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Refining Your Clean Beauty Product Development Strategy

Beauty and cosmetic marketing guru Karen Young, CEO of The Young Group, is a strategic advisor to The Clean Hub, helping indie brands avoid the pitfalls of product development by “roadmapping” key steps to ensure success.

Karen’s global consultancy firm provides consumer trend driven product concepts to many large beauty companies as well as helping start-ups enter the market.

Participant brands on The Clean Hub’s accelerator program which is tailored entirely towards clean beauty brand scalability, receive Karen’s expert advice on designing a distinctive product development strategy.

So, what does this course involve, exactly? Karen says her Product Development tutorials help brands identify their unique selling proposition and then translate that into developing products, using a step-by-step process aligning strategy with operations.

“We focus specifically on the product development piece and explain in detail the steps, the pitfalls, and the questions you need to ask when determining your business’ strategy,” Karen says.

“We share information about costs and formula requirements – and in the case of clean beauty, there are a lot of ingredients you don’t want to use. Indie brands need to be very careful about getting their product development protocol established early on. It is a major differentiation point to competitors who are not focused on natural or organic elements.”

Using silicones as an example, Karen says a lot of natural or clean brands don’t want to use silicones, despite the fact they are a great skin protectant and have a “very distinct skin feel”, thus bringing a certain characteristic to a product.

“So, if you want that soft, powdery, cushiony feel to your product, but you don’t want silicone, it could be quite challenging to produce those aesthetics and this needs to be reflected in the strategy,” she says.

“We go through all the details for creating the formula, selecting the packaging upfront, exploring all steps that a start-up will need to set up smooth operational processes.”

Karen’s career spans many years in the beauty industry – at Estée Lauder, Lancôme and now running her own consultancy. She now provides consumer trend driven product concepts to many large beauty companies as well as helping start-ups enter and navigate the market.

This in-depth experience has allowed her to gain many valuable insights – both at the ‘big end’ of town working with brands such as L’Oréal, Unilever, and Neutrogena Cosmetics, but also with smaller indie brands who face their own set of challenges getting noticed in a highly competitive space.

With more than a thousand indie brands launching each year, The Clean Hub aims to cut through the noise and give brands the best chance of success – expert advice, networks, and a community offering support and guidance relevant to the clean beauty sector.

“There are so many indie brands launching each year and most founders don’t come from the beauty sector at all, funnily enough,” Karen says.

“They have little understanding of the processes involved to build a brand and grow sales. There are library formulas that work, but if you’re creating ‘clean’ approach, which of course most of the indie brands are, they’re doing this uniquely and that is hard.

“There is likely to be a certain story to the brand, the packaging may be sustainable or cleaner, so that winning combination or those ingredients doesn’t come off the shelf ready-made – it takes immense development time.”

Karen advises that the standard lead time is about four months to source raw materials and convert them into a usable formula.

“You need to have that formula first and it may take a few tries to get that profile of the formula right, then you test the product, and you can’t place the order or packaging or raw materials until that is all signed off,” she says.

“Product profiling can sometimes take months to get right – it’s a process and understanding those steps in context with clean beauty is what we’ll be focusing on with our Clean Hub clients, giving them insights, knowledge and tricks of the trade to save time and energy for other priorities they undoubtedly juggle.”

Karen Young launched The Young Group in early 1999, based in New York City. It has grown into a highly successful business. In 2005, The Young Group opened an office in Paris. The Young Group offers brand and marketing strategy, sensorial product training, consumer trend tracking, product development and market analyses in all categories of beauty. Karen offers her industry expertise, energy and strategic perspectives to The Clean Hub participants, teaching the Product Development course which is available online, with additional one-to-one consulting services to brands requiring extra support and guidance. For more information: www.thecleanhub.co.uk 

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