Primping for the Cameras in the Name of Research

Cosmetics companies are striving to understand how their products are used differently in their various emerging markets. Presumably, they are elsewhere looking at differences in meaning, in addition to simply understanding usage.

Crucial to that effort is the search for differences that could help build a brand in critical emerging markets like India and China. L’Oreal has an expanding network of 13 evaluation centers around the world created to observe grooming and ponder a variety of burning questions: Do national differences exist in primping styles? Would women in Japan and Europe, for instance, stroke on mascara with the same lavish hand? (The answer is that in Japan, women apply mascara with an average of 100 brush strokes compared with Europeans, who are satisfied with 50, a difference noted by ethnologists for L’Oreal.)

It was observations like these that ultimately affected how the company made and marketed its mascaras or developed the foaming quality of its shampoos. “We are far from understanding everybody everywhere. It takes time,” said Fabrice Aghassian, director of international product evaluation for L’Oreal, which is seeking to map the world’s beauty routines in a landscape the company calls geocosmetics. “When we know the behaviors of people, we know what unexpressed expectations we do have to consider.”


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