Research and development in colour cosmetics: speed-to-market at all costs?

Shortening time-to-market can be an undeniable success factor for make-up brands. Speed-to-market requires a good cooperation between suppliers and customers but seeking to increase speed should not be an end in itself.The race for innovation is a difficult and risky game. At a roundtable organized on the occasion of the last edition of MakeUp in New York – the event dedicated to the make-up industry suppliers –, which took place on 25 and 26 September last, three representatives of leading suppliers, Thomas Weckerle, CEO of Weckerle Cosmetics; Jim Slowey, Commercial & Marketing Manager of Baralan USA/Arrowpak; Stefano Castelletti, General Manager of Faber-Castell Cosmetics; Karen R. Young, an expert in the North American cosmetic market, President and founder of The Young Group, and a representative of a brand, Éric Bone, Corporate Research and Innovation Manager at L’Oréal, questioned themselves on the means and benefits of reducing the time-to-market of new products.(Fast-to-market. How to adapt to this reality industrially, logistically and legally)

The customer-supplier relationship

First observation, the best way to shorten time-to-market is to produce as close as possible to the place of consumption. Most suppliers provide a close support to their clients in key markets and strive to assist them in emerging markets like Brazil.

Regarding L’Oréal, Éric Bone explained that “the philosophy of the group is to develop brands from their country of origin.” Hence, Maybelline and Khiel’s products are developed in the United States, Lancôme products in France and The Body Shop products in the UK.

Second observation, the higher the exchanges between suppliers and brands are, the greater the chances for success are. For Jim Slowey, “the quality of the customer-supplier relationship is a key success factor to accelerate the time-to-market of new products.” For Stefano Castelletti, “time-to-market efficiency results directly from the cooperation between brands and suppliers.” To this end however, “the appropriate tools and communication processes need to be found”, said Eric Bone.

Suppliers are indeed subject to strong pressure regarding innovation. Undoubtedly, as stressed Karen Young, “pressure and competition make us all more creative.” But innovation has a cost and represents a risk for all stakeholders. “Placing on the market too many innovations at once, may turn out ineffective if some of them are not relevant to the market,” explained Eric Bone. Hence the prudence expressed by all participants vis-à-vis a “speed-to-market” approach at all costs.

The risks behind speed-to-market

“Sometimes, not going too fast helps not wasting time. When an innovation is not ready, it is important to have the necessary time to make it 100 percent successful,” confirmed Karen Young. Disruptive innovations, which require the heaviest investment and which are ones with the higher-risks are the first concerned. “The more a product will be innovative, the more the customer will be understanding” confirmed Thomas Weckerle.

For Eric Bone, L’Oréal, it is true that for disruptive innovations time-to-market is not the main issue. “On the other hand,” he highlighted, “when a trend emerges rapidly, as was the case with BB creams, there is no time to lose.”

In terms of innovations, brand owners and suppliers are sometimes faced with conflicting demands: rapid developments, product quality, adaptation to market needs, realistic development costs compared to expected gains over a short period. Because, as expressed Karen Young “the cosmetic industry is driven by trends, and continually renews its products, in the make-up sector, we consider ourselves fortunate when a reference stays two years on the marketplace.”

A situation summarized as follows by Stefano Castelletti: “You must e knowledgeable about your consumers, meet their wants and needs, and you must keep your promises.“ All this of course, with a particular focus on safety, by complying with current regulations and by taking into account the developments in scientific knowledge. This may still take a little time…