Successful Cosmetics Packaging

We have recently conducted a piece of research for Making Cosmetics 2014 to demonstrate how using multi-sensory research techniques, to understand the rational and emotional needs of cosmetics consumers, can provide the basis for bringing better and more successful cosmetics packaging to market.

The Process

Our methodology involved recruiting screened, creative and visually eloquent respondents for a two stage development and deep interview process. We examined associations drawn from a range of sensory experiences, uncovered directly from consumers through a briefing and debriefing process, to gain a multi-sensory understanding of the consumer experience.

We then built a multi-dimensional picture of the associations manifesting themselves in the minds of the consumer by generating, developing and honing rich symbols and metaphors. The output included a brief for product, packaging and communications specialists based on deeper and more effective understanding.

The Nail Study

For this study we focused on nail polish. In this instance we were not dealing with the ‘What’ (the latest colour, technology or visual effects); our focus was emotional insight  –  why people polish their nails, and how it makes them feel – so that we could provide a platform of understanding from which new or improved consumer propositions could be built.


Nails may be at the periphery of the body but they are central to a sense of well being and self esteem. Cosmetics are typically an expression of femininity and are used functionally to highlight a woman’s best features while concealing her imperfections. As with facial cosmetics, nail polish provides a sense of ‘completeness’, an expression of personality, and an opportunity for perfection.

This sense of completeness goes beyond the functional to an emotional feeling of well being and happiness. This is largely because, unlike other cosmetics, they are always visible to the wearer.

In addition, well-presented nails showcase a woman’s personality.  They have an important social role in cementing female bonding by providing the basis for genuine and easily given compliments resulting in feelings of pride.

It is therefore not surprising that searching  “nail selfie” generates  59 million Google hits.

The Three Stages

Each of the 3 main stages of wearing nail polish generate different sensations and feelings.

  • Naked Nails – bare, untidy, worn out, vulnerable
  • The Painting Process – can be a source of impatience and stress, or comfort, relaxation and reflection
  • The Perfect Polish – groomed, confident, complete, feminine, professional, sexy, proud

Unlocking each can provide the basis for better packaging, products and consumer communication.

Tips For Cosmetics Packaging And Product Development

Pristine Presentation
To provide the flawless perfection desired make the product look pristine at point of purchase, before, during and after use.

Promise Fun and Freedom
Design sensory signals that can be used to trigger and help build the anticipation of a great night out and feelings of self worth.

Precise and Practical
Create product design that is easy to use and de-stresses the application process, with reassuring clicks and accurate and fool proof application.

Personality and Pride
Femininity in shape and texture are winning attributes. Polish is an enduring personal statement and the source of social status – making products and packs that reinforce gender assertion with detailing that make it feel like a valued personal possession are more likely to generate a lasting bond with the brand.

For more information on how to use consumer insight to improve performance in cosmetics markets please get in touch via

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