Marketing & formulation: Developing a successful relationship

Marketing & formulation: Developing a successful relationship

Whenever a beauty product is being developed, there are few things more exciting and enjoyable than the ebb and flow of the creative development process between the formulator and product developer. With brands wanting to launch at rapid speed, it is almost like a lost art to align ideas carefully.  However, when the forces of the two creatives are aligned, and the relationship works well, a remarkable product is born.

Let’s explore the attributes needed for a successful relationship

Michele Duggan is a brilliant colleague and industry friend that also happens to be a formulator. Through our professional relationship, she provided me with a rigorous education about the technical components of formulation and manufacturing.  Together, we developed at least 150 products with one of them being first to market, and there are few first to market products these days. If a product is truly the first to market, a legal search must be conducted to verify that claim, it cannot be called “first to market” based on hearsay.

Like all things that work well, it starts with the relationship. It is powerful to respect each other’s roles, whether in R&D or in Product Development Marketing.  A product development marketer wants to communicate the experience of using the product to consumers through product use.  We need a story to help the consumer walk through that experience. As a Formulator, the goal is to deliver on performance and aesthetics. The end goal of the combined roles between PD Marketing & R&D is to develop a product that is aesthetically elegant, offers benefits, delivers an experience and a story all while meeting cost guidelines and in the end – sells well.

Marketing Insights that complement the Formulation

You’ve decided to create your own beauty brand. Congratulations! Next steps? Here are key thoughts to keep in mind.


This is the beginning. What is the story that you would like to tell about your product?  Will it help reduce lines and wrinkles? Will it help moisturise skin? Will it help even skin tone? If it’s a colour collection, what is the shade line up?  How well will it wear? What will the package look like? What is the size of the package? What is the bulk target price of the formula? Whatever the product story is, take the time to really think about how you can communicate your product in three words. Use your creative power and write out the look, the texture, how it will feel on the skin, the colour of the bulk, what the experience is that you want the final user to enjoy and benefit from. Write out the claims of how the product will benefit the end-user. Offer your formulator as much detail as possible on the product profile so that they can envision your product as well.

Note: When writing claims, you will need to ensure that they are viable through clinical studies.  Make sure that you have a budget set aside for testing. In the beginning, just start with a wish list of claims. This is the list that you’ll be turning over to your formulator so that he/she will know how the product should perform.

The takeaway: Create a profile for your product.


It’s best to start with a benchmark formula especially if you have never developed a product before. A benchmark can be a competitive product that you like for the aesthetic application, a product that you like for end benefits, or a starter formula from a chemist’s library. The reason to have a benchmark available is that the formulator will know exactly where you want to land aesthetically with the finished product, how you want it to look, how it should be dispensed, etc.  A benchmark will streamline the process and take out a lot of the guess-work along the way, which can turn into hours of lab time and added expenses. The formulator will also be able to look at the ingredient list to get a better idea of whether the performance that you have in mind will match up to some of the materials that are in your benchmark formula. You can always make tweaks to customise along the way, but if it’s your first time starting out with a product, it’s easier to stay in close range of your benchmark target.

The takeaway: Have a formula starting point.

Ingredients or technology

Do you have to have the next best innovation or high-end technology in your formula to see a difference on the skin? Well, actually, yes and no. You can have a compelling story and great product performance by being very clear about what you would like the final formula to do. Let the formulator decide the primary materials to use as your formula base, and then if there is a technology or ingredient that you are particularly interested in, have a conversation with the formulator to see if the material is compatible in the base, and inquire about the cost of the technology. At the end of development, the full product will be tested for the performance that you are looking for, so don’t be guided only on the active ingredient as the workhorse in the formula.

The takeaway: Trust your formulator for product performance.

Formulation insights that complement the marketing

Congratulations! Your product is about to be developed! Four critical areas need to be addressed during the development of your product:

  • Aesthetics
    • Matching the marketer’s vision is for the entire product – formula and package
  • Performance
    • Delivering the desired performance attributes and proving that they can be perceived by the consumer
  • Safety
    • From microbiological to clinical safety
  • Regulatory Compliance
    • Ensuring there are no regulations prohibiting the sale of your product in your intended market[s]). Some formulators offer all of these services while others concentrate solely on delivering the aesthetics and performance and you will need to find other partners to conduct the performance and safety testing along with the regulatory review.

Getting Started

Discuss the written profile with your Marketing Product Developer for a complete understanding of the concept, aesthetics and performance attributes.  If a benchmark has not been identified, work with the Marketing Product Developer to identify concrete aesthetic targets since there are many ways to interpret descriptions of aesthetics like non-greasy, medium slip, tight or lacey foam and many, many shades of a colour.

You may be able to offer a product that you previously formulated as a starting point Identify “Must Haves” for the project and assess the degree of difficulty in delivering a project so that you can accurately estimate the time and budget for the development.  Lastly, set a timeline along with the number of submissions that you and your Marketing Product Developer will work toward.  After 1-2 submissions, you should know if the original vision can be delivered or if some aspects will need to be modified.

The takeaway: Discuss Details with your Product Developer

Prototype development

There are two important pieces of advice during this phase of your project.

1) Plan for setbacks. We all hope that things will go smoothly.  However, unless you’re making minor adjustments to an existing product, there will be hiccups.  Include time in your schedule for setbacks. They may be minor, such as a delay in the delivery of a key ingredient to the formulator.  Or they may be major, such as a formula failing stability testing at the end of the study requiring the formulator to make major changes.

2) Keep to your plan.  There will be a temptation to make changes to the aesthetics or add new claims.  Before moving forward with changes, you should identify how the changes will impact the completion of the project. Some changes/additions may be easy to accomplish and can be accomplished with minimal time and cost, while others may result in dramatic delays and cost overruns.  If the changes are major, the Marketing Product Developer may want to consider if the changes will result in a significant improvement in their brand and/or sales that is worth the extra time and expense.

The takeaway: Plan for setbacks and stick to your plan

Testing and regulatory review

After the Marketing Product Developer has approved the aesthetic of your product, you enter this last phase of development.  You should conduct less expensive tests and the regulatory review first, before starting the expensive safety, clinical and consumer use testing.  There’s nothing worse than running an expensive test and finding out halfway through that one of your ingredients isn’t allowed in your key market, Fail fast. Consider using quick screening methods to identify any big issues, such as stability testing at high temperatures or exaggerated use conditions in clinical testing.

The takeaway: Test your product

Enjoy the Journey!  There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing a successful product, one that you created and nurtured, on the market. Take time to enjoy your success and then… it’s time to come up with the next great product!

As you read through these insights from a different role perspective, you can visualize what each person is looking for from the other.  It’s pretty much a two-sided conversation!

Bonus point:

Hire an expert to help you.

Can you guide the development of a cosmetic or skincare product on your own? Sure, yes, you can. However, like everything else, is this really the one more thing that you want to add to your plate? If you want to get your product launched in a timely fashion, don’t hesitate to bring on the extra help you’ll need to source vendors, finalize the technology, develop formulas, speak in chemist language, or to use as a second eye for design, copy, and marketing.

Are you in the process of developing a new product? Take a look at how in-cosmetics Discover can help you find the perfect ingredients.

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Cherie Buziak, Founder of BeautyEdge LLC, is a cosmetic product development marketer, licensed esthetician, and publisher. She has a deep understanding of beauty product consumers and how to relate to them. Cherie‘s beauty industry experience and her eye for innovation enable her to leverage product impact for companies seeking an edge in the marketplace. BeautyEdge assignments include Amala Skincare, Amway, StriVectin, Skinfix, Bath & Body Works, Coty, Paris Presents, DDF, Noxzema, Omni Aesthetics, Rx for Brown Skin, and collaborative business development with in-cosmetics North America. Cherie previously worked with the innovation teams for global skincare and color cosmetics for Avon Products. Cherie is an active member of New York Society of Cosmetic Chemists and Cosmetic Executive Women. Contact Cherie at:

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