Get the Credibility and Sales Power of Major Beauty Brands Without Changing Anything About Your Product

Summary: This article explains how beauty marketers can employ a little-used but growing technique to increase direct or retail sales of beauty products.

Applicable products: cosmetics, skin care, hair care, nail care, supplements

Applicable regions: USA/Canada/Europe/Australia

Reading time: 10 minutes

This article is not intended as legal advice.


First, some crucial information for beauty product marketers

If you intend to grow your sales, form partnerships, or eventually sell your beauty brand, compliance with advertising regulation is imperative. Failure to comply creates liabilities that investors, partners, or buyers are likely to discover during due diligence. Many marketers are only vaguely aware of FTC and FDA regulations, resulting in frequent legal action for unsubstantiated claims.


Free: you can get the Winning Claims Guidebook, including the full version of this article, emailed to you at the bottom of this article.

FTC regulations: essential point

If you are making testable claims about your product without sound evidence, you are at risk of action by the NAD or FTC. Corporate officers may also be held individually liable for violations of the FTC Act.

According to the FTC, “a firm’s failure to possess and rely upon a reasonable basis for objective claims constitutes an unfair and deceptive act or practice in violation of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act.” What constitutes a “reasonable basis” depends on several factors, but generally means “competent and reliable scientific evidence”, such as conducting a well-designed scientific study.

Examples: The following statements are from actual products being sold online that would require substantiation through research:

  • “Guaranteed to improve luminosity for renewed radiance, tone and texture”
  • “…leaving it immediately hydrated with visible wrinkle results.”
  • “formulated to revitalize, refine, and assist in the repair of skin”
  • “Hydrates to lift, firm and plump”
  • “Softens and smoothes skin”
  • “Hydrates and softens skin”


FDA regulations: essential point

If you accidentally make drug claims, you are at risk of action by the FDA. Claims that may classify your product as a drug include those which suggest your product can prevent, diagnose, mitigate, treat, or cure a disease. For example, stating that your product “may alleviate eczema” is a drug claim, as eczema is considered a disease.

Examples: a cosmeceutical marketer was recently warned by the FDA for making the following statements on their website, which would cause their products to be classified as drugs under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act:

  • “to help stimulate collagen…”
  • “to help inhibit cellular breakdown…”
  • “Helps open follicles and reduce oil production.”
  • “Helps reduce inflammation, calm irritation…”
  • “Helps stimulate and improve circulation…”


Examples of claims being used successfully in advertising

The following are examples from companies that have purchased research to create effective advertising claims (click to enlarge).

To see more examples from beauty companies that have invested in research, please see the “Winning Claims Guidebook” at the bottom of this page.


Why more beauty product marketers are using performance claims

It’s widely known that making specific performance claims in advertising can improve beauty product sales. The below infographic summarizes how making performance claims about a beauty product increased consumer purchase intent in a recent study:


Source: “The Impact of Claims on Beauty Product Sales”, HIT Laboratories, May 2016.

While it’s becoming more common, the great majority of beauty products are still not advertised with performance claims. If such claims offer a clear competitive advantage, why doesn’t every beauty marketer invest in claims?


The cost of claim testing

Despite their benefits, the reason claims are not used more often is because the cost is prohibitive to many marketers. In the US, advertising claims are regulated by the FTC, which requires that advertisers have a reasonable basis for advertising claims before they are disseminated.

A “reasonable basis” generally means possessing the results of a properly designed scientific study. Depending on configuration, such studies typically range from $20,000 to $200,000 USD.

If you make claims about your product without them being substantiated with scientific research, you are at risk of legal action by the NAD or FTC, who routinely monitor and enforce policy in printed, TV, internet, and other advertising media.


Express vs. Implied claims: According to the FTC, “An express claim is literally made in the ad“, contrasting with implied claims which is made “indirectly or by reference.” Advertisers must have proof to back up express and implied claims that consumers take from an ad. For more examples of express and implied claims, please see the “Winning Claims Guidebook” at the bottom of this page.


How to get affordable claim testing

Substantiation of beauty product claims can be performed at a fraction of the traditional cost with two modern techniques:

  1. By testing subjective claims that are evaluated by the subjects themselves. Costs are reduced because expensive measurement equipment, lab technicians, and professional graders are not required.
  2. By allowing subjects to use and evaluate the product in their own homes. Costs are reduced because testing facilities and personnel are not required, while potentially improving the validity of the results because the product is used under more natural conditions.

Studies with the above configuration can be conducted for as little as one-tenth the cost of traditional testing without a loss in statistical power or study validity.


How to create claims for any beauty product

To make non-comparative subjective claims, your product does not need to work better than any other product. It simply needs to do something beneficial for its users.

The  below diagram is helpful for brainstorming possible claims:

Claim Venn Diagram

For a moisturizing cream, the simple claim “97% agree it applied smoothly” may seem like a basic requirement for any moisturizer. However it’s still reassuring to know that this moisturizer applies smoothly. Below are other possible claims for a basic moisturizer:


What your customers want Resulting claim to substantiate
Applies easily X% agree it applies easily
Non-greasy X% agree it applies without a greasy feeling
Pleasing smell X% agree it has a pleasing smell
Effective moisturizing X% agree it moisturizes for up to 12 hours


Why claims help beauty product sales

The biggest question beauty consumers have when considering a purchase is “will it work well for me?

Source: "The Impact of Claims on Beauty Product Sales", HIT Laboratories, May 2016.
Source: “The Impact of Claims on Beauty Product Sales”, HIT Laboratories, May 2016.

One theory to explain the advertising power of study results is that they address the above objection, “I don’t know if it works well“, very directly and convincingly.

For example, image you are shopping online for a moisturizing cream for your sensitive skin. You may see a product that advertises “for sensitive skin”, but how do you know it will actually work?

One way is to look for customer reviews. You might read some reviews on the product sale page, and search for other off-site reviews. But how do you know the reviewers also have sensitive skin? How do you know the reviews are even real?

Now imagine the product sales page shows this study result:

“92% of users with sensitive skin experienced good to excellent hydration without skin irritation, based on a 3-week user perception study with 30 subjects.”

The statement is very powerful for three reasons: it’s much faster than reading 30 reviews, the study was clearly done on individuals with sensitive skin, and actual study results may be considered more trustworthy than anonymous online reviews.


The best times to conduct a claims study

Claim studies may be considered as investments because they increase the future value of your product. Generally, the earlier this investment is made, the higher the potential ROI. Since they don’t expire, claims study results can be used indefinitely provided the product formulation or design isn’t substantially changed.

There are two ideal times to make this investment:

  1. When launching a new product. The easiest time to incorporate study results is when already developing new packaging, websites, and campaigns. Including claims gives the product the best chance of a successful launch. Because new products typically lack reviews, study results can give consumers the proof of efficacy they seek.
  2. When seeking higher sales. Beauty marketers routinely test new marketing methods to increase reach and engagement. Claim study results can enhance current marketing effectiveness because it increases purchase intent once a consumer’s attention is engaged.


Why poor results are better than no results

If you advertised that your product only had a 50% chance of working, would it damage sales?

A study[1] was recently conducted to find out. Survey respondents were shown an “anti-wrinkle cream” and a product description, similar to what they would see if shopping online. One respondent group saw no claims, another saw “weak” claims, and a third saw “strong” claims (see table below).


The weak claims imply that customers should only expect an approximately 50% chance of experiencing the product’s main benefits. However, showing the weak results increased purchase intent by 29% over the control (not showing claim results). The strong claims increased purchase intent by 60%. This effect was more pronounced with “offer acceptance”, which is when respondents were asked if they would actually pay the $29.95 product price (the complete study is available at the bottom of this page).

One possible interpretation of these intriguing results is that if no study results are shown, consumers might assume (possibly subconsciously) a less than 50% chance of benefiting from the product.


A competitive advantage for beauty products

Sixty-seven percent of women actively look for claim study results at least occasionally when shopping for beauty products[1]. Despite this, and the knowledge that claims generally improve sales, very few products are advertised with tested claims. Given the increasing affordability of claim studies, an increase in their usage can be expected in coming years.


Free: Get the Winning Claims Guidebook


Now you can get the current PDF version of the Winning Claims Guidebook, delivered by email for free. The Guidebook includes:

  • A full copy of this article
  • Best claims currently being used by beauty marketers
  • Top 5 common mistakes made by beauty marketer
  • Step-by-step guide to getting product claim research
  • How to get claims studies for 10-30% of what large companies pay
  • full research report: “The Impact of Claims on Beauty Product Sales”
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[1] “The Impact of Claims on Beauty Product Sales”, HIT Laboratories, May 2016.