This edition of Industry Voices is very special as it features an individual that has been a big factor behind the success of the Canadian Cosmetic Cluster. Since meeting Lucas Nanini at the Cosmetic 360 Show in 2017, I have had the best fortune to have an extraordinary industry professional to support my cosmetic endeavours. Lucas Nanini the Co-Founder and COO of Noleo, has been in the cosmetic industry for over 10 years. He started his early days at P&G. He then followed their luxury cosmetic division to COTY. This year Lucas has left the cosmetic corporate world to make his own path in the industry with projects like NOLEO and the Good Face Project. In this segment, Lucas shares his thoughts on product innovation and development.
1. What brought you to the world of cosmetics?
I was doing an internship at P&G in Beijing, China in 2007. I was working on innovation for laundry products, for example; hand wash for the low-income market. Nothing could be further connected to the world of cosmetics.
One of the many challenges I experienced during this time was to understand why our bag of laundry powder (which we had just cost saved) was blistering over time. As I was putting together my design of the experiment, a French manager in Shanghai, Tanguy Pellen (who then became my boss a few years later), was visiting the Beijing office to review this project and the issues. At that time, P&G was launching a Gucci fragrance. There was a high level of detail on the packaging, and their challenge was to check if the Fashion House would approve the physical execution of what they would have initially put on paper (or how Art translated into Science).
Home Products and Luxury Fragrances are both incredibly complicated sectors of the cosmetic industries in their own right. But I loved the complexity that came from pushing the boundaries of aesthetics and artistic creativity more. This attracted me to luxury cosmetics as opposed to the challenges of manufacturing and cost-saving homecare products.
It has helped me however to know both ends of the spectrum, especially when looking at consumer-centric design and innovation.
2. What are the most important innovations in cosmetics of the past decade?
I have three that come to mind when observing the industry and what has been done in the last decade.
First, I really think L’Oreal made a bold move by entering the IoT space, and what they did with Le Teint Particulier. It was remarkable because it met an important consumer need around personalization. But more importantly, the work that L'Oreal is doing in consumer data collection is super smart: with this, you can design better product, but also work on predictive modeling tools; smart move.
Next, I simply cannot answer this without adding one of the products that I worked on. This product was the SK-II Magnetic Wand. I was working with the Singapore, and Japan team at P&G, to develop this applicator. And it was the first time in the industry that we looked at Physics (and more specifically diamagnetism) as a mode of operation for the driving of key ingredients into the skin, in addition to Biology (with the skin) and Chemistry (with our active ingredient).
Last, a worthy mention is innovations in Microbiome applications. This is something that is in my opinion instrumental in our next curve of innovation, and we have only scratched the surface (pun intended) in this space. I look forward to seeing what would come out of this field in terms of research and development over the next three to five years.
3. What should a startup cosmetic brand focus on when approaching innovation at a budget?
I will try to step away from general tips like “know your consumer”, “know the market”. You can google that and find that information from many sources.
Instead, I would encourage the startup to assess if this approach or technology is the “best” to solve this problem. By “best” I am not talking about performance. I want would like the startup to access the balance between performance, cost, limits in consumer habit change, and ease to scale.
It is important to remember to include in “best”: the team. Ask yourself do you have the legitimacy to drive this project? Is your business partner (don’t launch anything alone) the right partner with the right complementary skills? Are you clear about what is missing in the team and how you can compensate for that?
Last but not least, what is your “best protection”, or competitive advantage. It does not always mean, IP. It could be speed to market, supply exclusivity, claims and endorsement, etc…
The good thing about this process is that once you complete and analyze all these factors. You will be able to screen out 70% of your ideas, without spending any money.
4. What areas in product design are the most important to focus on?
Two things come to mind for me.
The first is safety. I can’t encourage anyone to create a product that may be performing well but is not safe (without serious backed up data). In the world of cosmetics, nothing is worth getting ill for. This is what has been driving my business partner Nico and I every day at NOLEO. For us, if an ingredient is not essential, it shouldn’t be in the formulation. Does that mean we may lose on sensory? Probably, but not always. Is this however something that will prevent people from buying your product? Absolutely not! It will all come down to education on how and why you have put together your product this way.
Secondly overall experience. It is so easy today to approach a contract manufacturer and get a product developed. Therefore, the biggest impact you could make for a consumer to buy your product is to make this link between the product and the consumer as strong as possible. This should be true throughout all the touchpoints, from brand awareness to product consideration, product purchase and product use.
It could be nice branding, a well thought out website, the right choice of words, a nice display in-store or online, and irreproachable customer service. Most of those are not coming at extra cost, it just requires to spend a lot of brainpower and iterative thinking to come up with the best version of this product on those touchpoints.
5. In your opinion, what areas of the cosmetic industry need the most innovation and redesign?
The first is IT and information management. We have been operating in an industry that is relatively slow in adopting the latest tools and technologies. This applied to product lifecycle management, product design, safety and regulation, product and consumer feedback tracking etc, … This is very far from the advances of industries such as financial (think fintech) food and beverage, or general retail.
In my opinion, a strong digitization effort is required. This is what my team was doing at COTY as we stepped away from paper, or local records, into cloud-based information management solution. This provided us with clean, structured and more useable data. Since I left COTY, I have been involved in a very smart project in the Good Face Project team, a female-founded tech start-up based in California. Their team is bringing their tech expertise to turbocharge and tidy how cosmetic formulations are made, and how product safety and regulatory assessment are performed. This will not only save the brands and suppliers' time and resources but more importantly, remove the risk of human error. This is what will help provide the best product (actual formulation and service) possible to the most discerning beauty consumers.
Canadian Cosmetic Cluster Team
Uniting Canadian Cosmetics and Bringing it to the World