Laura Mercier—Beauty Packaging’s 2012 Beauty Company of the Year: Excellence in Packaging
Beauty Packaging’s online readers voted Laura Mercier 2012’s Beauty Company of the Year: Excellence in Packaging. Here, we talk to beauty industry experts and the brand’s packaging team about the “marriage of package and product,” and how adding subtle changes to the sleek, simple packaging keeps true to the DNA of the brand while exciting the customer.
Written by Jamie Matusow, Editor
Laura Mercier may be in high demand as the makeup artist of choice for celebrity clients like Madonna, Sarah Jessica Parker, Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep, but she is perhaps most applauded by her masses of loyal customers, described as “affluent, sophisticated worldly women aged 25-50+, who are confident and embrace their individuality, who want to look their best, appear natural and authentic, not like someone else.”
Still a bestseller, the tinted moisturizer foundation product was recently released in a compact form that’s ideal for
This consumer profile reflects Laura Mercier’s ability and success in delivering her skills, formulas and tricks of the trade via a wide range of prestige beauty products designed to make “real” women look and feel just as beautiful as Hollywood’s leading ladies.
In fact, it’s Mercier’s belief that what makes each woman unique also makes her beautiful that led her to launch her eponymous brand in 1996, revolving around her concept of The Flawless Face—the idea that perfecting the skin is the first and foremost thing a woman can do to achieve a great look. Her first product, now iconic—and seemingly ahead of its time—combined makeup with skin care, and evolved into a four-step process, including primer, foundation, concealer and powder. Still a bestseller, the tinted moisturizer foundation product was recently released in a revolutionary new form that’s ideal for on-the-go applications.
World-renowned makeup artist and brand founder Laura Mercier.
Following her start as a fine artist in France’s Provence region, Mercier was drawn to cosmetics, and eventually swapped canvas for skin, preferring to bring women’s faces to life, rather than creating works for the wall.
After studying makeup design in Paris, Mercier relocated to New York City in 1985 when she was tapped by Elle magazine for its launch team. Word of her facial artistry spread quickly and she was soon sought by leading names in fashion and beauty. She launched her line a decade later when she couldn’t find the precise cosmetic products she was looking for. She introduced Secret Camouflage and Foundation Primer, and the brand took off.
Today, Laura Mercier Cosmetics is a global luxury line of cosmetics, skin care, fragrance and body & bath, sold in 27 countries around the world, with a strong presence in North America.
Laura Mercier is the flagship brand of Gurwitch Products, whose parent company is Alticor. (Gurwitch also owns and markets RéVive Skincare.) Key U.S. retailers for Laura Mercier include Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s and Sephora.
What makes the brand truly stand out, according to insiders, is Mercier’s passion not just for a flawless face, but for a seemingly flawless operation in which she takes a leading role in everything from developing the formulas to designing the packaging.
Claudia Poccia, president andCEO of Laura Mercier brand owner, Gurwitch Products.
Claudia Poccia, president and CEO of Gurwitch Products, says Laura Mercier’s involvement lends to the brand’s European aesthetic and sophistication. “It’s a true makeup artist brand with an engaged founder.”
She says, “Laura and her philosophy are at the heart of the Laura Mercier cosmetics brand. Since day one, Laura has been highly involved in product development and the in-store experience. What’s so exciting is that as the brand grows and evolves, it’s Laura’s inspiration that drives our vision for the future and keeps the brand true to her original intent.”
Poccia says that each Laura Mercier product empowers women to express and embrace their individual beauty. “We have found that Laura’s belief that, ‘what makes you unique, makes you beautiful’ resonates in every market around the globe.”
Alan Goolman, chief creative officer, Envisionary Brands, LLC, also credits the makeup artist, herself, for the success of her brand. He says, “It’s difficult to separate a brand like Laura Mercier into the individual components that make it what it is and try to put your finger on what makes it unique or why women respond to it the way they do. Easier to say is that what makes Laura Mercier Laura Mercier is how much the brand is a reflection of Laura herself—wildly talented, surprisingly unassuming, unbelievably committed to achieving the highest level of perfection and quite frankly lovely beyond words. When you add all that to the talent of the LM marketing, product development and training teams plus the expertise of the counter managers and in store makeup artists you get a Laura Mercier.”
Scott Widro, executive vice president of operations and supply chain, Gurwitch Products.
In fact when I recently visited the Laura Mercier counter at Saks, the highly professional and knowledgeable consultant enthusiastically described the line, pointed out featured products, offered advice on the best values and told me that the lovely names of the colors and fragrances reminded her of a French patisserie. She even called my attention to the sophisticated uniformity and clean lines of the makeup cases and typeface, and explained how certain items could be customized almost at whim due to interchangeable pans of color. When I relayed this wonderful experience to Scott Widro, executive VP of operations and supply chain, Gurwitch Products, he told me: “The strength of the brand is really in the sales representation—the people who rep the brand—and their being able to tell the story.”
And it’s an impressive story to be able to tell in a highly competitive category—one in which The NPD Group reported that total prestige makeup sales generated $3.3 billion January through November 2012, up 7% from 2011.
NPD’s vice president and global beauty industry analyst Karen Grant notes how packaging provides an overall theme for the Laura Mercier brand and makes it stand out at department store counters. “Laura Mercier’s line is a demonstration of cool sophistication with simple lines, clear glass, and rich chocolate casing that provide a great backdrop to highlight the array of colors in each collection.” She says that Laura Mercier continues to make its presence felt in the prestige makeup arena “with great product, packaging and on counter display areas, reminiscent of a makeup train case, which are open and inviting, encouraging the consumer to come, try and play.”
At luxury beauty retailer Bluemercury, founder Marla Malcolm Beck also finds that the brand’s packaging plays a key role in attracting shoppers.
“Elegant and accessible, Laura Mercier’s packaging makes a statement,” says Beck. “Our clients adore what the Laura Mercier brand stands for—makeup artistry results at home with chic uber-user-friendly packaging.”
While chic and simple, the packaging also exudes a futuristic, modern look and its color palette makes it stand apart from other brands in the prestige market.
Jonathan Ford, of international package design firm Pearlfisher, says, “I think it is a very future-focused and forward-facing brand but not in an obvious way. It remains classic and timeless and the packaging is never out of step with the current look and feel of the market.”
Virginia Lee, Euromonitor’s senior research analyst-U.S., points to the color as a differentiating factor: “Laura Mercier’s packaging stands out because its chocolate brown color is different from the usual black and silver.”
She adds, “The brand’s packaging is simple but offers some curves.” For instance, she cites the top of Laura Mercier’s Secret Concealer, which is slightly domed instead of being a flat surface.
At Mintel, senior global packaging analyst Dr. Benjamin Punchard tells Beauty Packaging why he thinks the brand’s packaging resonates with consumers, and offers wide-ranging appeal: “The packaging portfolio for Laura Mercier can be summed up as being simple beauty pack types that are high quality, well executed and sparsely decorated.”
He says the main positioning of the brand is of course its association with makeup artist Laura Mercier herself, who while having a celebrity following, has made a point of being accessible to consumers. “The use of simple and well-recognized packaging types speaks to this accessibility,” says Punchard. “By avoiding gimmicky moves such as unusual applicators or unexpected formats, the Laura Mercier brand communicates that these are products suitable for all consumers and not just the experts.”
He adds, “For the most part, the packaging range is decorated in only black and grey coloring. Decoration is kept to a minimum with the brand name being simply and unobtrusively included on primary and secondary packaging. This simplicity forces consumers to focus on the product itself, this being reinforced by the fact that brighter colors are only present where transparent glass or plastic shows directly the color of the product. As such, the packaging helps to tell the consumer that this brand is about efficacy, a well-made product that gives the consumer the effect they want in a simple to apply format.”
Punchard says that because another core positioning for the Laura Mercier brand is one of ‘flawless skin,’ “the high quality of the packaging ensures a clean and crisp finish that combines with the large amount of uncluttered clear space on the packaging to reinforce this idea in the minds of consumers.”
Though the simple pack formats leveraged by Laura Mercier are a common sight in the beauty aisle, he says the clear efforts to maintain a consistent visual language for the brand has ensured that Laura Mercier has developed a strong following. “While many brands are looking to differentiate with functional packaging with closures or dosing that can speak to the ‘scientific’ nature of the product, Laura Mercier has cut through to what many consumers really want—a regular but high-quality product that gives the look without the fuss.”
Al Lustrino, vice president, global package development, Gurwitch Products
It’s this successful combination of product and package that Widro and Al Lustrino, vice president, global package development, Gurwitch Products, continually reference in my discussion with them. Widro says “a tremendous amount of consideration is given to the marriage of product and packaging—to maintain brand image and quality.” In fact, he says, the union is given even “more attention now than ever, and only gets better. It never deviates.”
While they tell me that two years ago, the whole skin care line evolved, with “a large upgrade in quality,” Widro says one thing has remained constant: the consistency of design. Both Widro and Lustrino credit Robert Luzzi, Gurwitch Products’ chief creative officer as being responsible for the consistency throughout the line. “From counter to packaging,” says Widro, Bob retains a global consistency.” And not surprisingly, Laura Mercier, herself, plays a key role, working right alongside Bob.
Lustrino says the packaging vision is a combination of Laura and Bob—and sometimes Poccia—a true group effort. He says Laura looks at every package. “There’s a simple elegance driven by Laura; a magic between Laura and Bob—Laura is involved in every step—with design, naming, copy.” In fact, many packaging concepts and designs are conceived through Laura’s personal collectables.
Lustrino notes that Bob follows the simplistic packaging design that is true to the DNA of the brand. “Bob is one of the most creative designers I’ve ever met,” says Lustrino. “He pushes the limits while retaining the line’s image. He’s always looking to upgrade packaging to catch consumers’ attention.”
Widro says that Laura Mercier leads in the flawless face and tinted moisturizer category. Tinted moisturizer, he points out, “was the iconic product—it created the category: a pure makeup product and skin care product.” But the brand now explores the whole gamut, says Widro—from makeup to skin care.
According to Widro, in 2012, the Laura Mercier brand launched more than 100 new programs, including new items and line extensions. Of particular note, says Widro, were introductions of three new products: Tinted Moisturizer Compact, Créme Smooth Lip Colour and Caviar Sticks.
Widro explains that it was “one clear creative vision” that continued to make Laura Mercier stand out packaging-wise in 2012. He says, “Every new package including our Créme Smooth Lip Colour, Caviar Sticks, Tinted Moisturizer Compact and Holiday 2012 were developed with a clear consistency of creative vision in support of the brand’s identity and the founder’s input.”He adds: “The packaging is always simple, easy to use, convenient and luxurious.”
A unique decoration method brings conservative elegance to the brand’s luxurious new Crème Smooth Lip Colour.
Lustrino agrees that what ties the line together is the iconic nature of the packaging.
Simple, elegant, color consistency of brown and champagne, shape, decoration—all reflect the performance of the product. “Laura is not into fanciful decoration,” says Lustrino.
Perhaps the brand’s most talked about launch in 2012 was the Tinted Moisturizer Crème Compact.
Widro says, “Our new Tinted Moisturizer Compact was the evolution of our iconic product. The original tube version launched over 15 years ago and was groundbreaking in that it was the first product of its kind in the marketplace. It combined makeup with skin care.The next evolution is the compact version. Its portable convenience makes it the ideal next generation.”
Lustrino says the tinted moisturizer compact [packaging supplied by Toly Products] offers a different functionality. “It crosses the barrier between skin care and makeup in a more convenient travel form,” he explains. Not only did the compact use a round form, rather than the traditional squares used for other products, the compact’s champagne color delineates it from the brand’s regular makeup.
Designed as a holiday accessory—and ideal for travel—the super-luxe double-decker Glamour Wardrobe holds eight eye colors, five lip glazes and four cheek colors, along with a mirror and expert tools designed for easy application of day to night looks.
It was the color that posed the greatest challenge to the team. Lustrino says, “When you’re doing lacquering, etc., there are lots of different tinges of color. It took a lot of pain and sweat to perfect the color—and a lot of different processes to nail the iconic champagne color that we were after.”
But the efforts paid off, “giving consumers what they’re looking for” according to Lustrino. “We’re seeing good traction as an extension of the product category,” he says. “It’s a good marriage of product and package, going from liquid to solid. It required many tweaks along the way, and we’re very proud of this.”
Bluemercury’s Beck calls the champagne-colored compact for the new tinted moisturizer “sleek and streamlined.”
Sophisticated, champagne-colored cartons (supplied by Performance Printing) reinforce the brand’s colorway.
When it comes to lips, Laura Mercier’s luxurious new lipstick, Crème Smooth Lip Colour [supplied by HCT Group], which hit counters in September 2012, boasts a “cushiony, lightweight, creamy texture.” The case, designed by Luzzi, keeps to the brand’s same simple but upscale packaging look—but like the compact, creates a sense of newness and excitement by adding a slight twist. The upgrade features an elegant, modern case with a metallized finish.
The new limited edition Custom Artist Portfolio for Home andAway will be available on counter in March.
Lustrino explains the process used: “The decoration process used in the design of our new lipstick involves the vacuum metallization of the plastic component which is then lacquered with a semitransparent lacquer in dark coffee bean brown. The resulting effect is a shiny dark brown colored lipstick case with a slight reflectivity coming through from the metallization. The effect is somewhat subtle but unique, keeping to the brand image of conservative elegance.”
The look was a hit with consumers, and Lustrino says the vacuum metallization will be expanded throughout the brand for special products.
Ford of Pearlfisher, notes: “The lipstick packaging has a subtle shimmer effect incorporated into the casing, which builds in subtle but visually tactile elements to reflect the variant.”
At Bluemercury, Beck says, “The upgrades to the lipstick with the sleek brown rectangle with a chocolate brown shimmer have really upped the luxury experience of the brand.”
A rich color is also used from time to time to draw attention to a new launch.
Mintel’s Punchard observes, “On occasion, gold is leveraged to highlight a special edition, for example Laura Mercier Art Deco Muse lip lacquer for Holiday 2012. However, even here, the use of a gray board carton secondary pack ensures a clear brand consistency.”
Two products that launched in 2012 perfectly reflect Laura Mercier’s role as makeup artist, bringing her techniques to the masses: Glamour Wardrobe and Color to Go.
Widro says, “Products—palettes such as these—are both portable and very usable.
As Laura is a makeup artist and it is a makeup artist brand, the packaging holds an extensive amount of product—it’s like having a whole makeup bag on the go.”
Glamour Wardrobe, which launched in October, duplicated the vacuum metallization look (used on Crème Smooth Lip Colour). While keeping the traditional rich dark brown color, the metallization gave it some pop by putting reflectivity behind it. Widro says the brand’s packaging is “all about subtle changes like these that still speak to the brand’s DNA.”
Colour to Go Portable Palette for Eyes, Cheeks & Lips is portable and purse-friendly—and provides everything needed for a complete look in one convenient palette.
Glamour Wardrobe [supplied by MG New York] is an exclusive palette of Laura’s hand-selected shades for eyes, cheeks and lips. Designed as a holiday accessory—and ideal for travel—the super-luxe double-decker palette holds eight eye colors, five lip glazes and four cheek colors, along with a mirror and expert tools designed for easy application of day to night looks. The top tier holds the eye colors, two brushes and a mirror, and swivels out to reveal the bottom palette’s cheek and lip colors along with a lip brush. The names of the product shades are printed on the platforms.
The palette’s rich-looking and durable hard-shell brown case stays true to the brand’s holiday colors, but looks more like a luxury accessory thanks to its fabric-wrapped, brown snakeskin-inspired, zip-around design.
NPD’s Grant says the snakeskin was a great addition. “Adding a touch of luxury, the holiday collection is packaged in a beautiful brown faux snakeskin with the reptile motif being used on the packaging of the actual product.”
Lustrino credits Luzzi with the creation of the outer material, which was carried through 2012.
The same snakeskin-like material was used on Laura Mercier’s Spring 2012 Custom Artist Portfolio for Home and Away [supplied by MG New York]. As the name suggests, this 11.5-in. X 9.5-in. X 3-in. organizer was designed for use anywhere. It includes four custom-designed removable mesh cosmetic bags, a pocketed brush page and refillable 6- and 3-well custom products. The attractive case could easily be repurposed as a wallet. (The 2013 Portfolio hits counters in March.)
Cases such as this have earned Laura Mercier increased attention and attracted a following. Euromonitor’s Lee says, “Laura Mercier has been able to get lots of press coverage due to the introduction of limited-edition products such as its collaboration with Kooba in Fall 2010. Consumers were able to use it as a Kooba wallet after using up the makeup in the palette.”
In 2012, the snakeskin look proved so popular, Lustrino says, “It looks like we’ll have an annual iconic fabric.”
Laura Mercier’s Colour to Go Portable Palette for Eyes, Cheeks & Lips [supplied by HCT Group] is another double-decker design that’s portable and purse-friendly—and provides everything needed for a complete look in one convenient palette. Available in two neutral options, the top tier focuses on the eyes, with a trio of colors, and an eyeliner. The lower level holds a bronzing powder and cheek color. And the pièce de résistance: a mini lip glacé that’s tucked inside and pops up to complete the look. A full-size mirror makes application easy anywhere, anytime.
Palettes available in 6- or 3-well designs can be customized to accommodate eye and cheek colors and can be switched up at any time thanks to a unique godet system, which enables users to quickly pop each color in and out as desired.
For gals on the go who want to always have their fave shades available, Laura Mercier provides the ideal solution with custom palettes available in 6- or 3-well designs. These exclusive custom compacts [supplied by HCT Group] accommodate eye and cheek colors and liners and can be switched up at any time as its unique godet system enables users to quickly pop each color in and out of a custom compact as desired. The compact’s design ensures that each pan simply snaps in and stays in place until another is desired.
Widro says a good portion of Laura Mercier products use this system of combining multiple products of choice. It’s the type of mix and match system a makeup artist would use to accommodate different clients. While the brand has offered the godets for several years, they add newness by introducing limited edition seasonal colors, and sometimes change the deco on the outside.
The lacquering and decorating of the case barrel for Caviar Stick Eye Colour proved to be a challenge.
Inspired by Laura Mercier’s popular Caviar Eye Liner, Caviar Stick Eye Colour offers an easy way to enhance the smoky eye look, as a liner or shadow.
Fans of the popular product say it performs flawlessly—adhering to the eyelid for a long-lasting look without a crease. In February, the number of shades will double from eight to 16. As for the package for Caviar Sticks [supplied by Intercos], Widro says the key is that it is airtight due to the volatiles in the formula. Additionally, he says, “the lacquering and decorating of the case barrel were a challenge to ensure the level of quality and provide the required compatibility/durability.”
Of course the essential item for any makeup artist is a set of efficient and easy-to-use tools—and when they’re beautiful and luxurious and packaged in a professional-style case, so much the better. The Laura Mercier Signature Brush Collection [supplied by Anisa International] was designed for the ultimate in luxury, from the wenge wood handles to the professional quality bristles to the opulent carrying case. Professional and at-home makeup artists alike will have all the tools they need as they open the rich brown leather-inspired box, which reveals a large mirror and retractable velvet-lined inner easel-back piece. The creative carrier unfolds to hold all the brushes and offers easy access, as it can stand upright directly on a vanity. When makeup application is complete, the entire piece folds smoothly back into the box. The collection features 10 of Laura’s essential brushes, and was at counter in October—just in time for holiday gifting, and complete with a personal note from Laura.
Lustrino says the brush set for holiday 2012 contains tools of the trade reflecting Laura’s profession as a makeup artist. “She knows that it’s necessary to have the right tools to apply the product. And an upscale box to display them and make them easy to use makes this very high end.” The wenge wood used for the handles comes from sustainable forests.
Once again, the brushes are in line with what Laura Mercier would use herself. Lustrino says Laura worked with the brush manufacturer to develop the tools.
Bath & Body products entered the Laura Mercier line later in the game than cosmetics, but were seamlessly incorporated into the brand both formulation- and packaging-wise. Widro says that the category is “a passion of Laura’s.”
Lustrino says the glass jars and metallic tubes used for the category add texture to the products’ packaging. They present a cohesive look thanks to the use of simple octagonal labels.
While the polyfoil tubes [provided by Pennco Containers] are reminiscent of oil paint tubes, Lustrino says the silver look is aesthetic—a design element. He says the polyfoil tubes (aluminum, metal and plastic) were originally designed for their barrier properties—but were used to incorporate some element of metal into the line.
Laura Mercier counter at Bloomingdale’s
Ford of Pearlfisher says that, in general, Laura Mercier’s packaging stands out due to its “combination of beautiful simplicity and attention to detail, which give an understated sensuousness and premium feel across all products and packaging—from cosmetics to bath and body.”
Regarding the bath and body range, Ford says it “plays to a physicality and a real interaction with brands that we are looking for in a digital age—a focus on personal interpretation and experience and a subjective brand delivery experience. The packaging of the Almond Coconut Milk Honey Bath is simple and stylish and both the color of the product and the shape and structure of the glass jar is highly reminiscent of a jar of actual honey. The clever twist of the traditional wooden honey dipper only serves to heighten the sensual nature of the experience. This range introduced a new and very much ‘on trend’ element to the brand offer without losing the brand focus and heritage.”
The Bath & Body category is “a passion of Laura’s,” and brings some glass and metallic components into the packaging mix.
With all the products mentioned above combining to continually earn the Laura Mercier brand appreciation and recognition, what can we look forward to in 2013?
Lustrino fuels the expectations, saying, “We have quite a few packages we’re developing for 2013—especially for Christmas. We continue to elevate the brand. So expect some wow factors.” Still, he says the focus is on the formulas, which are the innovation. Some, he says, are unique.
Widro says the focus will continue on the product with the packaging, adding, “It’s pretty exciting on a retail level.”
Laura Mercier is currently sold in various locations throughout the world, and widespread global expansion is clearly on the horizon.
From a personal, subjective perspective, Pearlfisher’s Ford says the brand is becoming more popular internationally. “When you look at the shelves of the high-end department stores in the UK and across Europe—and also the online presence—it is very much seen as one of the premium players.”
The Laura Mercier Signature Brush Collection was designed for the ultimate in luxury, from the wenge wood handles to the professional quality bristles to the opulent carrying case.
Euromonitor’s Lee points out that the brand took an additional step toward expansion in 2012. “Laura Mercier entered the duty free and travel retail market in July 2012 when it made its debut at the World Duty Free store in London’s Gatwick Airport,” says Lee. “This step should increase the brand’s recognition outside the U.S.”
Mintel’s Punchard says the brand’s packaging strategy will aid in its expansion. “This packaging strategy is one that transfers easily across markets,” he explains. “With such simplicity, there are few aspects that can cause cultural mis-translation.As such the Laura Mercier packaging portfolio could be considered to be ‘expansion ready.’ ” Punchard says that in 2012, Mintel noted a number of Laura Mercier launches in Japan and some, too, in South Korea, suggesting that “these may be stepping stones to the large opportunity that is China, a market that Claudia Poccia, president and CEO of brand owner Gurwitch, has made clear is a target for expansion.”
The brand’s strategy for growth has been well conceived. Poccia says, “Over the next five years, we will continue to increase our share of voice within our existing retail channels, and expand to global markets, such as China and Brazil. While we are looking forward to expansion, we will do so in a way that allows us to stay true to our founder’s vision for the company and our brand’s DNA.”
From department store counter to social media, Laura Mercier reaches out to connect with consumers in a variety of ways, including active communities on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest.
“Whether they are reading about us in leading women’s magazines or interacting with the brand online, the brand message and experience is always consistent and true to our heritage,” says Ellen Greenwald, chief marketing officer for Gurwitch.
Recently Laura Mercier entered prime time television when the brand became the official makeup sponsor for “Project Runway All Stars Season 2,” as a result of a close relationship the brand has with the Weinstein Company and Marie Claire magazine, according to Greenwald. She says they have worked together on other projects to great success, so it seemed like the right fit to partner with them on this opportunity.
“This program gave us the perfect platform to continue to build awareness and further establish the Laura Mercier brand as the ‘flawless’ makeup partner of red carpet fashion,” says Greenwald.