Ever since she started working for Avon Products, Andrea Jung, now chairman and CEO, has made it her mission to give the company’s cosmetic and personal care products a more up-market positioning. That commitment led to a new marketing strategy, an energized product line and a satisfying surge in sales around the world.
Through it all, nothing has been more central to the upgrade than packaging. About two years ago, the Avon marketing team decided it was time to change the look of the company’s flagship brand: the Avon Color family of lip gloss, moisturizing lip color, mascara and foundation products. The project was named Avon Color 2005, and the objective was to launch all of the products in new packaging simultaneously around the world in January 2005.
Initial direction for the new packaging color was based on a look and an idea synonymous with luxury and sophistication. The design team dubbed it “jaguar blue,” a rich, satiny blue with flashes of metallic sparkle. “All the packaging colors would be developed from that ‘core blue’ standard,” explains Elizabeth Santarelli, Avon’s design manager for global color, “with the goal being to present a harmonious, upscale visual statement in all our packaging.”
This directive follows a growing trend in personal care products, where color has traditionally been used to differentiate between SKUs (one color indicating that a shampoo is intended for oily hair and another flagging a formulation as being for dry hair). Today, though, color and effects are being used across the category to differentiate entire brands—to make a statement about the product line and the target consumer.
Jaguar blue was the color that would make that statement for Avon. But the global status of the brand meant that what used to be a simple color match was now a complex development project. The question for the global design team was how best to produce the color; how to match it in at least a half dozen plastic materials, processed in different countries on five continents; and how to do it all cost-effectively.
“Initially, we looked at some high-end iridescent flash effects,” recalls Carol Rodgers, the Clariant Masterbatches account manager who coordinated the project from the company’s ColorWorks center in McHenry, Ill. “They were gorgeous, but economically, not the right choice. So we hit on the idea of developing a proprietary blend containing several different pearlescent pigments. By using a variety of flake sizes in the masterbatch formulation, we had a much better chance to reach the design objectives of the brand. The smaller flake pearls helped create a satiny warmth, with a lot of depth, while the larger flake gave it a prestigious sparkle.”
An additional benefit of this particular combination of flake sizes is the fact that the blend offsets the tendency of pearls to show flow and knit lines, defects that can occur during the molding process and appear as “cracks” in the surface of the molded part. The multi-flake formulation chosen for the project creates a pearl “pattern” that is more random and gives the larger flakes more prominence and uniform distribution, which renders a visual effect devoid of any flow lines.
“After we had established our core blue,” explains Avon’s Santarelli, “we worked to develop a family of compatible colors to work in different product lines and in different countries.”
A medium blue was used for the brand’s Perfect Wear product line; silver was the color for Avon’s Beyond Color anti-aging line; and bronze was selected for the brand’s Arabian Glow range, which is marketed in Europe. Certain product categories also received a signature complementary color: dark grey was selected for some mascaras; white found its way into nail polish caps; and a champagne color was used in a liquid foundation bottle. Other colors were developed initially for international markets, although used to a more limited degree in North America.
Says Santarelli, “Once all colors and resins were approved by our global team, Clariant created color chips that we distributed internally so all of our global contacts had the proper references. On Clariant’s side, the information for each batch code was internally set up, so contacts at their regional operations had the information should an order come through for a certain color.”
Avon’s packaging materials posed a challenge for the project. The brand uses at least five different plastic resins in its Avon Color packaging—ABS, polypropylene, PVC, SAN and PET—and each material is chosen for a specific set of properties. In mascaras, for instance, four different materials are used. Regardless of where they are sold, mascara caps are made of polypropylene, and in many parts of the world, the barrels are PP too. But in the United States, waterproof mascara must be packaged in PVC; and in Europe the barrels must be PET. Other considerations include the need for the mascara packaging to match the complementary lipsticks and the compacts containing powders and eye shadows. These packages are made of ABS.
Each resin responds to color differently. “PVC and PET are transparent resins, and they can be colored relatively easily with pigments or dyes,” explains Clariant’s Rodgers. “Then you have polypropylene, which is more translucent and slightly darker in its natural state, and ABS, which runs from semi-opaque to opaque, in shades from grey to yellow.”
Rodgers says dyes won’t work in PP, but that they do work in ABS, where their solubility allows them to cover the whiteness of the resin better than a pigment.
On top of that, resins may have slightly different processing characteristics depending on where they are sourced, and molders have special requirements.
Globally, Avon introduces approximately 800 new products each year, but few of them are completely new. Most are relaunches, line extensions or introductions of an existing product in a new market.
Early on in the Avon Color 2005 project, the brand decided that, with so many product launches, it would be best not to make radical changes to the package shape or labeling. Costs would simply be prohibitive. Instead, they decided to use color and effects as the differentiator and the method to entice consumers to make a connection with the brand.
This strategy allows Avon the flexibility to make frequent changes without incurring the costs to cut new tooling or create and print new labels. Instead, color and effects are used to attract consumers with provocative, fashion-forward designs. And by using color that comes from a masterbatch, rather than pre-colored resin, the brand achieves these distinctive looks relatively easily, whether the manufacturing takes place in Brazil, France, China or the United States.
Since the new look was introduced early this year, response has been very positive. “Our representatives and their customers love it,” says Santarelli. BP
In our October issue, the PACK EXPO Connects preview will whet your appetite for its new virtual format, applying IIoT technology and analytics, cold cereal trends, marketing as a tool for packaging, exploring tomorrow’s packaging and more.