Saturday, December 24, 2011

A word on packaging, and why it matters

Dear Makeup Companies of the World,

Hi there, how's it going?  Not much new with me, save that I've been doing a lot of experimenting with your products over the last year, and have come to some conclusions about packaging that I feel compelled to share with you.

Packaging matters.  Not only does an attractive compact or case attract a busy shopper's eye in a crowded display, but it affects the way we as consumers use your products.  Case in point, Benefit blush:

Benefit's packaging definitely stands out from the crowd on a store shelf--I don't think I've seen another brand using anything similar--but the way one has to hold the box and brush in order to use the product is less than lovely.  When one uses Sugarbomb, or one of your other multi-colored shades, it requires a not-insignificant amount of physical dexterity to sweep the brush evenly around the face of the pan in order to pick up an even amount of each shade.  It's awkward, and while I like the product enough to keep it in spite of this flaw, it will make me think twice about purchasing another blush from your line.

Moving on to a design that works, let's examine the Naked Palette, and Naked 2

*sigh*  Urban Decay, you rock so hard.  As much as I love Naked 1, Naked 2 has stolen my heart, at least in part due to the really solid packaging upgrade.  From a luxe (but easily dirtied) velvet box closed with hidden magnets to a solidly constructed metal casing that snaps closed tightly but isn't difficult to re-open, you've managed to make an already appealing shadow collection even more desirable.  What's more, you upgraded the mirror to run the full length of the palette, which is incredibly helpful on-the-go or while traveling.

There's no awkwardness about the Naked Palettes, and that's really saying something given how difficult-to-use certain other palettes are.  Say, for example,

the Tarte for True Blood palette.  It's lovely, sexy, and visually stunning.  Everything that compelled me to buy this palette in the first place still screams at me from my vanity every morning, but actually using the shadows is a lot less fun than it should be. 

For one thing, they're all crammed together to the point that cross-contamination happens even when a shadow has barely been touched.  Plus, due to the way the shadows are organized, you're not just contaminating one or two adjoining shades--there are 4+ other shadows touching each pan here!  Doubleplus, the organization of this palette makes it difficult to figure out which shades should pair up together.  Some connections are obvious, but others...not so much.

And then there's the product that is priced high, but whose packaging feels like something out of Rite Aid.  Not to knock drugstore cosmetics at all--there are wonderful drugstore products out there--but in terms of a compact's feel, there's typically a big difference between a Sephora-level product and a drugstore one.  Tarte's Amazonian Clay blushes don't seem to know this, though, because in spite of their steep $25 pricetag and amazing quality, the compact feels $3.99 in my hand.  It's cheap, flimsy plastic that I seriously doubt would do much to protect the pan if it was dropped (please correct me if I'm wrong here--I have no desire to test this theory on one of my own blushes) and is difficult to open to boot.  No $25 compact should require me to sacrifice intact nail polish just to open it up.

And yes, Bobbi Brown, I'm also looking at you here.  Your Party Palettes are ridiculously difficult to open.  I use them plenty, so it's not a matter of breaking in the closure--there's a design flaw here that needs examined.

My point being, packaging matters.  I know you know this, and I know that you probably run zillions of focus groups just to figure out what kind of packaging will appeal most to consumers.  The emphasis on curb appeal to new buyers has to be balanced with usability for those of us who've already purchased the product, though.  Because when push comes to shove, I'm not going to spend another $40+ on a Bobbi Brown shadow palette next season, especially when I don't use the ones I have as often as I might due to packaging issues.

In conclusion, PACKAGING.

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