Hair Care Packaging: New Dos for Hair Care Packaging
The right mix of design and functionality can be a winning combination.By Marie Redding, Senior Editor
Hair care packaging must meet several specific design criteria. The copy on a bottle must explain a product’s benefits. Decoration on primary packages must hold up under running water. A shampoo bottle must squeeze easily and be durable enough for frequent use.
Upscale hair care brands strive to create packaging with all of these functional elements, combined with a stylish design. Professional hair care brands have the additional challenge of making packages that withstand heavy use in a professional salon environment.
“Our packaging is extremely functional. I am personally a big fan of cylindrical bottles because they are easy to hold,” says Jean-Pierre Mastey, president, Baxter of California. The 40-year-old men’s grooming company redesigned its entire product line, including hair care products. Its new packaging launched in stores last November. (Note: Although Jean-Pierre Mastey is the nephew of Mastey Hair Products’ Henri Mastey, Baxter of California is not connected to the Mastey brand.)
Baxter of California replaced its flask-shaped bottles with dark-blue cylindrical bottles, which have a soft-touch finish and matte labels. These are used for Baxter of California’s shampoos and conditioners.
“We wanted the new packaging to be very tactile and easy to use in terms of texture and bottle density,” Mastey explains. The bottles are made from low-density polyethylene so that they are easy to squeeze.
Custom 4- and 10-oz bottles were molded. “All of the stock bottles we found were too tall,” explains Mastey. The bottles were supplied by Design Worx Packaging (Lake Forest, CA).
Flip-top caps are another standard choice for many hair care companies. Custom flip-top caps were produced for Baxter of California’s shampoo and conditioner. They are also supplied by Design Worx Packaging. The brand’s logo is debossed on the top of the cap. “This style of cap is so much more practical for a product that needs to be able to be opened with one hand in the shower,” explains Mastey.
In order to provide hair care brands with more-functional options for closures, Continental Packaging Solutions (Chicago) recently launched a new polypropylene press-button dispensing closure. It is a snap-on cap engineered to pop up instantly when the button is pushed.
“Ease of dispensing is crucial for a hair care package,” says Robb Zurek, business development manager at Continental Packaging Solutions. “We are constantly hearing about the need for more-ergonomic packages. Now, we are looking at new bottle shapes that are easier to hold on to and that won’t slip out of your hand in the shower,” he adds.
Ergonomic details can also be added to stock bottle shapes. Strategically placed ridges can create a grip area on any bottle, according to Mark Filer, director of marketing at Ryco Packaging (Omaha, NE). “Many times, a small company doesn’t realize all the options that are available and all the benefits of customizing a bottle. These details can really help to differentiate your brand and make the consumer’s experience of using a product more enjoyable,” says Filer.
A Digitized Design
One way to differentiate your brand is by using innovative label graphics. The design must be a good fit for your retailers and customers.
One of the main reasons behind the redesign of the Baxter of California brand was the brand’s desire to appeal to a new type of style-conscious consumer. The company also wanted to enter new distribution channels. Previously, the brand had been sold at mid-level department stores. Now, its new packaging conveys a simple, modern, clean image and is sold at upscale retailers and fashionable boutiques. “We wanted to connect with the person who wants all things aesthetic in life,” says Mastey.
An unusual graphic design was used on the line’s labels and cartons in order to attract the attention of a hip, tech-savvy male consumer. Chris Digiacomo of Digi-Akimo, a design firm based in Los Angeles, came up with the idea to design the labels and cartons using Ascii Art.
Ascii Art is an old-school design style that goes back to the day when graphic programs weren’t commonly found on computers. At that time, it was common for pictures to be created by using the characters on a computer keyboard. Looking closely at a picture created as Ascii Art, the individual characters are easily recognizable. From a short distance, the picture is seen as a whole.
“I didn’t understand how Ascii Art could be used on a package until Chris showed me. He’s been wanting to explore this idea but never had the right brand to work with,” says Mastey.
The iconic images used on Baxter of California’s packaging are familiar, yet unexpected. An image of Big Foot is printed as Ascii Art on the bottles’ labels and cartons. Big Foot is one of the four icons that are used by the brand and was assigned to Baxter’s hair product category.
“We wanted the design to be playful and to appeal to a trendy, smart customer who doesn’t need a silly explanation about what the product is meant to do. The copy and product names are straightforward to convey that the products are serious,” explains Mastey.
Digiacomo also incorporated a functional silver bar code into the graphic design of the labels, which was Mastey’s idea. “I’ve always found bar codes to be a very interesting design element. I wanted to put it front and center instead of trying to hide it,” he says.
The polypropylene labels are designed to hold up under running water and are supplied by The Label Co. (Santa Ana, CA). The outer cartons are supplied by Peninsula Packaging (Los Angeles).
Many companies agree that one of the most important jobs of a hair care package is to fully explain why a product will work, because this information can persuade consumers to make a purchase. Fitting as much relevant information as possible on a package can be a challenge.
Titi Branch, founder of Miss Jessie’s Curly Hair Products, partnered with a graphic designer to make sure her line’s labels fit a lot of copy. First launched in 2004, the line is just beginning to build a following and recently launched in a few upscale salons in New York City.
Miss Jessie’s products include Curly Buttercream, Curly Meringue, and Curly Pudding. They are packaged in 16-oz stock plastic tubs supplied by Custom Bottle (Naugatuck, CT), with screw-on lids. Large labels are strategically placed on top of the lids and around the entire container. The labels provide ample space to print lots of information, including how the product should be used, the type of hair it will work best on, the hair problems it will solve, styling tips, and even a short story about how the brand started.
“Our customer is exceptionally information-driven,” says Branch. “We wanted to pack as much text as possible on the label to answer very specific concerns regarding curly hair.”
The need for more space to convey information is what drove Thermafuse to design the three-sided bottles for its shampoos and conditioners. “When the chemist handed us the long ingredient list, we realized it was going to take up the entire back panel of the bottle. This would have left us with very little room to use the package to inform, educate, and sell,” says Joni Rae Russell of Joni Rae & Associates. Joni Rae & Associates is a marketing, packaging, and creative services firm. Russell designed the packaging for Thermafuse.
The three-sided bottle design gave Thermafuse more room for copy. Custom molds were produced by Matrix Packaging (Toronto), while decorating was done by Grayson-O (Kannapolis, NC).
Thermafuse has used this custom-shaped bottle since repackaging the line in 2005. It is still being recognized in the industry. Within the past year, the brand was presented with more than 10 awards, including a best packaging award from The Creativity Awards, six silver awards in various categories from The Davey Awards, and an advertising and marketing effectiveness award (AME) for best new product launch.
Thermafuse has a strong story to convey to consumers about how its products protect and repair heat-styled hair. “The goal of the front of the package is to get the customer to pick it up. The goal of the back panel is to get the consumer to buy the product,” says Russell.
She feels that the length of copy and how it looks on the back panel is also extremely important. “We [plan] the space that the copy must fit in, and then write the story to fit the space,” she says. “It’s got to be a perfect, effective fit. We count every letter to ensure that we don’t waste space,” she says.
A common mistake that people make is writing copy and then giving it to a graphic designer to try to fit on a package, according to Russell. “The copy ends up being printed too small. There shouldn’t be so much information that no one will want to read through it,” says Russell. “A package designer will write concise copy that flows, breaks nicely, and is a readable type-size. It’s better to have three lines that read well rather than six that are unreadable,” she adds.
Other Thermafuse products are in different types of packages. For these products, an expandable, resealable Flex-View label by WS Packaging Group-Ampersand Label (Huntington Beach, CA) was used to solve space issues.
Design tools such as color-coding can be very helpful if your line contains many different types of formulas designed for specific hair types. Many professional brands that are sold in salons and spas, such as Thermafuse and Barex, spend a lot of time educating professional stylists about their products’ benefits. However, these brands also still rely on packaging to help sell product. Both Thermafuse and Barex use color-coding to help consumers choose the right products.
Thermafuse packages are designed so that the consumer can easily find the right products, even on a crowded shelf. The placement of the graphics allows the consumer to quickly scan the tops of all the bottles to find all the products that are right for them, such as the ones labeled “Moisture” or “Volume.” To make it even easier, the same color is used for all of the packages for each product category. A metallic bronze flip-top cap is the unifying element used for the entire brand.
The team at Thermafuse worked with Clariant, which created a special color effect on all of the bottles. This effect makes the bottles seem to “twinkle” when viewed up close. “The special colorant is called interference, and it catches your eye in a subtle way,” says Russell.
The Barex brand mostly uses a mixture of white and clear plastic bottles and tubes, with a few silver aerosol cans. A brightly colored band is silk-screened near the top of each package, conveying the type of hair problem that the product is meant to solve. The lime-green, tangerine, hot-pink, and red stripes look modern against the white packages.
“When we started to use the color banding on our packages two years ago, we immediately saw an increase in sales,” says Guita Dovas, founder of Oloff Beauty, which launched Barex.
Dovas explains why color-coding works so well. “A consumer might be looking for a styling product for frizzy hair and will find a product with a pink band. Her eye will be immediately drawn to the two other products on the shelf with pink bands, which are also meant for frizzy hair, and she is more likely to purchase more than one item,” says Dovas. She says she has even witnessed this happening in salons, and in many instances the consumer found and purchased three items without sales help. “Color-coding has increased our salon sales by an astronomical amount,” she adds.
When Formulations Affect Packaging
Hair-styling products are made in such a variety of formulations that it can be a challenge to decide on the type of package that the product is best suited for. Gels, pomades, wax, and creams need to be dispensed in specific ways.
The team at Thermafuse had one particular challenge with a styling product. “This product was originally formulated as a liquid, but we kept hearing complaints that it was too runny,” says Van Stamey, CEO of Thermafuse. “We realized that we needed a foam dispenser to make the product work. The package entirely changed the application of the product.” After working with Rexam Airspray (Pompano Beach, FL) and changing the way the product is dispensed, Thermafuse renamed the product Fixxe Volume Mousse.
Dovas also faced a few challenges regarding formulations and dispensing issues involving two products, Barex Pomade and Barex Gum Gum Modeling Paste. “These two products were packaged in small tubs, but we kept hearing feedback from stylists that they didn’t like putting their fingers in a tub. So we had to find new ways to package these products,” she says. Both products are now in a twist-up stick package similar to the type used for a deodorant stick.
The soft formulas are dispensed through small holes located at the top of the package and swivel up when a mechanism on the package’s bottom is turned. Testing had to be done to make sure the holes were the right size to dispense each of the products. In particular, the pomade needed to be reformulated to be compatible with this package.
“Our sales for these two products tripled, just because of this new package,” says Dovas. Dovas takes pride in the close relationship she has built with salons and stylists. “We are very tuned in to what our customers’ needs are. Our motto is that we listen first, and then we formulate. Now, we also listen before we package anything,” she says.
The unusual whipped-cream consistency of Miss Jessie’s products is perfectly described by the words Branch used for the product names: pudding, meringue and buttercream. Branch chose a large tub to accommodate these formulations and says she hasn’t heard any complaints yet about these types of packages being difficult or messy to use. We think they actually work well for this brand. When the large lid for Curly Meringue is un-screwed, the smell of lemons and the sight of a fluffy yellow product adds enjoyment to the experience of using the product.
However, Branch says, she is always open to suggestions and is in the process of doing market research to find out what types of packages her customers prefer.
“When you first put your products on the market, you definitely get a lot of feedback about what works and what can be improved. I think it would be silly to ignore this information. Our brand will have to evolve, as most brands do,” she says.
The hair care companies we spoke to have all learned from past challenges. A tip that Stamey wanted to share with other hair care brands was that testing models helped when designing the custom molds for the Thermafuse bottles. “Producing three-dimensional models first saved us a lot of money in the long run,” he explains. “The models helped us to make sure that the bottle’s neck and shoulders were positioned correctly, which is hard to determine on paper,” he continues. At first, the molds showed that the bottles were slightly slanted, according to Stamey. It took some trial and error to make sure they looked right.
For Branch, starting the Miss Jessie’s brand from the ground up has truly been a learning experience. “We had so many issues to think about. Good packaging is the result of so many critical decisions, including testing, to make sure there are no compatibility issues,” she says.
Dovas offers the following words of advice: “Remember that you only get one shot,” she says. When Barex launched its Gloss Spray in 2005, Dovas heard from customers that the bottles were leaking because they were too fragile. “We repackaged this product, of course, but if you can’t deliver perfection in the first round, then it will hurt your business. We are still recovering from this mishap,” she says.
Through her experiences, Dovas has become an expert on how to anticipate and prevent all types of problems. She suggests testing to see whether residue starts to form on a package after many uses, especially for a styling product. “If it does, you need to see if that package becomes slippery and hard to handle. You have to consider the fact that a professional stylist might be using your product 30 times in one day,” she says.
Dovas also suggests testing nozzles to make sure they won’t clog after many uses. “The chances of a package breaking or failing to perform are so much greater in a salon environment,” she says.
Lastly, if you are redesigning an entire brand, especially one with a long history such as Baxter of California, Mastey advises finding a balance between the old and new. “We wanted to break new ground with an unusual design concept, but we also had to be careful to stay true to the brand’s heritage. Think evolution, not revolution,” says Mastey.
Branch agrees. “Any changes we make to our packaging in the future will always reflect the central theme that Miss Jessie’s is based upon. It is so important to always stay true to the original spirit of your brand.”
About Ascii Art
The name of this style of design was inspired by the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII), which is a computer text-encoding standard first published by the American National Standards Institute in 1963.
ASCII assigns a specific numbered code made up of only zeros and ones for each letter and symbol on a computer keyboard. Ascii Art is based on the same idea because letters and symbols are used together to form a code for a picture.
Sweet Dreams for Hair Care Brand and Private Labeler
By Daphne Allen, Group Editor
Rocco Altobelli used to have nightmares. As president and founder of Rocco Altobelli Cos. (Minneapolis), the internationally recognized hair designer oversees his companies’ own hair and skin care brands as well as private-label offerings for a range of clients. He juggles orders for lots of different bottles, tubes, and jars in varying quantities for both his own lines and his customers’. One of his biggest challenges has been finding a consistent source of well-decorated containers in low volumes. “I used to scour the world myself,” says Altobelli. “I was miserable.”
Print quality was the issue. “If you can find small-run printing, it usually scrapes off,” says Altobelli. “I am very particular about the printing on my containers, for both our own product lines as well as for my private-label customers. But no one wanted to do great-looking small runs.”
Altobelli’s companies include alto bella Hair Products Inc., which markets the Botanical Solutions, ClayPac, Cosmosuticals, Style Essentials, and Curl Solutions brands. Greenway Research Lab provides services to private-label brands; the company was created by Altobelli and Jim Vlasic, a nationally respected chemist specializing in personal care products.
Private-label business has been growing for Greenway. About 80% of its business serves professional salons, but it has also fulfilled several orders for dermatologists and plastic surgeons marketing their own brands in their offices. Even though these are really low-volume orders, they still need to “look really professional and well done,” says Altobelli.
Altobelli came across Kaufman Container Co. (Cleveland, OH) when the distributor acquired Twin City Bottle (Minneapolis) in July 1999. “I hadn’t heard of Kaufman before, and they seemed willing to take care of me,” he says. “They had competitive prices, so I thought I would try them.”
After obtaining some silk-screen-printed samples, Altobelli was pleased. “Its printing for small runs is excellent,” he explains, saying that such printing is “usually pretty marginal.” He adds: “There is no quality difference between small and large runs.” Kaufman now “gets most of my business,” he says. “They are easy to work with on small volumes.”
Altobelli primarily has Kaufman silk-screen containers with two colors; if four-color printing is needed, he puts his in-house label designers to work and has a local label printer handle the printing job. When needed, Kaufman will handle silk-screen printing/label printing combinations.
Kaufman’s vice president of operations Chuck Borowiak reports that the company “uses different equipment when silk-screening small and large runs, but does use the same ink.” Borowiak adds that “the same quality levels are met, whether we are doing a small or large run, and the process is basically the same.”
Altobelli concurs. “It is the same quality, whether it is 1000 pieces or 50,000. They maintain tight printing tolerances.”
Jeff Gross, vice president of sales and marketing for Kaufman, says that the company has actually invested a lot of effort and capital in its two decorating facilities. “We have both semiautomatic and automatic silk-screening machines from Dubuit Machines (Noisy le Grand, France), and we make our own screens in house.” In the past, Kaufman had outsourced a lot of the decorating work. “But lead times were getting too long,” Gross says, “and as our customers’ businesses expanded, we needed to find another solution and saw many opportunities in decorating.” Kaufman offers a range of decorating techniques, including hot stamping and applied colored lettering for glass. Heat-shrink and pressure-sensitive labeling is also available. “But silk-screening still gives a high-end, more-diversified look,” he says.
Gross confirms that Kaufman can handle small-minimum and large orders for decorating.
Now, when he takes on a new project, Altobelli says he first gives Kaufman the opportunity to source containers from its network of manufacturers and suppliers and then handle the decorating. “They find me containers as well as closures and dispensers,” he explains. “I don’t like worrying about products coming in from all different directions and getting it printed. Kaufman has that problem now—not me.”