Yesterday, I opened up a can of wriggly worms by raising some issues and concerns relating to how a large skincare brand like Kiehl’s dealt with a problem affecting one of their newly launched products. In a nutshell, they pulled it, and as far as the brand is concerned, it ceased to exist.
I’m following up with updates on the original post, as (or if) I get the official word, so it’s all kept in one place. I’m not out to bash anyone – but the way things turned out was not pleasant, in my view, and I felt it needed to be highlighted. If you’re interested in new developments, you’d have to head back there.
Speaking for myself, as a consumer, I am always attracted by the new and shiny. That much we cannot deny, for it is only human. I may have 3 different cast iron Dutch Ovens, but I want another, because it’s a) such a pretty colour and b) on sale – just by way of example LOL 😀
With beauty products, as immersed and interested as I am with beauty, I am always keeping my finger on the pulse, as it were, by watching out for what’s new. We are all magpies, in one way or another. Manufacturers and brands recognise this of course.
They release a new product every now and again, so they can make a big song and dance about it, and remind people they exist. A new sunscreen, a new makeup palette, a new cream! Roll up! Roll up! Look what we have here that’s brand-spanking new?! Even with detergent – a new scent is released or a new formula. New, people, the key word is NEW!
And then, the first place it rolls out to is Instagram. People see the pictures, ooh and ahh over the shiny newness and pretty pictures, and run out to get one. Social media influencers are hired to coo over the new shiny products, and to tell people how ab-fab it is. There’s an observation that attention spans today are getting shorter and shorter. Twitter only has 140 characters in a tweet. Instagram only has a fleeting photo, Snapchat and Instagram Stories are gone in 24 hours. Everyone therefore wants to muscle in on the action – everyone wants to be seen in those fleeting moments.
But I can’t help but wonder if this might mean that brands aren’t taking as much care with formulating their products as they used to?
Do note that I am, by no means, tarring everyone with the same brush. I realise that brands are often carrying out research and development into their products, years before they actually end up on the shelf. Large conglomerates probably have a lab that they work with to develop new ingredients and formula and what we’re seeing today could be the product of years of research and development. Yet, have you ever wondered why or how so many diverse brands can release a slew of new products in their line-up featuring similar properties or even ingredients, within a short time?
In some large conglomerates, there is a trickle down technology e.g. L’Oreal owns Lancome and L’Oreal Paris. Back in the day it was detected that the popular Lancome sunscreen was remarkably similar to the L’Oreal Paris sunscreen, which cost a fraction of Lancome. Ditto other technologies. For a long time, I only used L’Oreal Paris, because it was very affordable, and it was known to contain technology also used in Lancome products, except maybe in smaller doses, and made available further down the road e.g. 2 years later after Lancome has made its killing in the market LOL! The same is true of other companies that own high and low end products, or even those who own luxury brands, like the Estee Lauder group. Often, I’ve noticed that a product launched in one of the brands, turns up looking remarkably similar in a different brand e.g. Estee Lauder Advanced Night Cleansing Balm and the Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm. Never forget that they are all in one family, and there is some form of technology transfer there.
However, I have also noticed that more and more new products are released, more and more quickly each year. Brands have to, to stay relevant, and to remain at the forefront of the consumers’ mind.
While I don’t quite care about how quickly makeup collections come and go, I do view skincare with a little more concern. Time was when you’d see just 2-3 new products from a brand in a year. Often, they’d be a reformulation or a variation on an existing formula. Brand new products don’t pop up as often. I’m told that this is because of the time it takes not only to formulate, but to test the product to ensure it’s safe for the general public.
Now, we may think that product testing is done with many people involved. I used to think, quite naively, that it involved thousands of testers. I’ve since learned that it can just be as low as just 20 people. 20 people test a skincare product, and the findings will show you that 98% of test subjects saw reduction in wrinkles. Can you believe that? The smaller your test pool, the less likely you’d meet someone who reacts to the product, and the more quickly you can push it out to the market to capture the market’s attention and market share.
I’m not saying that this is what happened in the case of Kiehl’s Pure Vitality Cream. For all I know, it went through years of rigorous testing, but still ran into problems. But I cannot get over how a product that is launched with huge fanfare internationally, disappears from the shelves in under 6 months without a peep from the company to its consumers and users.
As someone pointed out to me on Instagram, when a large company like Ikea faces problems with their products, they do a product recall. When Samsung had the Note 7 exploding like fireworks last year, they eventually did a product recall. When Japanese brand Kanebo ran into issues with their whitening skincare, they issued a public apology and recalled their products. Of course the company’s reputation takes a hit, but at least they’re transparent and take accountability for their products without sweeping it under the carpet.
I’d like to think that if a product has so many issues with it, which merits a total clearance from the online store record of the company, and is told to me that the sale and distribution of the product is suspended pending resolution, consumers should be told about it, if not have the product recalled. Where’s the accountability?
So what I’m wondering here is this – is the chase for new products, and pandering to the consumer’s thirst for everything bright, new and shiny, more important than proper formulation of skincare products? Are we seeing, or will we be seeing more substandard products being released, just to fuel that hype and to give people the buzz of the new factor? A lot of new limited edition makeup falls short for me in terms of quality as well, as compared to those released as a permanent feature. It sometimes feels like brands just release a new product, or a new limited edition makeup item, just to remain relevant. In reality, to remain relevant, all they have to do is produce good quality products.
What say you? Has this crossed your mind?
We need to slow down, people. Take a breath. Get off that treadmill of consumerism and chasing everything that’s shiny and new. Brands have to create some new but better products. Test them properly and keep them safe. I’d rather a brand release a new product that is truly new, effective and safe in a year or two, than a new product annually, that looks good but is really just crap. And really, I’m seeing much more of the latter than the former these days.
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ML Chan says
Well, I think you’ve just answered your own question. Well argued, counselor. I couldn’t agree more and thank you for the gentle reminder – we could all do with one, now and again!
Paris B says
Heh, thanks I do think the current world of disposable products is leading to disposable skincare too 😛
Absolutely. I also think that with the “influencers” willing to hype up and decorate any and every product they get for free, plus those trips I see them going on, it’s become easy and ridiculously cheap for brands to push out products way faster, as well as sell them faster. It’s a win-win situation and the actual consumers are the ones that suffer when the product is crap.
Paris B says
Oh Indya, I hear you! I don’t follow many big name influencers so I don’t often see the trips they get sent on, but I eventually come across it, and my jaw drops. I guess the thrill of going on a fun island trip outweighs critique of a shoddy product. And not to mention, the costs of that sort of promotion and advertising gets pushed to the consumer, who just wants a good product, but is sold a mediocre one, fueled on hype instead.
I also commented about recalls in my comment in the Kiehl’s post, and I think that would be better instead of doing things without people really noticing.
I agree with you: I prefer just a few launches but with real quality, not things every month but that won’t work as good as they should, people may call us snobs but we’re applying them on our skin.
Paris B says
With skincare I don’t think it’s necessary to actually reformulate every year. For most of us, we only go through one tub or bottle of product in 3 months or more. We may buy, at most, 2 bottles before it’s reformulated and really. If it’s good, as first advertised, why the need to “make it better” just a year later?
Evan Chang says
Yeah I would have preferred them to recall the products instead
Paris B says
Pity they’re adopting a hands off approach 🙁
In this era, almost everyone expects everything to be instant. Brands are aware of it and keeping abreast by churning out more and more items. At the end of the day, it’s all about money. Buyers want instant gratification, brands are cashing in. Win – win situation. Re Kiehl’s. If Kiehl’s is truly concern about their buyers, they would have make an official announcement about the product recall. I don’t see / feel their sense of accountability, integrity and ethics in this Pure Vitality cream case.
Paris B says
I often wonder if this case for the millenials will eventually hurt the brands more than help. It’ll be interesting to observe in any case. I get the need for instant gratification but at the same time, I do think it’s primarily an American thing. The Europeans have a longer history with taking care of their skin and understand how skincare works. The Americans have a different, more instant approach to beauty, which is why plastic surgery still thrives there. Asia is just mostly trendy, if you ask me. The Japanese have a more solid approach, but the Koreans are as guilty of instant gratification as anyone else. But that’s just my perception and I tailor my skincare accordingly 🙂 As for Kiehl’s, I’m closing doors to them for a while. The way this was handled left a sour taste in my mouth.
I don’t like it when brands keep upgrading their formula, replacing the old version. To me, this sounds like their previous formula was not good enough, that they need to keep adding other ingredients to it, every other year. I mean, if it’s good, why change ?! Upgrading is like an annual event… This is part of the reason why I stop using Clarins.
I prefer those brand that are proud of their formula that the product remain the same as it was launched some 10/20/30 years ago.
Paris B says
In many cases, I don’t even think it’s an upgrade, but a downgrade 😛 I hear you about Clarins. My perception of the brand took a dip when I noticed that they changed the formula of their whitening products almost annually, and then totally did away with their key ingredient altogether! They’d been selling the story for so long that to remove it from the product formula was mind boggling. I think they fuss less with their other products than they do the whitening range. At least I don’t hear of any new formula (or I don’t pay attention LOL!) I am all for upgrading and reformulating a product to keep up with the times, but not annually please!
Victoria Shanti says
I could not agree more with your post. I read your post on the Kiehl’s issue & I cant believe a brand as well known as them would pull a stunt like that. They have certainly lost a lot of goodwill among their existing customers. I hardly use their products so no great loss to me anyway ?
Paris B says
It’s certainly put a dent in my confidence in the brand, and also in their new products. Oh and the way they handled the issue was appalling. Poor PR all around, and shoddy work IMO.
Agree. The constant introduction of new products is just exhausting and most of them are just variants of what’s already out there. Boring! This is probably why everyone got so excited about The Ordinary –they’re doing something genuinely new and innovative. It’s also really frustrating as there are some really interesting skincare ideas coming out of Asia that it would be great to get my hands on.
Paris B says
The Ordinary certainly shook things up in the skincare world! But now that Estee Lauder has got their paws in it, who knows how it’ll pan out. While I have not had the best of luck using the brand, I think it’s great that it makes active skincare affordable for the majority. Funny you should mention Asian skincare. I live here, and Asian skincare just doesn’t do anything for me LOL! Greener grass and all that, I guess 🙂