Avon’s beComing: A Development Odyssey

By Janet Herlihy Editor

When Avon set out to create the upscale beComing line, the company decided to move outside its traditional procedures to develop a brand that would appeal to a wide range of consumers who would connect with the line in a retail rather than direct sales environment.

The brand, which currently numbers 370 sku’s, has so far rolled out in Avon Center store-within-a-store boutiques in 92 J.C. Penny stores nationwide.It is also available in the Avon Salon and Spa in New York City.

The company plans on expanding the beComing brand to additional J.C. Penney stores this year and is currently exploring other retail partnerships in the U.S. International expansion of the concept is planned for 2003, possibly in Mexico and Europe.

The Avon Centers, averaging 600 square feet of space, are located in high-traffic areas adjacent to the Penny’s women's apparel departments and are staffed with Lifestyle Beauty Consultants who are hired in a joint effort between Avon and Pennys and are trained exclusively by Avon.

After selling its products direct for 115 years, Avon developed the beComing concept to reach the millions of women who prefer to shop at retail and who are not current Avon customers.

Wanting all female consumers, no matter what age, to feel connected to beComing, Avon envisioned the brand as a process of growth and self-creation that lasts a lifetime. It is grouped into six lifestyle categories, corresponding to a woman’s changing needs.

“All women experience it (lifestyle changes), yet all women experience it differently,” said Marni Cassuto, Avon’s senior marketing manager, retail. “The categories have been created to evolve with a women’s journey through life...whether she’s committed to beComing Centered and balanced, Active and healthy or she’s beComing a Mom,” Cassuto explained.

Cassuto noted, “We have received extremely positive consumer response to the beComing brand and the various segments and brand positioning. People are very excited to see Avon in the retail environment.”

The development of beComing, from concept through production, took about nine months, according to Suzanne Eason, senior design manager for Avon, who worked on developing the packaging for the new brand. Eason explained that Avon has typically done all its design work in-house with its own engineers, but the company is beginning to use the services of outside suppliers in order to assure, from the beginning, that a particular design is actually workable. For example, Avon can go to an expert supplier of airless pumps to start with rather than designing a package before determining the specifications for a package using an airless pump. “It’s a way for marketing and design to know from the onset of a project whether or not it will work,” she said. Valois supplies the airless pumps for the beComing line.

The packaging for beComing communicates with soft curves and pastel shades that work well with the design of the retail environment where consumers can serve themselves or talk to the consultants. The line retails from $9.50 - $40, definitely a step up from Avon’s traditional direct-sale line.

For the fragrance products in beComing, Avon wanted to create an upscale look, and better quality involves higher costs, explained Eason. “Our greatest challenge was presenting the household name of Avon as a supplier of higher quality as well as a moderately priced product. The packaging for beComing is all custom, so that it would say ‘high end.’ The budget for beComing was more than usual allowing the designers to think ‘out of the box.’”

Numerous manufacturers are involved in supplying the various components of the packaging for beComing. A good example of the kind of collaborative effort it takes is the Sensational fragrance package. According to Eason, Saint Gobain Dejonqueres (SGD) molded the glass bottle in France, the cap is from C&N Packaging here in the U.S., Augros molded the plastic cap that encases the cap, the pump is from Risdon, the bottom label is by Ansel Label and the carton is from AGI.

Because the initial investment in the beComing packaging was so great, Avon is looking for ways to adapt some of the designs with a new color or finish and use them for other products. “The goal is to maintain corporate identity, maintain a strong line identity, create something new and balance cost with esthetic features,” Eason said.

For Avon’s traditional line, a goal of shortening the development time to market has been successful, according to Eason. The entire process of development has been streamlined to increase the pace from design to merchandising.