China Insights

Trends, action points to build personal care brands for future

Doreen Wang

Global Head of BrandZ

Brands 21.07.2019 / 18:52

Purple waves

In a category where brands are struggling against commoditization, leading personal care brands are exploring their options.

According to the BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands 2019 Ranking report, the combined brand value of top personal care brands rose 2% from a year ago, slower than the average 7% growth for the total Top 100 brands. Many personal care brands are struggling against commoditization and battling for shelf space, leading brands are exploring options to fuel and/or renew their continuous growth.

Below are six global trends for personal care brands and seven action plans for their brand building strategy.


EN Brand Z Personal Care Top 15

Trend 1: Sustainability and inclusivity

In a major category sustainability initiative, Procter & Gamble Co., Unilever PLC, and Colgate-Palmolive Co. were among global companies partnering with TerraCycle, a New Jersey-based recycling company, to test an initiative, called Loop, to reduce single-use packaging with a recycling system designed to combine sustainability with convenience. Products are distributed in containers that are picked up from the consumer when empty and refilled.

Major personal care brands and retailers also participated in an effort to create common indicators for evaluating brand sustainability practices. Among personal care brands launching product innovations to promote sustainability were Head and Shoulders shampoo and Ren, a skincare brand. They introduced bottles made from plastic waste collected from beaches and the ocean.

Pioneering brands are also driving the expansion of diversity. They widened their embrace of diversity to include transgender models and online influencers representing many different ethnic backgrounds.

Revealing how the personal care category is changing, the start-up Fluide calls itself “makeup for him, her, them, everyone.” Rihanna’s newly launched brand Fenty Beauty is “Beauty for All”.

In addition, changing visions of beauty emphasized cleaning and maintaining skin, and accepting naturalness, rather than covering up perceived imperfections with makeup. Garnier and Dove benefited from the consumer concern with skincare as an aspect of overall wellness. 

Trend 2: Natural/Organic

An emerging trend among global personal care brands is to emphasize not what’s in the product, but what’s NOT in the product. This is an effective approach to build a natural and organic brand image, both of which can drive the brand into the premium brand tier and support its premium price.

The BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands 2019 Ranking showed that the combined value of the top personal care brands grew 2% from a year, and it was contributed solely by premium brands: the combined value of mass brands dropped by 4%, while that of premium brands jumped 14%.

EN Luxury Vs Mass Brand Value Growth

Trend 3: Technology innovation

Technical innovations can improve product efficacy, and at the same time contribute to brand value growth.

Japanese brand Shiseido launched its Internet-of-Things technology powered personalized skin care network Optune. It was formed by five types of lotions, a lotion dispenser machine, a smartphone app and a cloud-based computing system. Consumers can upload pictures of their skins through smartphones to have them analysed by the cloud-based computing. They can also choose their mood on the dispenser. The Optune system will combine these inputs with the current time (morning or evening), outdoor UV reading and weather trend to automatically mix the most suitable lotion to be dropped into the palm of consumers.

In this year’s BrandZ ranking, Shiseido also became the fastest growing major personal care brand in the world.

EN Shiseido Brand Value Performance

At the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show, L’Oréal introduced a wearable called My Skin Track pH, designed to help consumers anticipate, and prevent, dryness and other skin conditions. L’Oréal acquired Modiface, creator of augmented reality mirrors for applying makeup virtually in-store or with a smart phone app.

L’Oréal also introduced My UV Patch, a wearable sensor that monitors exposure to the sun. In a more discrete option, L’Oréal also offers a UV-monitoring fingernail decal. Using artificial intelligence to analyse uploaded photos, the Olay Skin Advisor app estimates the age of the user’s sink and recommends a personalized product offering.

Trend 4: Balancing personalization and simplification

Many of the challenger brands, particularly in skin care, originate in South Korea. Paradoxically, these brands often introduce complicated, multi-step skin care processes at a time when time-pressed consumers are attempting to simplify their lives.

Some of the large luxury brands are creating products that attempt to resolve this tension between hyper-personalization and simplification.

Clinique recently launched a hydration system, called Clinique iD, that includes several moisturizers to which the consumer, choosing from one of five cartridges, adds the formulation that matches the specific skin need.

This innovation potentially reduces packaging and the number of variants on a retail shelf. Reducing shelf packaging and presence even more are super-simplified products that promise to take care of all skincare problems for a super-premium price. Also, some start-ups are introducing simplified products appropriate for variations in types of hair within ethnic communities or within mixed households.

Trend 5: Direct-to-Consumer

It used to be that brands telling consumers what they should use. But now, consumers have turned the table around and are telling brands what they want to use. Kantar’s research has found that US consumers trust product reviews on more than big brands’ messages.

As the penetration of e-commerce continues to rise, brands can get more and more information about consumers. But at the same time, how to responsibly collect these data, how to innovate new products based on these data and insights that consumers really want (Direct-to-Consumer model, D2C/DTC), and how to directly communicate consumers about these new products have become a new battle ground for brands.

Trend 6: Offline retail spaces

Even as the Internet becomes a central destination for beauty consumers, mass retailers are attempting to become beauty destinations by resetting their beauty and personal care departments and including technological, value-added services to provide help and advice.

Brands have invested more in high-touch make-up-counter diagnostic tools not just for make-up colours, but also for skincare. Because it can be difficult to create this experience in traditional retail outlets, some of the consumer package goods companies are creating pop-up stores that feature this technology.

So maybe offline retail is still a very promising major channel for personal care category.

Seven brand building action points for personal care brands:


It is not necessary to communicate a higher purpose, but the consumer will expect the business to be driven by some direction other than making money alone.


Look outside the category for new ideas. Look at food, at healthcare, and particularly at technology brands that are harnessing data responsibly to meet consumer needs in a more personalized way. Be transparent and offer a fair value exchange.


Explore greater use of artificial intelligence, in collaboration with social media partners, as a way to engage, entertain, and educate consumers who are looking for advice about beauty and personal care. These are additional touch points to build — and monetize —consumer relationships.


There is no one-size fits all. Brands are attempting to simplify and personalize their products, while also reducing their environmental footprint. Some consumers are willing and able to pay a premium for these benefits.


Incubate. Experiment on a small scale. The major brands have much more data than the start-ups and should have a clearer picture of emerging consumer trends and an informed point of view. The opportunity, compared with an ankle-biter brand, is to use those insights to build scale.


Learn from the ankle-biter brands, but do not overreact. Panic is not a productive reaction and overcorrecting can be costly and wasteful. Focus on the brand’s core strengths and build community around those. More and more online start-ups are moving into physical retail, which suggests that where big brands began is not such a bad place to be.


Innovation is critical. It is also a buzzword, its meaning diluted from overuse. Do not abandon innovation but reframe thinking around innovation. Start with thinking about the future of your category and your consumer. Have a vision of where the brand needs to be in two or three years. The right approach for getting there depends on the company ambitions, internal mandates, structure, and appetite for disruption. Possibilities include incubators, partnering with a start-up, and co-venturing opportunities. 

Source: Kantar

Editor's notes

* The BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands report and rankings, and a great deal more brand insight for key regions of the world and 14 market sectors are available online here. The Global report, rankings, charts, articles and more can also be found via the BrandZ app. The BrandZ app also contains the same features and functionality for all BrandZ regional reports and is free to download for Apple IOS and all Android devices from or search for BrandZ in the respective iTunes or Google Play app stores. 

* To reach the author, or to know more information, data and analysis of brand consultancy in China and other parts of the world, please contact us.

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