly, but there are steps you can take to boost the chances that your brand will stand out in the crowd.
Steps to improving your brand identity
1. Have a real plan
Business consultant and author Idowu Koyenikan said in his book
Wealth for All: Living a Life of Success at the Edge of Your Ability that “Opportunity does not waste time with those who are unprepared.” Many startups attempt to begin their manufacturing journey in the middle. Before they have a clear idea of who they are and, more importantly, who their target consumers are, they want to move forward with formulation and production. They are so excited about the core idea that it is hard for them to look at the beginning and end of their goals.
A real plan is so much more than the product. An overarching, detailed
business plan needs facts, figures, analysis, projections, and organization, but it also needs something more. A real plan should read like a story of what the brand hopes to accomplish for partners, investors, consumers, and communities involved. The details of how you get from where you are now to the final vision are crucial to eventual success.
Coming up with a brand name, logo, and letterhead is fun, but contrary to what you may think, those visual elements are not the entirety of a brand’s identity. Instead, the core of the identity should be what makes a brand and its experience different from all of the other choices already available on the market.
For instance, you may have a sustainability story to tell that’s based on the personal experience of living with pollution or seeing the impacts of climate change firsthand. Or your brand may stand out in the luxury category with state-of-the-art ingredients and packaging. Communicating these ideas has to be more than a paragraph on your website. Your brand story needs to ooze from every single decision you make.
Evocative imagery, the models or influencers you use, choice of color, shipping speed, any communications, and your social media presence all have to play into that same story. And they have to click and draw in the audience within that half-second window that you get to make the impression.
3. Progress, never digress
Customers expect the companies they interact with to keep up with their needs. As you formulate new products and offer new services to solve old problems, keep in mind that your brand has to always be moving forward. This means that you can’t fall back on cheaper packaging or customer service that does not get the job done.
Start with what you know you can sustain, quality-wise, and move up from there. Giving customers more than they are used to can create opportunities to increase profits, but degrading in quality can damage your reputation, which is something you may never recover from.
Your brand identity is important to your customers
As you consider your branding journey, remember that customers rely heavily on emotion when they make purchasing decisions. Your product has to work and it must deliver on the promises you make, but that isn’t the only thing that matters to your audience.
Buyers want to feel like they are part of a broader community, have shared experiences, and be elevated to participate in something that is truly special. Having a plan, finding that sweet spot that only your brand can fill, and continually moving forward are the keys to creating a brand that will not be lost on the shelves.