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Science and Skincare: Marketing Research on Skincare and Supplements

<p>Research helps marketing efforts as consumers look for more substantiation, but skincare and supplement brands must ensure endorsements and marketers legally promote products.</p>

Science is a powerful factor in the skincare and dietary supplements industry. With a wealth of products marketed and sold on the merits of their research-based qualities, many consumers look to these features when selecting which products to purchase.

According to the Packaged Facts report “Nutritional Supplements in the U.S., 5th Edition," supplement sales are forecasted to reach US$15.5 billion by 2017. This continual growth has amplified the importance placed on ensuring the marketing of science behind skincare and supplements is accurate and correctly targeted.

With so many strands to this powerful industry, how are science and research playing their part in convincing consumers?

Independent Doctors vs. Researchers

Many skincare and nutritional supplement brands use the expertise and trust of doctors to promote their products. Having a qualified doctor or researcher as a spokesperson allows dissemination of a brand’s message from a credible source; skincare companies such as Dr. Sebagh use medical findings as part of their marketing and branding strategies. Supplement brands including Imedeen and Murad use a similar tactic.

As part of the creation process, chemists must vet ingredients prior to their inclusion in a formulation. Clinicians are also expected to ask companies where ingredients are purchased from, ensuring consumers can have access to the latest information on the products they are purchasing.

While the respect of a doctor has its benefits, there can be drawbacks. Practicing doctors may not be willing to recommend one product as the only option, particularly when they are expected to present a balanced perspective to maintain their own credibility within the medical field.

Similarly, many brands use the work of a researcher in the marketing of their products. Researchers can speak directly to the specific ingredient or products and as part of their work. They typically provide two types of research articles: a study report and a scientific review. The credibility of where they are published can benefit skincare and supplement brands that may use this as part of their branding strategy.

Researchers are also valuable when it comes to speaking with the media about the studies and claims behind specific ingredients. The doctors are able to speak to the published clinical research behind the ingredient, adding credibility to any articles about the ingredient. Consumers look to this kind of expert knowledge to build their trust in a brand, and product marketers appreciate the added credibility this provides.

Research reports from respected institutions can also help provide strong credentials for the industry as a whole. For example, Harvard University publishes its own Skin Care and Repair Health Report, where consumers and industry leaders can receive authoritative advice on skin care and supplements.

When marketing the particular ingredient of a product, marketers are often keen to promote its properties and benefits. However, the process can be different with publicizing a finished product. Consumers are likely to look at the formulation of the item as a whole and how its marketed benefits deliver results.

Educating Product Marketers on Research, Science

It is important that product marketers are focused on presenting the science about skincare in an honest way. Thirty-seven percent of customers say they only purchase products from brands they trust, making it vital for both credibility and sales that marketers avoid messaging that could put a company in danger.

Manufacturers have a legal responsibility to market supplements in a trustworthy manner, and FDA guidelines state that businesses selling dietary supplements can only take credit for bettering the overall health of an individual. Any labeling outside the claims of health, structure or nutrient content is considered a violation. Similarly, manufacturers and distributors must ensure all claims and information on the product label are truthful and do not mislead the consumer.

U.S. vs. Global Distribution

One of the challenges marketers face is the differences between geographical regions.

In Asia, consumers sway toward natural, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and dietary supplements, with the market drawing heavily on a wide range of traditional practices. In the West, scientific skincare taps into a long established tradition of complementary and alternative medicine.

In the United States, FDA has strict guidelines on how products can be marketed and the category they fall within. For example, cosmetics are “articles that are intended to be rubbed, poured, sprayed … or applied to the human body for cleansing [and] beautifying." The intended use would be established by claims stated on the product label.

For products sold in European Union countries, companies must ensure the labels have contact information for “responsible persons" in charge of ensuring product compliance and safety assessments.

Supplements face similar conditions. In the United Kingdom, supplements that may exert a “pharmacological, immunological or metabolic action" can be classed as a borderline medicine, and are subject to separate labeling legislation.

Lindsey Carnett is CEO and president of Marketing Maven, an integrated marketing and PR firm ranked nationally in the health and beauty categories by third-party ranking company O’Dwyer’s PR. She is a FOLIO Magazine 2015 Top Women in Media Rising Star and is noted for helping consumer brands with unique, clinically tested and substantiated formulations launched in the U.S. market.

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